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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
22:51 10th January 2012

TOWN 1-0 STOCKPORT COUNTY

Town 1
O'Connor 73 (pen) Stockport County 0 The Town overcame their recent penalty jinx to earn their fifth successive win in the Blue Square Bet Premier. Struggling Stockport had held the Hatters for 73 minutes until Joe Connor upended Adam Watkins in the penalty area and Aaron O'Connor tucked away from 12 yards. Both sides had chances in the first half with Danny Crow missing the best chance for the Town and Euan Holden striking the crossbar with a fantastic left foot shot for County. The Town bossed the second half after changing to a 4-3-3 formation at the break and, after going close with a flurry of half chances, the visitors eventually cracked under the pressure when Watkins was felled in the box and O'Connor notched his eighth goal of the season to ensure there were huge sighs of relief around Kenilworth Road. The Hatters began with a 4-4-2 formation with Stuart Fleetwood and James Dance restored the starting XI. Keith Keane was missing with a hamstring injury whilst O'Connor dropped to the bench. In truth the first 20 minutes was forgettable stuff - the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock was when the ball broke to County in the box and Danny Whitehead shot tamely at Kevin Pilkington. Slowly the Town warmed to their task against a Stockport side clearly low on confidence after a string of poor results on the road. On 23 minutes a left-wing raid from Jake Howells almost found Dance in the penalty area with only a deft header from a visiting defender denying the winger a chance at goal. A minute later the Hatters missed a great opportunity to break the deadlock when a shot from Watkins was deflected into the path of Crow who, with his back to goal, turned and hooked a shot inches wide of the post with the goal at his mercy. The Town came even closer on the half-hour when Janos Kovacs' bullet header from a Howells corner was blocked on the line with George Pilkington and Dance was unable to turn the ball home in the resulting melee. County had been content to soak up the Hatters' pressure but they came mighty close to taking the lead on 33 minutes when Derby loanee Aaron Cole swept a shot from 20 yards inches wide of the post with Kevin Pilkington beaten. In reply the Town almost took the lead in what would have been fortuitous circumstances when a shot from Watkins rebounded off a Stockport man towards goalwards that County goalkeeper Ian Ormson did well to keep out diving to his right. Alex Lawless tested Ormson when arrowing a shot from 20 yards on 25 minutes before County came even closer to taking the lead when left-back Euan Holden rattled the crossbar with a thunderous left-shot from 30 yards - the effort even earned ripples of applause from the home faithful. As half-time approached the Hatters upped the ante in search of an opener: Dance headed wide on 41 minutes after nimble footwork from Lawless before Howells engineered an opportunity through skill and endeavour two minutes into stoppage time that saw Ormson keep out his curling effort from distance. Brabin made two changes at the interval, reverting to a 4-3-3 formation with O'Connor and Robbie introduced for Dance and Fleetwood. Willmott almost got a goal five minutes into the second half when blasting a volley at Ormson after taking a hooked pass from Crow as the Town looked to draw blood quickly after the restart. All of a sudden the Town were looking full of energy on the front-foot and a fine move almost resulted in the opening goal on 52 minutes. Watkins did well to win the ball in midfield and spread the ball out to right flank to O'Connor who cut the ball back for Crow whose low shot was blocked behind for a corner. Kovacs hit the foot of the post from the resulting corner a minute before County almost took the lead with another long-range blockbuster but Pilkington came to the Town's rescue when he pulled off a fantastic full stretch stop to thwart Sam Sheridan's 25-yarder. The Town were seething on 55 minutes when Willmott burst through on goal with Ormson to beat only for him to be hauled back by Danny O'Donnell. With everyone expecting the referee to signal for a foul, the official remained unmoved and nothing was given. The offside flag continued to the thwart the Hatters as they looked to play the killer pass and County were