Northampton Town 0
A goal 10 minutes from time from substitute Adam Watkins got the Hatters' name in the hat for the second of the FA Cup and dump out League 2 Northampton at Kenilworth Road in the process.
The tie seemed to be drifting to a replay when Watkins, who had only been on the field for five minutes, struck the winner to deservedly send the Hatters through to the next round in an entertaining tie.
Both sides came close to breaking the deadlock but Watkins's arrival changed all that when he replaced John Paul Kissock on 75 minutes he was celebrating five minutes later when notching his third goal of the season after good work from Jake Howells.
Gary Brabin made three changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Fleetwood last Saturday. There was a change in goal where Kevin Pilkington got the nod over Mark Tyler, Kissock replaced Robbie Willmott, who dropped to the bench, and Jamie Hand replaced the suspended Stuart Fleetwood.
It was the Cobblers that bossed the opening exchanges backed by their 900 supporters in the Oak Road but the Hatters forged the first half-chance on five minutes when Howells ghosted in behind the visitors' defence to square for Amari Morgan-Smith but the pass was behind the top goalscorer and the Cobblers could clear.
Slowly the Hatters were getting on top. Morgan-Smith thumped a free-kick into the Northampton wall on eight minutes after Aaron O'Connor
had done well to win the set-piece with strong and determined runs at the Cobblers' defence. Kissock too, naturally, was showing his customary flicks, tricks and dummies which has led to the home crowd dubbing him Messi.
But it was the men in maroon that forced the first clear-cut opportunity of the afternoon on 10 minutes. Moments after Morgan-Smith had gone down looking for a penalty after Michael Jacobs had dangled a leg, Jacobs found Adebayo Akinfenwa at the back post with an inch-perfect free-kick but the striker's close range header was brilliantly turned away from by Pilkington in the Town goal.
It was end-to-end stuff with the Hatters showing real energy going forward with O'Connor and Morgan-Smith in tandem causing the visitors problems with their quick and direct approach to running at the Cobblers' back four.
Morgan-Smith appealed for a penalty for a second time on 25 minutes when it appeared he was pushed in the box by John Johnson when attacking a free-kick. The Cobblers then raced up the other end and had the ball in the Town net but Saido Beranhino's effort was ruled out for offside.
The pace of the game dropped ever so slightly after a 100-mph start, but the Hatters were forced into two changes as half-time approached with Morgan-Smith and Keith Keane hobbling off. The pair were replaced by Danny Crow and Wilmott respectively.
Within minutes of the double change the Hatters could have taken the lead, right on the stroke of half-time, when Jamie Hand's right-wing free-kick was headed wide by George Pilkington with the skipper unmarked 10 yards out.
Six minutes after the interval the Cobblers came close to breaking the deadlock. Loan starlet Berahino squared for substitute Arron Davies to bend a curling shot inches past the post with an effort from the edge of the area.
The game then swung back in the Town's way, O'Connor twice calling Sam Walker in the visitors' goal into action with two efforts in the space of 30 seconds - firstly latching onto a great pass from Howells to hit goalwards which was parried before the follow-up effort again found the gloves of the goalkeeper.
Pilkington hadn't been overly extended in the second period but he had to be alert to tip over Berahino's cross-cum-shot on 64 minutes to prevent the loanee's effort from creeping underneath the crossbar.
Back came the Hatters as the game continued to ebb and flow. The visitors' failure to clear half-chances produced a corner on 67 minutes that Willmott swung over for O'Connor to glance a header wide at the near post.
Relieved after that let off, the Cobblers began to up the ante: Davies saw a low shot stopped by Pilkington on 68 minutes, Johnson headed over well from a Davies cross two minutes later before another right-wing cross saw Akinfenwa head at Pilkington as the visitors pressed.
Brabin then introduced Watkins to the fray with 15 minutes left and the midfielder's first action saw him set-up Willmott to drill a shot from the edge of the penalty area that was too hot for Walker to handle before the visitors' keeper snatched the ball at the second attempt with O'Connor lurking for a tap in.
However the Hatters didn't have wait to find the goal and it was Watkins who got it in superb fashion. Howells did brilliantly down the left to find Watkins who belted a wonderful left-foot first-time shot from the edge of the box that beat Walker and sent the home faithful into raptures.
Northampton needed a goal to stay in the competition and they almost levelled things up five minutes later with 85 on the clock, when Jacobs saw a low drive whistle inches past Pilkington's left-hand post.
Jacobs was on a one-man mission to rescue his side as he tried his luck from outside the box with two minutes left but his dipping effort whistled just over the crossbar.
As the fourth official signalled four added minutes, Akinfenwa headed over from six yards following another right wing cross but that was the last chance and the Hatters held onto secure a place in the second round.
The draw takes place on ITV1 at 2.40pm on Tuesday. We're ball number three. Keep a look out...
