MATCH REPORT – LUTON TOWN 2 – 1 DORCHESTER TOWN
The Hatters claimed a lucrative third round place with a 2-1 win over a resilient Dorchester side who had threatened to overturn a two goal deficit in the FA Cup second round clash.
Andre Gray put the Hatters in front before Alex Lawless powered in to double the advantage for the home side. Dorchester then struck to reduce the scoreline to a solitary goal but the Hatters held on to secure their cup status.
Just the one enforced change for the Hatters as Simon Ainge's loan deal meant he was ineligible to participate in the competition so Dean Beckwith replaced him in the heart of the Hatters back line. As for the visitors they welcomed back Lee Nicholls from suspension as they look to claim a second FA Cup scalp of the season.
An early set piece test for the Hatters as Jason Matthews launches a long searching free-kick into the Town area but it is dealt with by Janos Kovacs. Organised and strong from the off could be down to the extra hours focusing on the set play frailties.
Luton's first set piece came with just under five minutes played and it was a routine straight off the training field. Gray spun his man on the halfway line before racing away down the flank. His attempted byliner delivery was deflected behind for a corner. Lawless then drilled a low effort in toward Scott Rendell who had peeled off his marker leaving him free to lash goal wards from the penalty spot. Hammered into a barrage of Magpie bodies and rebounded clear.
The first real attempt on the Hatters goal came from Mark Jermyn as he stole the ball off of Beckwith before a chested control allowed the Magpies front man to volley at goal. His effort from the edge of the box however sailed over Mark Tyler's goal with the Hatters keeper comfortably allowing it to maintain its skyward status.
JJ O'Donnell, the creature of many of the Hatters attacking threat in mid-week again turned on the afterburners and scampered off down the left touchline. His early inviting cross however ripped across the goal mouth with Gray and Rendell unable to stretch and apply the finishing touch.
Luton nearly were gifted the advantage by Tuesday night's goalscoring nemesis Charlie Clough after his back pass sold Matthews short and allowed Gray to nick in. The Hatters forward then flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Rendell who's first time effort failed to find the target.
Another Hatters set piece brought about a frantic scramble inside the Magpies area. Howells delivery cannoned off of Beckwith before a pin-ball like battery of the football which eventually saw O'Donnell's effort deflected over.
Hatters found their attacking threat down the left flank unmarkable as another chance was carved out of nothing before Lawless far post header looped over the cross bar. Neat intricate football between Howell and O'Donnell allowed Lathaniel Rowe-Turner a license to get forward which he formally accepted. O'Donnell's clever pass found Rowe-Turner who then drilled a cross in from the byline which found the Welshman on the opposite wing.
After having the lion-share of chances in the first half an hour the home side broke the deadlock through Gray. Beckwith's scooped through ball found the pacey forward who jinked his way inside before slotting into the bottom corner from the penalty spot to give the Hatters a deserving 1-0 advantage.
O'Donnell continued to wreak havoc down the left touchline as he opted to go it alone instead of searching for a team mate five minutes before the interval. Howells picked out O'Donnell before he slipped infield and slammed a viscous left footed drive inches past the far post.
Rowe-Turner again found space to pick out a cross toward Rendell at the near post but his effort was deflected behind. The resulting corner saw Lawless go close as he received the ball back from his own corner after a Dorchester played failed to clear his lines and Lawless whipped a striking effort toward the far post but it narrowly headed over.
One change at half-time for the visitors as they attempted to overturn a one goal deficit as they replaced Jon Chopereno-Garcia with Sam Malsom.
The substitution nearly had the desired effect early on as Jamie Gleeson headed wide from inside the Hatters area after confusion struck the Town defenders upon defending a corner. The ball was whipped in deep towards the far post where it was nodded into the path of Arran Pugh who couldn't connect but Gleeson did as his effort missed the far post by millimetres.
Another set piece nearly cost Luton dear as Clough was allowed a free header which bounced wide of Tyler's goal. Kovacs acknowledges his error of judgement in allowing Clough space and the Hatters continue to press.
That pressure nearly resulted in Gray doubling his tally for the afternoon as Jonathan Smith set the ball through the Magpies defence so Gray could fire goal-wards. The Hatters forward attempted to lash the ball inside the near post of Matthews but the Dorchester keeper was down early to prevent the goal. The resulting corner saw Beckwith rise highest but his header was tamely dealt with by Matthews to ease the Magpies worries.
This was to be Beckwith's final participation of the afternoon after an innocuous one saw the Hatters central defender stretchered from the field of play with just over an hour played. Beckwith looked in a large amount of distress as he left the pitch and he was replaced by Alex Lacey for the Town youngsters first appearance of the season.
Shortly before the 70minute mark the Hatters place in the second round seemed sealed as Alex Lawless slammed home from inside the area. The strike from the Welshman tallied up his third goal of the season for the Hatters.
However the Hatters place in the third round was put on hold as Pugh slammed home a response for the Magpies to reduce the deficit to one. A low corner was swung in and as bodies threw themselves in desperation to connect Pugh swept home to give the travelling away fans something to cheer about.
That lead was nearly overturned seconds later as substitute Malsom's point-blank header forced Tyler into an acrobatic save to cling on to the Hatters lead.
Dorchester continued in search of an equaliser as Ben Watson scampered away from Beckwith and drilled a shot at goal again forcing Tyler to parry and it was nodded into touch by Lacey.
Efforts rained down on the Hatters keeper as Tyler produced a number of magnificent stops to prevent Dorchester equalising.
As the away team looked more likely to change the scoreline manager Paul Buckle brought on top-scorer Stuart Fleetwood in an attempt to put the game beyond the Magpies with just ten minutes remaining.
After a frantic, end to end quarter of an hour the game slowed up as chances again became less frequent. With the magic surrounding this competition it was left to Howells and Gosling to battle it out for attempt of the day as both let rip on majestic long range efforts. Howells plucked a volley out of the air from the edge of the box which just creped wide prior to Gosling's long range pile-driver which crashed into the side netting.
As the game drew to a close the Hatters looked to put the game beyond their opponents as Howells sent Ronnie Henry galloping down the right flank before the Hatters skipper tried to pick out Fleetwood in the centre. The ball was intercepted by Pugh but only as far as Lawless who drilled goal-wards but his effort was deflected behind, keeping the tie at 2-1.
The fourth official indicated six minutes time added as Dorchester threw everything at Tyler in the Hatters goal. Dan Thompson volleyed an effort goal-bound by Tyler was equal to it again before late substitute Arnaud Mendy was fouled in the melee that followed.
In the final play of the tie Lawless intercepted an overenthusiastic pass from keeper Matthews and weaved into the area. With Fleetwood square Lawless drilled the ball near post but it was parried to safety by Matthews who atoned for his error.