Hatters edge five-goal thriller
TOWN 3-2 CAMBRIDGE
A scintillating display saw the Town come from behind to beat Cambridge at Kenilworth Road.
The visitors went ahead through Ricky Wellard's impressive half-volley into the top corner, but Luton hit back through a diving Janos Kovacs header to make it level at the break.
Andre Gray slotted home shortly after the restart with JJ O'Donnell threading him clean through on goal to put the Hatters ahead for the first time.
Dean Beckwith then netted from close range after the visitors failed to clear a corner, and although Rory McAuley scored with two minutes remaining, the Hatters held on for the points.
The Hatters went into the game unchanged from the side that overcame Macclesfield 4-1 on Saturday, with Jon Shaw and skipper Ronnie Henry still suspended.
And the game burst into life in the fifth minute as Jake Howells surged forward after the referee had played a good advantage following a foul on O'Donnell.
The Wales U21 international, who netted his first of the season against the Silkmen on Saturday, drilled a left-footed shot narrowly wide as the Town began solidly.
But when the visitors earned a corner in the 11th minute which the Hatters couldn't quite clear, Wellard struck a superb left-footed half-volley into the top corner beyond Mark Tyler's dive to put the visitors ahead.
Despite falling behind, the Hatters faithful only had to wait six minutes to level the scores, Kovacs powering in a diving header from Stuart Fleetwood's corner.
And just one minute later the hosts threatened to score again, Cambridge defender McAuley having to clear behind for another corner, but the Hatters couldn't quite force another as the pressure began to build.
With the Town beginning to really search for a goal to put them ahead, O'Donnell played a lovely through-ball for Fleetwood, but it was judged to have been just offside.
Andre Gray won a corner for the Hatters in the 34th minute, which could only be cleared behind for another corner, with Town's deliveries causing the Cambridge defence all sorts of problems.
As half-time approached the Hatters threatened down the left, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner latching onto Fleetwood's clever backheel to whip in a dangerous cross that was only just cleared by the visitors.
The sides went into the break level, but the home side came out on the front foot, Gray bursting down the left and crossing into the middle, but Scott Rendell was not quite able to head home from close range.
And the Hatters continued to press, Rendell running onto Greg Taylor's long ball and squaring for Gray, but James Jennings' last-ditch tackle denied the former Hinckley frontman.
Liam Hughes tested Tyler five minutes into the second period with a rasping effort from just outside the Luton box, but it was comfortable for the 35-year-old.
And in the 52nd minute Gray fired the Hatters ahead for the first time, O'Donnell picking up the ball in midfield and putting him clean through on goal, and he made no mistake, slotting past Jonathon Hedge in the United goal.
In the 59th minute Tom Elliot thought he had levelled the scores after guiding the ball past Tyler, but the flag was raised for offside.
The hosts went straight up the other end, Gray twice threatening, first having a shot blocked by Josh Coulson, before having a second effort deflected behind for a corner.
And the Hatters netted a third from Fleetwood's corner, Hedge saving an initial effort, but Beckwith was on hand to lash home from close range for his first goal of the season.
Luton were ripping Cambridge apart by this stage, Gray storming down the left before skinning Coulson to power an effort towards goal that was deflected to Alex Lawless, but the Welshman's shot was deflected behind.
The Cambridge defence was unable to cope with Gray, the striker lashing a left-footed effort at goal in the 63rd minute that Hedge could only just parry away from goal.
The visitors replaced former Hatter Robbie Willmott with Adriano Moke, and he made an impression down the Luton left, but the home defence held firm.
Howells had a late effort at goal, bringing down a Hedge miskick and firing at goal but the visiting goalkeeper was able to pluck it out of the air.
Luton's only signing on deadline day, defender Connor Essam on loan from League Two Gillingham, replaced the tiring Rendell for the last five minutes.
The visitors netted an 88th minute goal through McAuley, the defender powering home a header from Jennings' corner to give Cambridge home of a point.
But the Hatters held on, with substitute Essam even having an effort on target following a clearance from well inside his own half, but it was another three home points for Luton.
Hatters (4-3-3): Tyler; Taylor, Kovacs, Beckwith, Rowe-Turner; Lawless, Howells, O'Donnell; Gray, Rendell (Essam, 86), Fleetwood (Woolley, 90)
Subs not used: Brill, Watkins, Kasim
Attendance: 6,592 (622 visitors)
FULL-TIME - Town hold and it's another three points for Paul Buckle's men. Full report, reaction and photographs to come.
Four added minutes for the Town to see this out.
Goal! Two minutes left. Cambridge get one back, McAuley header from a left-wing corner from Jennings.
Last five. Town make a change. Connor Essam on for Rendell.
Into the final 10 minutes here. Cambridge have upped the ante here but not tested Tyler.
Last 15 minutes here, still Town in control. Bit of a lull in the action but Hatters still hunting that fourth.
Half-way through this second half and it's all the Hatters now pushing for a fourth goal. A lot of good performances from men in orange so far this evening. Still about 25 minutes left.
GOAL! Well it's all been coming and the Town have added a third to stamp their authority on this one. Gray wins a corner that Fleetwood floats in. The visitors fail to clear and the ball bounces to the feet of Beckwith who guides the ball home to send KR delirious. 3-1 now and still 30 minutes left.
GOAL! Love one this...53 minutes, O'Donnell seizes on a loose ball, threads a wonderful pass into the path of Gray, onside, rushes through and slots home.
Even first five minutes to this second half. Gray causing Cambridge plenty of problems though.
Off for the second half. Town kick-off and they're now shooting towards the Kenilworth Road end. No changes for either side at the break.
HALF-TIME. Three-and-a-half minutes of stoppage time later and that's half-time. Town peg back the visitors with Janos Kovacs' header. Second half updates to come in 15 minutes. COYH.
10 minutes to the break here. Hatters still on top. They force a succession for corners but can't make them count. 1-1 it remains.
25 on the clock, still all square here but since the equaliser it's been all the Town. They're playing some good, patient stuff.
GOAL! The U's lead lasts five minutes. Fleetwood whips in a left-wing corner which is flicked on at the near post and met from close range by the diving Janos Kovacs. Header 1-1! Game on.
GOAL. 12 on the clock and it's the visitors who have the lead in fine style. The Town clear a left-wing corner but it's straight to Ricky Wellard who belts a fine shot into the top corner. 0-1.
Five minutes played and we've had our first chance. It goes the Town's way. O'Donnell bursts through the middle but is fouled in the centre circle. But the ref plays a good advantage as Howells seizes on the ball, drives forward and fires just wide.
And we're off here! Cambridge get us off and away. Town shooting towards the Oak Road end in this first half.
19:35 TOWN UNCHANGED
Same starting XI picked by the boss following Saturday victory.
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