For minute-by-minute analysis, see below.
Result from Kenilworth Road
Luton Town 1 (Watkins 80)
Northampton Town 0
FULL-TIME It's all over and the Town are through to the second round. Stay tuned for a full report, photographs and reaction. Get in!
90 mins - Four added minutes here...
88 mins - Again Northampton pour forward, Jacobs again, making room for himself to blast a shot from outside the box that zooms narrowly over the crossbar.
85 mins - Inches from 1-1, Jacobs smashing a shot goalwards from the edge of the box with intend that bounces just wide of the post.
80 mins&nbsp; GOOOOOAL! TOWN 1-0 Northampton (Watkins) - Super, super stuff. Howells glides down the left and the ball sits up and on the bounce ADAM WATKINS drills a wonderous low left-foot shot scuttling past Walker into the corner of the net. Get in!
78 mins - Half a chance for the Town, Willmott letting fly from the edge of the box...saved by Walker at the second attempt.
75 mins Final sub for the Town, Adam Watkins on for Kissock.
71 mins - Cobblers upping it now, Akinfenwa heading straight at Pilkington following a right-wing cross.
70 mins - Chance and it should be 1-0 to the visitors. Davies crosses perfectly for Johnson to head at goal from six yards but his effort bounces over the crossbar. Let off there for the Town.
68 mins - The game's hotting up again as the Cobblers break, Davies drawing a good stop from Pilkington after the Town were caught square.
67 mins - Up goes the noise inside the ground as the Town push forward. The Hatters win a corner, taken by Willmott from the right that O'Connor heads wide at the near post. Decent effort.
65 mins - Attendance here 4,799 including 913 from Northampton.
64 mins - Action for Kevin Pilkington...who does well to tip over Berahino's cross-cum-shot and prevent it from sneaking underneath the crossbar.
60 mins - Hour gone here, still goalless. The Town pressing, though, Kovacs hits the Kenny End roof with a bicycle kick inside the box following Willmott's half-cleared corner.
52 mins - Back come the Town, O'Connor found in space in the area by Howells but the striker lets the ball bounce before hitting a shot goalwards that Sam Walker parries before O'Connor retrives the ball and hits a shot again into the midriff of the Cobblers' goalkeeper.
51 mins - First chance of the second period and it's a decent one for the Cobblers. Berahino does well down the left to square to substitute Davies who looks up and bends a curling shot just wide Pilkington's right-hand post.
46 mins And we're off the for the second half here as the Town kick-off shooting towards the Kenilworth Road end. No changes at the break for either side.
HALF-TIME And that's the break...goalless here. Check back in 15 minutes for the second half. COYH.
45 mins - Oh chance. Hand whips in a right-wing cross that Pilkington meets unmarked but the captain can only head wide from 10 yards.
44 mins Double change for the Town. Morgan-Smith and Keane off for Willmott and Crow.
40 mins - Very little goalmouth action to report here...five minutes to the break.
32 mins - First change of the afternoon is for the Cobblers as right-back Lewis Young hobbles off and is replaced by Aarron Davies.
25 mins - Another pen shout for the Town as Johnson appears to push Morgan-Smith in the box. Then the Cobblers break and Saido Berahino has the ball in the net with an expert finish in off the crossbar but the flag is up for offside and it's not going to count.
23 mins - First quarter of the game gone, still goalless here. However, there is the first booking, Jamie Hand has gone into Andy D'Urso's book.
18 mins - Morgan-Smith and O'Connor causing plenty of problems for the Cobblers back line with the pace, strength and dribbling. They're a real threat at the minute.
16 mins - Still a good game this, plenty of energy about the Hatters at the minute.
12 mins - End-to-end stuff now...on eight minutes a Morgan-Smith free-kick goes into the wall and the Town begin to boss thing with Kissock wowing the crowd with his tricks. AMS thinks he should have a penalty on nine after going down under Michael Jacobs' challenge before Kevin Pilkington makes a brilliant save with his body to turn over a close-range header from Akinfenwa following Jacobs' left-wing free-kick. Good entertainment so far.
5 mins - Almost a sniff for the Town here as Howells does well to burst into the left hand side of the area to square the ball across goal but with Morgan-Smith well placed the pass is behind him and the Cobblers can clear.
3 mins - Early on here it looks as though it's 4-4-2 for the Town with Howells, Pilkington, Kovacs and Osano at the back, Lawless on the right flank, Kissock on the left with Keane and Hand in the middle with O'Connor and Morgan-Smith up top.
1 min Annnnnnd we're off as the Cobblers get us off and underway, they're shooting towards the Kenny End in this first half.
14:55 HERE THEY COME
Out come the two sides onto Kenilworth Road pitch. They'll be a minute's silence prior to kick-off. Then next words you'll read from me will be when the action gets under way. Come on you Hatters.
