Rendell equaliser sets-up replay
Nuneaton Town 1
It was another late-show from the Town against Nuneaton as Scott Rendell’s header six minutes from time earned a FA Cup first round replay.
The striker nodded home his seventh goal of the season from Jake Howells’ in-swinging free-kick to cancel out Tyrell Waite’s 20th minute opener for the visitors.
It was a tie that for large parts of it was dominated by the Hatters but they will require a second bite at the cherry before booking their place in the second round.
The one change from Hatters last outing in a triumphant 2-1 defeat of Forest Green last Saturday saw JJ O'Donnell replace cup-tied Simon Ainge. That meant Dean Brill kept the keepers gloves following Mark Tyler's recent injury worry. Adam Watkins returned to the bench for the Hatters after his loan spell at Kidderminster expired last weekend. Also on the bench for the Hatters was youngster Brett Longden and to the delight of the Hatters faithful returning to the fray from a long term injury James Dance. There was a last-minute change for the Hatters as Dan Walker was thrust into the starting XI for Jon Shaw, who complained of a thigh injury during the warm up. Alex Lacey was brought into replace Walker on the Hatters bench.
Meanwhile Nuneaton named last month's stand-out performer, here at Kenilworth Road, Ben Mcnamara between the sticks, and top scorer Adam Walker in an attacking line-up for Kevin Wikin's men, which also included Coventry loanee Kevin Malaga as part of a five man defence.
The Hatters first sighting of goal came with the game under a minute old. Town's kick-off possession worked its way wide to Walker who sped past his man and whipped a ball toward the far post looking for Stuart Fleetwood. The Hatters’ top goalscorer then controlled and volleyed just wide of the Boro goal.
Another early sign of danger for the visitors came when McNamara claimed a free-kick but fumbled under Janos Kovacs’ challenge. Before any player could pounce on the loose ball however the referee blew for a free-kick.
The first golden opportunity of the game fell to the Hatters. Scott Rendell broke the offside trap and was found by a fantastic 30-yard through-ball from Lathaniel Rowe-Turner. Rendell struggled to get the ball under control in mid stride however and McNamara closed the forward down early to deny Rendell his second in as many games.
Chances became frequent in the opening 10 minutes for the Hatters as Howells’ corner seemed destined for Kovacs head at the far post. McNamara got his fingertips to the cross however to flick it off the head of the Hungarian.
The first debate came with 12 minutes on the clock as O'Donnell's jinking run and cross cannoned back off of what seemed to be a Boro arm. Appeals were waved away however from the official as it was deemed to be unintentional.
The first attempt at Brill's goal came on the quarter of the hour mark when Simon Forsdick dropped the shoulder and cut inside before lashing goal-wards. Brill was down early to cover the danger with minimal fuss.
Another teasing corner from Howells needed the keeper’s intervention to prevent Town taking the lead. Howells swerving delivery almost caught the Boro keeper off guard but he rectified the situation by deflecting it over the bar.
Despite all of the Hatters pressure it was the visitors who scored first, and their first ever goal at Kenilworth Road. Andy Brown released Adam Walker down the left flank before he cut the ball back into the path of Danny Sleath. Sleath then opened the door up for Waite to break the deadlock after he drilled the ball across the goalmouth. Waite, who looked to be in an offside position, then tapped home to send the travelling away fans into jubilation.
Town immediately looked to retaliate first with Rendell who's goal-bound effort was deflected into touch before O'Donnell's effort sawed over from a free-kick.
Luton's Walker continued to cause problems for the Hatters as his pace and power allowed him to get the better of full-back Tom James before teasing a delivery into the area, which was subsequently headed away from danger by Gaz Dean under heavy pressure from Rendell.
Luton pressed for an equaliser but continued to find Boro bodies wherever they turned. Howells’ neat first touch control and nutmeg worked an opening for a shot which was closed down by Gavin Cowan before ricocheting out of danger.
