O'Connor 40, 51
Cheltenham Town 4
Duffy 2, Pack 45, Summerfield 63, Penn 90
The Hatters came out the wrong side of a six-goal thriller at Kenilworth Road as their run in the FA Cup came to an end against League 2 Cheltenham - despite scoring two equalisers.
The Town fell behind as inside the first 90 seconds when Darryl Duffy's cute finish had the visitors in front.
Cheltenham were looking menacing going forward but slowly the Hatters got back into the game and after a period of sustained pressure levelled things up five minutes before the break when Robbie Willmott set-up Aaron O'Connor
for the first of his two goals.
No doubt wanting to be level go into the break the Hatters suffered a sucker punch on the stroke of half-time when Marlon Pack's cross was deflected home by Dan Gleeson to restore the Gloucestershire's lead.
To their credit the Town continued to impress after the break and got their second equaliser of the afternoon on 51 minutes when O'Connor slotted home following Danny Crow's headed pass.
But just like in the first half, the equilibrium didn't last long when Cheltenham took the lead for the third time on the day when Luke Summerfield finished well after good work from Duffy on 63 minutes.
The Town lay siege on the visitors goal in their quest for another equaliser and in the end Cheltenham had the last word when Russell Penn made it 4-2 in stoppage time and ensure it would be the Robins and not the Hatters' name in the purple velvet bag at Wembley on Sunday.
The game itself began with Brabin making three changes to the side that drew with AFC Telford in midweek with Stuart Fleetwood, James Dance and Curtis Osano making way for Adam Watkins, O'Connor and Gleeson. For the latter it was his first start of the campaign and only his second appearance having suffered ankle and back injuries.
Cheltenham, chasing an eighth successive victory away from home, flew out of the blocks and could have taken the lead within the first 60 seconds when Janos Kovacs need to clear Pack's goal-bound effort after the visiting midfielder was able to run onto a loose ball in the penalty area.
The Town failed to heed that early warning though when Mark Yates' in-form Robins took the lead a minute later with a route-one effort that will make uncomfortable viewing for the home defence. A long ball pumped forward caught out the Hatters' back-line which found the feet of Duffy who advanced into the box and caressed a cute finish past Kevin Pilkington.
Cheltenham, sensing blood - even at this early stage - looked dangerous every time they received the ball in the Town half. Penn dragged a shot wide minutes later as the Robins searched for an early double.
Eventually though the Town woke from their slow start with a flurry of decent chances in a two-minute spell starting on 13 minutes when O'Connor's cross was headed wide by Crow 12 yards out before Kovacs headed over when well placed following Watkins' right-wing cross a minute later.
But Cheltenham were just waiting to hit the Town on the break and they almost made it 2-0 on 15 minutes when Penn's rampaging run down the left resulted in the midfielder blasting a low shot at goal that Pilkington did well to keep out at his near post.
It was end-to-end stuff as the cup tie began to get into full swing as back came the Town on 16 minutes when O'Connor hooked a shot goalwards when the ball bounced his way in the box following another set piece.
By the time the half-hour point arrived, while the Hatters were still behind, the men in orange were definitely showing signs of renewed confidence and, backed by the urgings of the Kenilworth Road crowd, Brabin's men were enjoying the lion's share of possession.
And on 33 minutes the equaliser almost came. Watkins received the ball in the middle of the pitch and drove towards goal. As he reached the edge of the box he switched the ball onto his right foot and unleashed a firm, low shot that looked for all the world to be heading towards the bottom corner of the net before Scott Brown stuck out a hand and turned around the post. From the resultant corner from the right, Kovacs leapt to send a bullet header wide of the post.
The play was well and truly all with the Town with Watkins testing Brown with a shot from the edge of the area on 39 minutes as the pressure continued to rise.
Given the Hatters had dominated for a good half-an-hour it was vital that they found an equaliser to make their dominance count and that duly arrived on 40 minutes. Willmott was the architect , shimmying into the box down the left to cross to O'Connor who swept home a left-foot shot from six yards.
Buoyed by that the Town were soon brought down to earth five minutes later when the Robins re-took the lead on the stroke of half-time. Again, like the first it wasn't the prettiest, winger Pack's attempted cross from the left was deflected off Gleeson past the helpless Pilkington.
