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27 October 2012

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Town fight-back to secure vital away win

An injury-time penalty from Scott Rendell earned the Town their sixth away win of the season to go within a point off the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier.

It sealed a dramatic late turnaround at the New Lawn with Stuart Fleetwood's fine equaliser 15 minutes from time cancelling out Yan Klukowski's strike a minute after half-time.

The three points lifted the Town into second place and again showed the side's never-say-die attitude. The Hatters have won 13 points from losing positions this season.

Town boss Paul Buckle made three changes to the side that beat Cambridge United last Saturday.

Ever-presents Mark Tyler and JJ O'Donnell made , with the former out with a back injury. Dean Brill made his second debut in goal. Elsewhere, defender Simon Ainge and striker Rendell returned  to the starting XI but Alex Lawless did not recovered from an injury sustained last weekend to face his former club.

Ex-Hatter Ed Asafu-Adjaye had to be content with a place on the bench for Rovers.

On a cold and blustery Autumnal day in Gloucestershire, the Town started the brighter of the two sides but it was Rovers who had the first effort of the afternoon when Al Bangura tried his luck from distance with a shot on 15 minutes that Brill did well to get behind as the ball travelled goalwards.

Three minutes later, as the hosts continued to look a threat on the counter-attack, Reece Styche did well to run into the Town box at pace but his effort was blocked by a sliding tackle from Janos Kovacs.

The Hatters were playing some patient stuff and they almost got their noses in front on 20 minutes when Andre Gray burst into the box down the right flank. The striker's attempted low cross took a deflection but still found its way to Fleetwood but the former Forest Green striker sliced his shot from six yards as he waited for the ball to drop.

Now the Town were now finding their passing game and an encouraging passage of play culminated in Lathaniel Rowe-Turner feeding Fleetwood down the left. He looked up and spotted Jon Shaw standing on the penalty spot. It was a perfect cross and looked for all the world that it would reach the striker but instead home stopper Sam Russell was equal to the cross and leapt to catch the ball well.

The Hatters continued to play some eye-catching football with Gray at the heart of their most threatening attacks down the left, while Rovers were content to chance their arm with shots from distance – none of which overly tested Brill in the Town goal.

The Town started the second half now with the wind at the their backs but they found themselves a goal behind just a minute after the restart. There seemed no danger when James Norwood sent in a tame, low, left-wing cross but Brill failed to cut it out and the ball bounced into the path of Klukowski who tapped home into an empty net.

Hurt by going behind the Hatters responded well but, despite the ball dropping in the box for Shaw, Fleetwood and Rendell, Rovers goalkeeper Russell remained untested.

As time ticked by the Town were struggling to create any clear-cut chances while the hosts, buoyed by their goal, were sensing a second.

On 67 minutes Arnaud Mendy saw a low left-foot shot comfortably saved by Russell before Rovers snuffed out a dangerous right-wing raid by Gray a minute later.

The Town were knocking on the door but they finally found an equaliser on 75 minutes and it was a strike of real quality too. Rendell took a quick free-kick inside his own half that got Gray away on the break. He passed square to Fleetwood who looked up, just inside the box, and bent in a stunning goal into the top corner. It was his 10th goal of the season.

Level the Hatters were now hunting the lead for the first time and Gray tried his luck from 30 yards a minute later.

It was all the Town as they went in search of a winner and Fleetwood snatched at a shot six minutes from time before Rendell had a shot blocked a minute later after the ball had broken to the forward 12 yards out.

However, when it seemed as though the Town would have to settle for the point they won it in injury time. The ball bobbled into the box and Gray's shot was handball by Paul Green and the referee pointed to the spot. Rendell made no mistake from the spot, beating Russell with a low strike to the keeper's left.

There was no time left for Rovers to grab and equaliser and the Town survived three added minutes to pick up a vital three points.

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