Chance after chance fell the Hatters’ way to overturn the deficit as captain Ronnie Henry worked McNamara again in the Nuneaton goal. Fleetwood's swivel and cross found Cowan's defensive header which sat up kindly for the Town skipper who slammed into the torso of McNamara.
O'Donnell's effort on 35 minutes forced another save from McNamara, who seemed to be emulating last month's heroics, as his low drive was gathered calmly.
Walker again beat Jones, and Cowan to the ball before sending in another cross which McNamara conceded as a corner. The resulting set-piece sent in by Howells found Kovacs at the far post who nodded into the path of Mendy. The midfielder then saw his cushioned header cleared off the line to the agony of the Town players.
A real chance for the visitors to double their lead fell to their leading marksman Walker. After Town failed to scramble clear a throw in Brown laid it on plate for Walker who only had Brill to beat. Town's stopper for the afternoon made himself big and deflected the ball out for a throw.
Nuneaton worked another good opportunity seconds later. Goalscorer Waite's low drive from the edge of the area caught Brill unaware and with a fingertip save it trickled wide with the stadium frozen at the sight.
As the referee blew his whistle to signal half-time boos rang around Kenilworth Road after a frustrating first period, that despite the Hatters dominance in both possession and chances saw Buckle’s men head in 1-0 down.
Brill was required early on in the second half after a neat free-kick routine from Walker cannoned off the Hatters wall and into the Luton keeper's grateful arms.
Good possession play from the Hatters trying to tempt the Nuneaton back-line forward which gave Mendy space to thread a ball through the legs of Gray to match Fleetwood's surging run. Fleetwood was left with only the keeper to beat before a late offside flag brought that phase of play to a close. Fleetwood voiced his disagreement to the officials but to no avail.
Seconds later Fleetwood again was left infuriated by the linesman’s flag after Gray's neat through ball looked to have the Hatters top scorer with a free run on goal. Frustration starting to become apparent amongst the Hatters supporters and players alike.
The hour mark came with a bang. Mendy retrieved the ball inside the Boro half before another completed pass to the feet of Gray who, were it not for a last ditch tackle, would have worked the keeper. A corner was the result which again was arrowed in the direction of Rendell who's effort was off target.
The Hatters continued their pressure from the first half into the second and three consecutive corners followed as Buckle's men knocked on the Nuneaton door searching for that one golden opportunity to revitalise their cup dream.
McNamara was in scintillating form and was again in Rendell's path as he beat the Town forward to another in-swinging corner to punch clear.
Gray caused problems throughout the second half, after swapping wings with Walker, but the final product seemed to evade the FA player of the fourth round qualifier, as Town continued in their search for a leveller.
On the other flank, Walker was on the receiving end of one or two cynical tackles as he wreaked havoc with his endless speed tank that saw him race past full-backs countless times with apparent ease.
With the clock ticking down and it being relatively dry on the chances from O'Donnell tried his luck from range. He received the ball infield from substitute Jake Robinson before drilling a swerving effort wide of the target.
That was until Town finally found that evasive equaliser. With clock ticking down to an abysmal cup end when another tantalising Howells delivery finally found Rendell and he was not going to be denied again on his quest for a goal. A bullet far post header for his seventh of the season and another Alex Lawless like celebration at the Kenny end.
Substitute Robinson saw a lot of the ball in the closing five minutes and his audacious effort from the edge of the box nearly caught McNamara unaware. Weather it was an attempted cross or a cheeky lob it was spilled under the crossbar by McNamara before he grasped on to it at the second attempt.
As the final whistle approached Town had a second penalty claim turned down. Kovacs searching ball toward Rendell was chested down by the Hatters goalscorer before he was sent sprawling. The referee had judged the fall to be of his own accord however and abruptly blew the whistle once the game was resumed.
The replay will take place on Tuesday 13th of October and the draw for the second round will take place tomorrow afternoon with live coverage available.