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5 March 2013

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Stalemate at Liberty Way



The Hatters had to settle for a point in John Still's second game in charge in a dour goalless draw at lowly Nuneaton.

The manager made just one change to the side that beat Stockport on Saturday, handing loan signing Jake Goodman his debut in central defence in place of the injured Janos Kovacs.

The first half was a frustrating stop-start affair, broken up with stoppages. The first halt in play came three minutes in when home winger Connor Taylor suffered what looked like a badly broken wrist. He was down for almost five minutes before play resumed.

Chances were few and far between. A left-wing cross after 10 minutes was headed behind by James Armson as the hosts looked to break the deadlock, before Jake Howells – Saturday's goal hero – saw a shot deflected for the Town after good build-up play involving Alex Lawless, Stuart Fleetwood and Andre Gray.

New boy Goodman received treatment to a head wound which meant a further stoppage on 14 minutes, and in truth, the game was struggling to get going with neither side threatening the two goalkeepers.

The Town did force their first corner on 25 minutes that captain Ronnie Henry nodded well wide but that would be the nearest Still's side would get to goal in the first half.

Nuneaton ended the half the stronger, which was extended by seven minutes, and they spurned two half chances as the half came to a close. Andy Brown was well off target with a shot from range before Louis Moult tried a spectacular volley in stoppage time following Armson's lofted right-wing cross.

As the teams emerged for the second half the Town made a change – JJ O'Donnell replacing Arnaud Mendy for the start of the second half.

However, the Hatters needed a piece of excellent defending from Steve McNulty to snuff out a dangerous attack from the hosts that saw Armson weave his way through the Town back-line into the six yard box.

The Town reacted well to that close call by forcing their first real attempt on goal on 52 minutes when Howells volleyed an effort a yard wide of the post from distance.

Two minutes later Gray took advantage of a mistake from home captain Gareth Dean to bear down on goal but he couldn't take advantage and Nuneaton could clear.

That proved to be last action for Gray, and for Fleetwood, as the pair made way in a double change on 57 minutes that saw Scott Rendell and Alex Wall join the fray.

Both sides began to create chances as the hour mark approached. Home right-back Aaron Phillips drilled a shot from distance narrowly over the crossbar before Jonathan Smith did well to bravely block a fizzing shot from the hosts from outside the penalty area a minute later. That block set-up a chance for the Town to break with Wall and O'Donnell combining to force a corner from which Henry headed over.

Howells then forced home goalkeeper Lee Burge into his first save of the evening on 66 minutes when he got down to keep out the midfielder's shot on the turn from the edge of the box.

As time began to tick down the Hatters missed chance of the game with 11 minutes left. Henry did well to work a yard of space to make room to cross but O'Donnell, in the six yard box, could only nod a header just wide of the target with Burge beaten.

Buoyed by that, moments later Rendell flicked a shot wide of the target following another right-wing cross, this time from Lawless.

Back came Nuneaton, as they pushed for a winner, but Goodman's defensive header denied a goal-bound shot from the hosts threatening Mark Tyler.

Two minutes were added at the end of the 90 in which times the Town had half-a-chance from a long Henry throw that Wall flicked on but just eluded Lawless, before Cowan headed straight at Tyler in the final minute as the hosts looked for a late, late winner – but that was that, and it ended in stalemate.

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