The Hatters needed to rediscover the rhythm that had seen them peg back the visitors in the first half and Brabin's men did precisely that six minutes after the restart. George Pilkington's long free-kick was headed square by Crow and O'Connor did the rest applying a fine low shot that arrowed beyond Brown from on the edge of the box.
However, just like in the first half, the Town failed to build on their leveller and, after a period of possession play where both sides traded the ball, the visitors had the lead for a third time on 63 minutes. Duffy, the scorer of the first goal, did well to hold off the attentions of the Hatters defence and his square pass found an unmarked Summerfield on the edge of the penalty area to thump home an impressive low finish.
The Hatters naturally went all out in an attempt to haul the tie level again but couldn't find a way past Brown as Watkins was left frustrated by a shot blocked inside the box on 71 minutes.
With the Town pushing for another for another equaliser Cheltenhamcame close to putting the tie to bed with two chances in the space of three minutes with Pack off target with the first from outside the area before James Spencer saw a right-foot shot flash past the post from an acute angle.
Back came the Hatters, twice winning free-kicks on the edge of the box but efforts from O'Connor and Willmott hit the Cheltenham wall, with the second of those set-pieces seing the visitors reduced to 10 men when Duffy was shown a second yellow card for a foul on O'Connor.
That gave the Hatters seven minutes with a man advantage to find an equaliser and they almost got one with two minutes left on the clock when Lawless' shot from out the area flew goalwards but the midfielder's effort came back off the post. It was the third time in two games the Town had hit the woodwork.
But as the hosts pushed forward looking for the equaliser they were always going to be open at the back and after Josh Low had seen his shot saved well by Pilkington, Cheltenham killed the tie off in the fourth minute of injury time when Penn strode into the box and finished with aplomb.
So six goals and great entertainment. That's eight wins on the bounce away from for the Robins who go into Saturday's draw. We wish them well.
For the Town more important matters lie ahead: league points at stake on Tuesday when they travel to Lincoln City.
See you there.
For minute-by-minute analysis see below.
Result from Kenilworth Road
Luton Town&nbsp;2 (O'Connor 40, 51)
Cheltenham Town&nbsp;4 (Duffy 2, Pack 45, Summerfield 63, Penn 90)
FULL-TIME All over here at Kenilworth Road and the Town are out of the FA Cup. Report, reaction and photographs to come. COYH.
90 mins + 4&nbsp; GOAL! Town 2-4 CHELTENHAM (Penn) - With the Hatters pushing forward Cheltenham seal it. Substitute Smikle picks out RUSSELL PENN who shows good footwork and keeps his head to finish really well past Pilkington from inside the six yard box.
90 mins + 3 - Chance for Cheltenham, Low shot straight at Pilkington.
90 mins - Five added minutes...
89 mins - Another chance for the Hatters, the ball flashes into the box, to the back post but Crow can't get a touch on it.
88 mins - Chance, Town possesson, falls to Lawless 20 yards out, crisp, well-hit effort...off the post and out for a goal-kick. Third time in two games the Hatters have hit the woodwork.
84 mins - Eventually that second free-kick taken, Willmott's effort not high enough and into the wall. The Town have six minutes plus stoppage time with a man advantage to find a third equaliser.
83 mins - Red card and the visitors are down to 10 men, Duffy shown a second yellow...
82 mins - Town pressure, two free-kicks, O'Connor into the wall with the first....
80 mins - And another half-decent chance for the Robins, James Spencer doing well with a great first touch to set himself up for a right-foot shot that bounces just wide from a narrow angle.
77 mins - Cheltenham looking to finish the Town off but they won't like that as Pack scews a shot wide from 20 yards.
76 mins &nbsp;First change for the Town. Keith Keane is replaced by John Paul Kissock.
75 mins - By the way there's 4,516 with 478 from supporting Cheltenham inside Kenilworth Road this afternoon.
73 mins - Almost a sniff for the Hatters as Crow does well to close down a Cheltenham man 35 yards from goal but his cross, after he'd run down the right, is easy for Brown.