14:45 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS
Andrew Barringer: 3-2 Luton, Mark Wood: 2-1 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 2-1 Northampton, Marc Bazeley: 2-2, Lauren Archell: 2-1 Luton, Bill Cole: 2-1 Luton.
14:35 KEEP THEM COMING
The away end is filling up right now. Northampton sold 795 tickets in advance and more are likely to filter into the Oak end between now and 3pm.
14:25 ON THIS DAY
The Hatters' record on 12th November reads played 17, won four, lost three and lost 10. The Town have won the last two. The last being a&nbsp;3-0 FA Cup win Southend United in 2004 .
14:10 THREE CHANGES
Town boss Gary Brabin makes three changes to the side that lost to Fleetwood last Saturday. Mark Tyler, Robbie Willmott and the suspended Stuart Fleetwood miss out and there are starts for Kevin Pilkington, Jamie Hand and John Paul Kissock.
Town: K. Pilkington, Osano, G. Pilkington, Kovacs, Howells, Hand, Keane, Kissock, Lawless, Morgan-Smith, O'Connor. Subs: Tyler, Gleeson, Beckwith, Crow, Willmott, Blackett, Watkins.
Northampton: Walker, Young, Crowe, Tozer, Berahino, Akinfenwa, Johnson, Jacobs, Westwood, Langmead, Arthur. Subs: Corker, Davies, Holt, Turnbull, McKoy, Hall, Savage.
13:55 STATS THE WAY TO DO IT
Here's some more stats to keep you occupied before the teams are release. The Hatters' record against the Cobblers at Kenilworth Road in the last 26 fixtures reads impressively: 21 wins and four draws and one defeat. That sole defeat in that sequence came in the year 2000 when a certain Steve Howard was on target for the visitors in&nbsp;a 2-0 win.
13:35 REF WATCH
Today's referee is Andy D'Urso. He's refereed three cup ties at Kenilworth Road in his career with a whistle and the Town have won one and drawn two. Simon Pitts reliably informs me the three games were against Brentford in the FA Cup in 2007 (drew 1-1), against Charlton in the League Cup in 2007 (won 3-1) and against Brighton the area-final second leg of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy (drew 1-1, won on penalties).
13:30 DEFEAT FOR YOUNGSTERS
Paul Driver's Under-18s went down 4-1 to Wycombe Wanderers this morning in the Youth Alliance.
13:15 GET A GRIP!
Yesterday, you might or might not have known the FA Cup was with the Hatters at their training ground. Below, Brabs gets his hands on the famous trophy.
Gary Brabin holds the FA Cup aloft yesterday. Looks good, doesn't it!
12:50 TIED DOWN
Gary Brabin is wondering around Kenilworth Road in pursuit of a tie. I think he's managed to find one.
12:45 WEATHER WATCH
Quite mild and sunny with spots of cloud overhead in LU4.
During the summer months the FA Cup sits proudly in the winners' trophy cabinet before a replica is made and it's&nbsp;taken away before the competition starts all over again in August. Gone are all the hopes and dreams of all the clubs who entered way back when the competition started.
763 teams have entered this season's competition all with aspirations of holding the FA Cup aloft at Wembley come May. The&nbsp;magical, mythical powers of the great competition's famous trophy take a grip in each and every one of those teams.
The Town have been luckily enough to have trophy in their grip already this week ahead of today's visit of Northampton Town.&nbsp;At the club for filming during the week, the cup has already been lifted by memebers of staff, whilst yesterday, members of the playing squad and manager Gary Brabin himself were able to come face-to-face with the trophy in all it's glory.
They say touching the cup brings bad luck but how often does such an opportunity present itself? Will the Town win the competition?
Well, Northampton, of League 2, stand in the Hatters way of progressing to the second round. As their manager Gary Johnson said at his press conference on Thursday, "Will a League 2 club win the cup? Probably not, but you can have some fun along the way." Never a truer word spoken.
The Hatters have undoubtly more important things on their agenda this season but a run in the FA Cup...well, it's what being an English football team is all about. Enjoy the ride.
Well, whatever happens today, and indeed throughout the season, your official website will have everything covered: every step of the way.
If you can't make the match then we'll have all the goals and incidents as it happens live with the usual news in the run-up to kick-off with team line-ups and plenty of chat as your official website has, as ever, the usual updates keeping you bang up-to-date with all the action - and in a number of ways.
There's none of those boring ball-by-ball "defensive thrown-in taken by Luton left-back" updates as we continue to and bring you an updated and detailed text commentary. This is a great way to keep in touch and has been popular to those supporters not able to get to a computer or a radio as the service is also available and is updated live on our WAP site.
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Following the final whistle we'll have all the reaction from the men that matter this after, bringing you exclusive video content from Gary Brabin and from the dressing room.
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