gaining confidence as the home side's frustration set in and a left-wing break resulted in John Nolan sweeping a shot wide for the visitors on 69 minutes As the scoreboard clicked showed 20 minutes left there were many an anxious faces in a Kenilworth Road crowd of 5,588 but those faces were soon smiling on 73 minutes when the Hatters took the lead. A burst from midfield from Watkins got him into the box, a feint of the shoulder and a bit of fancy footwork was enough to make Connor send the young midfielder tumbling 15 yards from goal and referee Martin awarded the penalty. Usually the award of a spot-kick signals joyous expectation in the stands but given the Town's recent record from 12 yards, there was plenty of concern in the stands. But O'Connor - who had missed the last penalty, on Boxing Day against Kettering - fired confidently hard and low to Ormson's right and the substitute was off and away to celebrate his eighth goal of the season. With their tails up boosted by that goal the Town went in search of a second, Howells - operating in central midfield following the re-formation at the break - sent a header wide on 85 minutes following Greg Taylor's inch-perfect diagonal pass from the left. County huffed and puffed in search of a last-minute equaliser but it was the Hatters that came closest to scoring in the dying stages when Crow somehow flashed a shot wide after Willmott and Watkins had combined superbly with the last kick of the game. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't spectacular, but a win's a win and the Hatters will be happy to take three points and a clean sheet once more as they cement their place in the top five. For minute-by-minute analysis see below. Result from Kenilworth Road Luton Town 1 (O'Connor (pen 73)) Stockport County 0 FULL-TIME All over here and the Town have got three more points and another clean sheet. Full report, reaction and photographs to follow. COYH. 90 mins - And we're going to have three added minutes. 90 mins - Into the last minute here. 87 mins - Danny Crow named man-of-the-match by us in the press box tonight. Great work rate from the striker. 85 mins - Oh, unlucky as the Hatters come close to a second, Taylor hangs up a  ball from the left that is perfect for Howells and he sends a header inches wide of the post. 81 mins - Town pushing for a second, Howells and Willmott linking up well down the left to win a corner before the latter smashes a shot over following the resultant flag-kick. 80 mins - 10 minutes left here. 74 mins  GOAL! TOWN 1-0 Stockport (Aaron O'Connor penalty) - Relief all round here. Watkins breaks into the penalty area and is sent tumbling in the box by Joe Connor and AARON O'CONNOR coolly slots the ball into the corner giving Ormson no chance. 73 mins - PENALTY TO TOWN - WATKINS FOULED BY CONNOR 69 mins - Half a chance on the break for County as they burst down the left. Nolan sweeping a shot wide of the target. 67 mins - Midway point in this second half, the attendance is 5,588 with 78 shouting for Stockport. 60 mins - Hour gone here, still goalless, still here. 55 mins - Back come the Hatters and they're incensed as Willmott breaks through and is seemingly tugged back by County skipper Danny O'Donnell when clean through. The officials aren't having any of it which doesn't please Gary Brabin or the home faithful. 54 mins - Another shot from distance from County and they almost take the lead. They're only denied by a super flying stop from Kevin Pilkington with Sam Sheridan's shot inches from finding the net. 53 mins - Then there's a chance from the corner as the ball drops to Kovacs at the back post who flicks a boot out at the ball which comes back off the foot of the post. 52 mins - Better still from the Hatters as Watkins does well, really well, to feed O'Connor out on the right-wing who cuts the ball back for Crow who sees a shot blocked behind for a corner. 50 mins - Good stuff from the Town as Willmott blasts a left-foot volley goalwards that Ormson keeps out after good link-up play from Crow and Howells - who is now operating in the centre of midfield now. 46 mins  And we're off and underway again at Kenilworth Road and we've got two changes for the Town with Stuart Fleetwood and James Dance replaced by Aaron O'Connor and Robbie Willmott. Town shooting towards the Oak Road end this half. HALF-TIME And that's half-time here at Kenilworth Road. No goals here. Let's hope for a better second half. See you 15 minutes. 