71 mins - Twenty left for the Town to get something now and they come close to making it 3-3 as they throw everyone into the box for a left-wing corner and the ball breaks to Watkins who sees a shot - that he does well to get out underneath his feet - blocked in the box.
65 mins - So, 25 minutes for the Town to find a third equaliser...
63 mins &nbsp;GOAL! Town 2-3 CHELTENHAM (Summerfield) - For a third time Cheltenham are ahead. Duffy, the scorer of the first, does well down the right to tee-up an unmarked LUKE SUMMERFIELD on the edge of the box and the midfielder has all the time in the world to hit a firm finish beyond Pilkington.
60 mins - Hour gone here. First booking of the game is for Gleeson for a foul on Low.
55 mins - So 35 minutes for the Town to get their noses in front for the first time&nbsp;in this cup tie.
51 mins &nbsp;GOAL! TOWN 2-2 Cheltenham (O'Connor) - Game on again and it's that man AARON O'CONNOR who lashes home from 18 yards after Crow had done brilliantly to head George Pilkington to cushion the ball into his path. Super stuff.
50 mins - How many is a conversion in rugby? Kaid Mohamed tries his luck direct from a free-kick 25 yards plus out but only hammers over the Oak Road stand and into the gardens the other side.
46 mins - No changes for either side at the break.
46 mins Annnnnnnnnnnnd we're off for the second as the Robins kick-off. The Town are now shooting towards the Kenilworth Road end.
HALF-TIME And that's the half-time whistle and it's subdued atmosphere. The Town have done well to ride an early storm from the visitors to get back on level terms but have been handed a blow shortly before the break. Check back in 15 minutes for the second half. COYH.
45 mins - Two added minutes.
45 mins &nbsp;GOAL! Town 1-2 CHELTENHAM (Pack) - Frustrating. Cheltenham break down the left and MARLON PACK's deflected effort - possibly even a cross - lands up in the net giving Pilkington no chance.
40 mins &nbsp;GOAL! TOWN 1-1 Cheltenham (O'Connor) - In answer to my question, yes! And it's a deserved one too as Willmott ghosts into the box down the left and gets to the byeline. He looks up and spots AARON O'CONNOR who gleefully accepts the winger's pass to roll past Brown. Get in!
39 mins - More work for Brown in the visitors goal and again it's from Watkins as his left-foot effort from the edge of the box is easy for the keeper to collect this time. Can the Town get an equaliser before the break?
34 mins - Oooooh, and another chance for the men in orange. From the resultant corner Kovacs leaps head and shoulders above the rest of the players in the box to thump a header wide of the target. Unlucky. Pressure rising.
33 mins - CHANCE. And it's almost the leveller as Watkins breaks into midfield and unleashed a fine low drive from the edge of the box that Scott Brown turns around the post. Good shot, good save.
30 mins - Half an hour gone, definite improvement from the Town since the first 5-10 minutes.
27 mins - Not much to shout about at the minute but the Hatters are certainly getting back into this. The crowd are responding.
20 mins - Almost a sight of goal for O'Connor as he pinches a yard of space on the edge of the area but Cheltenham flood back and crowd the forward out.
16 mins - And another, keeping me busy as the Hatters win a free-kick 20 yards out that bobbles in the Cheltenham box that O'Connor hooks goalwards but it hits a visiting player for a corner which is cleared.
15 mins - End-to-end at the minute now as Cheltenham flood forward, breaking with Penn down the left. He has options but decides to go for goal aiming for Pilkington's near post but the keeper does well to keep it out.
14 mins - Another minute, another chance, and this is better from the Hatters as a short-corner routine sees Watkins cross for Kovacs eight yards out but the Hungarian can only guide a header over the crossbar.
13 mins - The Town slowly creeping into this after Cheltenham's forceful start. O'Connor captialises on a mistake in midfield from the visitors to dig out a cross from Crow 12 yards out but&nbsp;the striker's header bounces wide. Better.
8 mins - By the way the Town are playing 433 with Gleeson, Pilkington, Kovacs and Howells across the back, Keane, Lawless and Keane in centre mid with O'Connor on the right, Willmott on the left and Crow down the middle.
5 mins - Subdued start from the Hatters here, Cheltenham have started like a house on fire. They're looking for an eighth straight away victory today.
