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26 August 2013

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Successive stalemates for Hatters

The Town were held to their second successive goalless draw as their Bank Holiday Monday game with Cambridge ended in stalemate.

Forty-eight hours after a 0-0 draw at Forest Green, Hatters boss John Still kept faith with the same side that played in the Coltswolds.

But it was the visitors, managed by former Town boss Richard Money, that started the brighter. Indeed the Hatters had to thank a fine stop from goalkeeper Mark Tyler to prevent the U’s from going ahead in the fifth minute when he stopped Richard Tait’s poked effort from inside the six yard box with his legs.

Moments later Andre Gray responded for the Town as Still’s side created their first chance of the afternoon when he thumped a first-time shot inches wide of the post having been freed by Mark Cullen.

However, the opening exchanges were dominated by Cambridge and Nathan Arnold shot wide when well placed on seven minutes before the visiting winger was denied by another smart stop from Tyler sent when clean through on goal having broken the Town offside trap on 10 minutes.

Back came the Town, and former United midfielder Luke Guttridge came within a whisker of putting the Hatters ahead when he sent a low shot millimetres wide of the post with a low shot on 11 minutes.

It was end-to-end stuff and Arnold saw a goal-bound shot blocked by Town skipper Ronnie Henry on 14 minutes. 

Cambridge continued to push the Hatters back but the hosts should have done better on 16 minutes when Gray and Shaun Whalley attacked in tandem against two Cambridge defenders following a visitors corner, but the latter failed to pick out the former when the time came to play the final ball.

As the game continued to swing from end to end Tyler dealt with a routine cross-cum-shot from Harrison Dunk before Chris Maxwell, the Cambridge goalkeeper, comfortably saved Gray’s header following a left-wing cross from Whalley.

Under pressure from the visitors, Still changed things just after the half-hour mark, introducing Jake Howells for Cullen.

All of a sudden the Town had fresh impetus and Howells shot just wide within moments of coming on as the Hatters ended the first half on top.

Jon Shaw was visibly struggling in the latter stages of the first half and he made way at the break for Dave Martin. And the winger was straight into the action two minutes after the restart when his right-wing cross was half-cleared by the visitors and Jonathan Smith blasted a shot way over the crossbar from distance.

Clear-cut chances were at a real premium but the Town engineered a move of real quality on 54 minutes when Guttridge swept out a fine first-time pass to Howells down the left and from his cross Gray headed wide from inside the six yard box.

Cambridge, though, spurned a great opportunity to take the lead on 72 minutes when a mistake from Alex Lacey sent substitute Sam Delano-Yorke away but a combination of Tyler and Scott Griffiths snuffed out the danger.

As the game entered the final 15 minutes Cambridge sensed the points were there for the taking and on 79 minutes the Hatters had Howells to thank for a goal-line clearance when Tom Champion’s header from a left-wing corner flew goalwards.

With Gray isolated in attack without Shaw and Cullen for company, the Hatters were struggling to make an impact in the final third and it was Cambridge who continued to press forward to break the deadlock.

However they failed to test Tyler once more, and it was the Town who had the final two efforts. Howells swiped a right-foot shot wide from the edge of the box with five minutes left before Smith sent a sweetly-hit drive into the arms of Maxwell on 87 minutes but, despite four added minute, it remained goalless and the points were shared.

Town: Tyler; Henry, Griffiths, Lacey, McNulty; Guttridge, Smith, Whalley, Gray; Cullen (sub Howells 31), Shaw (sub Martin 46). Subs not used: Parry, Robinson, Justham.

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