45 mins + 2 - Lovely play from Howells, determined and skilful stuff from the youngster in the middle of the park, as he drives forward and curls a shot goalwards from 22 yards that Ormson stops making a sprawling save. And that's half-time... 45 mins - Two added minutes until the break here. 41 mins - Half a sniff for the Town as Lawless show close control to dink a cross out from the left that Dance heads wide. 37 mins - Wow - again - as County come close with another effort from distance as, with nothing on, left-back Euan Holden lets fly from 30 yards with a left-foot shot that clips the top of the crossbar. Great hit and draws applause from the Town faithful. 36 mins - Almost a stroke of luck for the Hatters as they continue to press. Watkins does well to drive forward and sees a shot deflect back off of him that flies goalwards that Ormson needs to scuttle away to his right to keep out. 35 mins - Back come the Town, patient stuff involving Howells and Watkins leading to Lawless shooting from just outside the box that young keeper Ian Ormson is equal to. 33 mins - Wow, that's hit well, as County go mighty close as a corner is half cleared to Aaron Cole who thunders a shot from 25 yards that whistles inches wide of the post with Pilkington beaten. 33 mins - Both teams' passing and touch this evening has, shall we say, not been the best. 30 mins - Almost a sight of goal for the Town as from Howells corner Kovacs get up to plant a header goalwards which is blocked by neither Dance or Pilkington can force the ball over the line and after a melee, County clear. 24 mins - Oh, oh, oh, somehow it's still goalless as Crow misses the best chance of the game so far. The ball is worked down the right to Watkins in the penalty area. His shot is deflected into the path of Crow who turns six yards out and hooks a shot wide when it looked for all the world the ball would nestle in the back of the net. Town getting into this now. 23 mins - Better from the Town as they break down the left with Howells who does really well to dig out a deep cross but with Dance lurking on the penalty spot, a Stockport head gets the slightest of touches which clears the danger. 20 mins - Sorry, don't worry, we're still here, just lot a lot has happened in truth. It's been a frustrating first 20 minutes here. The Town are marginally on top but that's about as good as it gets I'm afraid. A match very low on quality so far. 13 mins - Appeals for a penalty from the Town players as a goal-bound effort from Watkins - after fine wing play from Dance - deflects off a County man with the men in orange appealing for handball. The ref's not interested. Nowt given. 8 mins - Not a lot has really happened here - we've had two stoppages for injuries to County players and then the visitors have half a sight of goal as the ball breaks to Danny Whitehead in the box but the striker's weak left-foot shot is comfortable for Kevin Pilkington. 4 mins - Stoppage in time for 90 seconds-to-two minutes or so as Martin Gritton, the County striker, receives treatment for an injury taken in a rather sensitive area. 2 mins - So Hatters lining-up 4-4-2 with Gleeson right back, Taylor left back, Kovacs and G. Pilks centre halfs, Lawless and Watkins in central midfield, Dance right wing, Howells left wing and Fleetwood and Crow in attack. 1 min Change of ends as we're off here, the Town kick-off and will be shooting towards the Kenilworth Road end in the first half. 19:40 HERE THEY COME Out come the two sides onto the freshly watered pitch. Standby for handshakes and coin toss before we get underway. Enjoy the updates. COYH. 19:30 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS Andrew Barringer: 2-0 Luton, Simon Pitts: 2-1 Luton, Mark Wood: 2-0 Luton, Lauren Archell: 1-0 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 1-0 Luton. 19:15 FORMATION FOR NATION So is that going to be 4-4-2 tonight for the Hatters? Guess it's a case of waiting until kick-off. 18:50 TWO CHANGES Town boss Gary Brabin makes two changes: James Dance and Stuart Fleetwood start in the place of Keith Keane (who has a hamstring injury) and Aaron O'Connor - who drops to the bench. George Pilkington, Dan Gleeson and Danny Crow - all doubts beforehand - start. Town: K. Pilkington, Gleeson, G. Pilkington, Kovacs, Taylor, Dance, Lawless, Watkins, Howells, Crow, Fleetwood. Subs: Lacey, Kissock, Willmott, O'Connor, Tyler. Stockport: Ormson, Holden, O'Donnell, Gritton, Sheridan, Whitehead, Halls, Danny Rowe, Piergianni, Cole, Connor. Subs: Glennon, Danny L Rowe, Nolan, Fraughan, Elliott. 