2 mins &nbsp;GOAL! Town 0-1 CHELTENHAM (Duffy) - Well the visitors have started the brighter and they take a lead inside two minutes and it's not pretty from a Town point of view. A long ball over the top catches out the defence allowing DARRYL DUFFY to break into the area down the left and tuck a nice finish past the advancing Pilkington.
1 mins - Almost a chance for the visitors inside a minute as a cross down the right falls perfectly for Marlon Pack to run on to from 12 yards. His shot is good and on target but he can only find the legs of Kovacs.
1 min Annnnnnnnnnnnnd we're off here at Kenilworth Road and it's the Town who kick-off and will be shooting towards the 400 or so Cheltenham fans in the Oak Road end. Enjoy the updates COYH!
14:55 HERE THEY COME
Out come the teams, Town in orange, Cheltenham in a dark red.
14:52 FESTIVE FEEL
Plenty of Christmasy tracks currently being aired over the PA system prior to kick-off.
14:50 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS
Andrew Barringer: 3-2 Luton, Mark Wood: 2-1 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 3-1 Cheltenham, Bill Cole: 2-1 Cheltenham, Simon Pitts: 1-1 draw, Brian Swain: 3-1 Luton.
14:40 CHELTENHAM CONNECTION
The Hatters have two ex-Robins on the bench. James Dance was in the Cheltenham centre of excellence whilst Stuart Fleetwood spent a spell on&nbsp;loan at Whaddon Road in 2008, scoring twice in seven games.
14:12 THE TEAMS
Town: K. Pilkington, Gleeson, G. Pilkington, Kovacs, Howells, Lawless, Keane, Watkins, Crow, Willmott, O'Connor. Subs: Tyler, Beckwith, Fleetwood, Dance, Kissock, Hand, Wright.
Cheltenham: Brown, Lowe, Pack, Low, Duffy, Spencer, Bennett, Penn, Jombati, Mohamed, Summerfield. Subs: Goulding, Smikle, Lewis, Graham, Hooman, Reid, Book.
14:10 THREE CHANGES
Adam Watkins, Dan Gleeson and Aaron O'Connor
start for the Town.
Full details to follow.
13:55 CARNEY TO GO PRO
The Town can reveal that young defender Newman Carney has signed agreed to sign a professional contract in the summer.
13:45 WHADDNY ROBIN
The Cheltenham manager is currently getting changed in the media office!
13:15 CUP DEFEAT
The Town have already been knocked out of a cup competition today. Paul Driver's under-18s have gone down 3-0 at home to Leyton Orient in the first knockout stage of the Youth Alliance League Cup.
13:00 TEAMS NEWS
We'll have the important team news for you in the next hour.
12:30 WEATHER WATCH
A nice day for December, a bit windy, but nice and sunny here in Luton.
11:30 PRESSURE LIFTED
Such has been the pressure of obtaining league points week in, week-out over the past few years the Hatters' performances in cup competitions have been flourished.
It was the battle to reel back a 30-point deficit in 2008/09 that saw the Town go on a lift the Johnstone's Paint Trophy while in the past two seasons in the Blue Square Bet Premier success has been achieved in campaigns in the FA Cup and FA Trophy.
In 2009/10 the Hatters were knocked out at the third round stage by Southampton at St Mary's having disposed of League 2 opponents Rochdale and Rotherham. Then, last season, there was no disgrace behind a second round exit to League 1 Charlton after a replay before a run to the semi-finals of the FA Trophy.
There's no doubting the Town's main priority this season - the one which has and always will be - promotion to the Football League. But now the Hatters are a victory away from a place in the third round of the world's most famous knockout competition and a potential tie with one of the big boys from the Premier League.
Victories of Hendon and Northampton have got Gary Brabin's men this far in the FA Cup and this afternoon in-form Cheltenham Town visit Kenilworth Road in search of their eighth successive victory on the road.
The cup seems to bring the best out of the Hatters without the pressure, the expectation, of having to break down the stubborn defences that frustrate them so in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
The league is and always will be the focus but, as former Northampton boss Gary Johnson said before the first round tie, we're not going to win the FA Cup but why not have some fun along the way?
Enjoy it today. COYH.
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