18:35 ON THIS DAY The Town's record on 10th January reads played 13, won five, drawn four, lost four, scored 31, conceded 28. The Hatters were last in action on this date in 2002 when they drew 2-2 with Rushden & Diamonds at Nene Park. Peter Holmes and Adrian Forbes were on target. The Town have only one once since 1959 - a 3-0 victory over Blackpool in 1998 - thanks to a hat-trick from Tony Thorpe. Other significant results include a 4-3 defeat at Watford in an FA Cup third round replay in 1984 and a 5-1 win over Leeds United at Kenilworth Road in 1959. The Hatters went all the way to Wembley to the final that year. 18:00 WEATHER WATCH Evening all. It's not too cold out there for this time of year. Still, I'd advise you to wrap up warm, or why not pop to the club shop pre-match and buy some of our new gloves and scarves. 16:45 FIVE ALIVE Four wins on the spin, one goal conceded and third place in the table...sounds good doesn't it? Well, not really, according to Town boss Gary Brabin. The manager knows the Hatters' run of form in the Blue Square Bet Premier is good, but he still knows it's not good enough if his team are to make significant progress in chasing down the sole automatic promotion place in the division. Saturday's straightforward 2-0 victory over Newport County made it four successive league wins for the first time in a year and tonight Brabin welcomes Stockport County to Kenilworth Road hunting a fifth straight to strength their place in the top five. Not since a barnstorming run in March of 2010 have the Hatters rattled off five successive wins. They ended that regular season with 10 wins and three draws from their last 13 games but hearts were broken in the play-offs against York. The Town's consistency last term meant they had to settle for the play-offs once more, and we all know that ended in more heartache... So you can see why Brabin is so determined this time round to make sure there's no end-of-season agony again. "Everyone has written us off and made it a two-horse race between Fleetwood and Wrexham," Brabin said yesterday. The Hatters need to rely on both of the top two slipping up - and the only way they can take advantage is to keeping winning. Tonight, Stockport stand in the Town's way. A club who have battles of their own. Surprisingly sitting a point above the relegation zone, County have endured a disappointing first season out of the Football League. Didi Hamann arrived at Edgeley Park with a fanfare quite rightly justified as the high-profile man to guide the 'other' Hatters back into League 2. The bookies were queuing up to take the bets of punters latching onto the feel good factor on Hardcastle Road. However, poor results saw him gone and Jim Gannon has returned for a second spell in charge with the aim of keeping County up. In tonight's battle of the Hatters - the first to take place in non-league - a fixture billed in pre-season as a clash of two promotion contenders now takes on different importance for either side. COYH (the ones in orange) Well, whatever happens tonight, 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. On Hatters Player you all have access to our live commentary. Remember, Player is available as ever which means you all have access to our live commentary. If you haven't heard it yet then where you have been? It's still brought to you by Simon "Statto" Pitts but he's got company this time! The DiverseFM team have collaborated with BBC Three Counties radio and the Club to bring you the Luton Town Show. 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. We'll have plenty of content to keep you interested as we'll have all of the post-match reaction from Gary as well as match action from Gareth Owen to follow after the final whistle. Be sure to check out www.hatterspics.co.uk - our online image library. Like a picture you see and fancy having that on a mug? Well, fancy no more - with Hatters Pics it's a reality. Remember, we want you to get in touch. Join the updates and get in touch. Email andrew.barringer@lutontown.co.uk and we'll pick the best comments to go live on the site during our live updates. Don't forget we're also on twitter and Facebook so feel free to interact with your fellow fans online. Enjoy the game. #COYH  
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