Snow score at Kenilworth Road
It was a goalless stalemate at a snowy Kenilworth Road as Town's relentless pressure was rebuffed by a stubborn Tamworth.
The arctic conditions ensured a difficult afternoon for all involved and despite the Hatters dominance they were unable to find a breakthrough and clinch maximum points.
The big team news of the afternoon was Andre Gray's omission from the starting line up as Alex Wall was reinstated to the starting line up to partner Jon Shaw in attack. Solomon Taiwo was also included after impressing on his Kenilworth début on Tuesday night against Stockport County.
Heavy pre-match snowfall cast doubt over the matches feasibility but after tireless work from the Hatters ground staff and countless volunteers it was the visitors who kicked off with former England midfielder Lee Hendrie striking an early attempt on goal but Taiwo was on hand to rebuff the drive.
Dave Martin had built up quite a rapport with Hatters fans in recent weeks after flashes of brilliance in recent home games and proved to be too tricky for the Tamworth defence on seven minutes. Jinking inside on the edge of the box Martin spotted the overlapping run of Lathaniel Rowe-Turner who he slipped in with a beautifully weighted pass. Rowe-Turner's first touch took him a fraction wide but was still able to slam the ball across goal causing Marshall to hammer out of play with a last ditch interception.
More magic from Martin nearly brought the opener when Jake Howells fired inches wide of the upright. Tenacious battling on the left hand side from Martin bustled Duane Courtney into a sloppy pass which was picked up by Smith. He danced away from Hendrie's lunge before sliding the ball wide to Howells who cut inside and flashed his shot past the post.
A real combative first half began to open up with both sides feeling the effects of the Kenilworth Road turf. Taiwo's dragged effort at switching possession wide to Howells was intercepted by Marcus Kelly who was invited to carry the ball deep into the Hatters half. He accepted the invitation and let rip from range with the ball skipping up off the surface in-front of Mark Tyler who gobbled the ball up at the second attempt.
The Hatters then had a flash at goal themselves with Martin again the instigator. It was his whipped in cross that was met by Tamworth's own Connor Gudger who nodded the ball into the ground and eventually over the crossbar. The resulting corner was almost a carbon copy of Tuesday night's winner with McNulty latching onto the end of the corner but his header was straight into the torso of Liam Mitchell in the Lambs goal.
Mitchell had been proof more than most that the conditions were causing havoc with numerous attempted clearances scuffed into the ground and on 22 minutes another miss-hit clearance bounded straight to the feet of Martin. The winger picked out Shaw on the far side who nodded it down to Taiwo who flicked the ball instantly to Howells. A low cross followed and with Wall set to turn the ball home from close range seemed to be bundled to the floor. The appeals were waved away adamantly by the referee with Wall incredulous he had not been awarded a spot kick.
The snow continued to fall as the half hour mark approached and when Howell's miscued corner was set back up to him he found Taiwo in an advance position. Spotting the far post run of Goodman, Taiwo pinged a stunning pass into the far post area and flashed it in front of the desperate lunge of the central defender with the slightest connection seeming enough to break the deadlock.
Conditions saw the ball played aerially for long spells of the first half which favoured the Hatters physical front two. Shaw and Smith forced the ball up high with Wall underneath it he shrugged off the challenge of Gudger and smashed a half volley against Mitchell's forearm and behind for a corner.
As the half time whistle beaconed both sides had become accustomed to the challenging conditions and the Lambs forced Tyler into a point blank save. Good, patient build up from the visitors saw Hendrie and Kelly work the ball to Lloyd who then drew the Hatters back line in as he flew froward. Options arrived in the area but they were ignored by Lloyd who lashed at shot at the near post forcing Tyler to spring into action. A strong parry forced Rowe-Turner to clear the ball, at the second attempt, to prevent the leagues top scorer Adam Cunnington turning the ball home from close range.
The first sighting of the second half fell to the visitors when McNulty's headed clearance dropped nicely for Lloyd who volleyed two yards wide of the far post.
The Hatters issued a lighting response and came within a whisker of opening the scoring through Wall. McNulty picked out Martin who returned to favour playing Shaw down the right hand side. The forward picked his head up and swung an inch-perfect delivery into Wall who connected well nodding the ball back across the face seemingly to nestle in the bottom corner but a stiff bounce saw the ball trickle wide.
Seconds later and the Kenilworth faithful were up on their feet again in anticipation awaiting the bulge of the net from Shaw. Ainge played Shaw into the channel where he twisted away from the challenge and cannoned a shot into the ground on the slide. Looping up and past the keeper the ball again looked set to rustle the corner but drooped past the far post.
The Hatters made their first change of the afternoon on the hour mark with Andre Gray replacing Wall. The substitute seemed to pay off immediately when Shaw linked up well and slid Gray in on goal. As he attempted to unleash an effort on goal a last ditch tackle from Gudger saw the ball cannon off the forwards leg and out for a goal kick,
Shaw continued to influence the Hatters at both ends as after successfully defending a Tamworth corner the forward started a Town break away. Playing the ball up onto the half way line with Howells he followed his pass and after a neat interchange between Howells, Smith and Taiwo received the ball again on the edge of the opposition box. Setting himself for a strike Shaw lashed a venomous effort arrowing towards the top corner but a big hand from Mitchell prevented Shaw from giving his side the lead just before the 70 minute mark.
Minutes later and the combination of Shaw and Taiwo again tore through the Lambs defensive line with Shaw playing provider on this occasion. Tamworth failed to clear Howells darting run before Shaw picked the ball up on the edge of the box shifting it to Taiwo who found himself wide open on the edge of the area. Shaping up to shoot Taiwo took a touch and hammered his effort goal wards but from the second it left his foot it began to rise and swayed over the crossbar.
It proved to be Shaw's last participation in the afternoon as Scott Rendell rose from the bench for the final 15 minutes and much like Gray it took a matter of minutes for him to announce his arrival. Howells cross found Rendell swooping in at the front spot and a clever flick from the substitute had the ball looping over the keeper and unfortunately for the Hatters the ball dropped the wrong side of the crossbar.
Time ticked down for the Hatters who continued to relentlessly press in search for the opener. Martin retained possession deep in his own half and instantly thrust the ball forward for Gray to chase. One on one with the defender Gray turned inside and, ignoring the support of Rendell in the middle, stroked at goal. Mitchell again was a match to it and scooped the ball up at the second attempt.
Ruthless Hatters pressure continued deep into the dying stages of the game as Taiwo looked to write the headlines with a 25-yard pile driver. Howells in swinging corner was half headed clear by a Tamworth body but only as far as Taiwo lurking on the edge. Watching the ball all the way onto his foot Taiwo shaped up and caught the ball as it dropped connecting with thunderous effect. The ball vaulted towards goal but wouldn't sit down enough to work the keeper.
Seconds remained as the Hatters threw everything at Tamworth. Another corner with virtually the last kick of the game saw Ainge header wide from point blank range. A tantalising cross from Howells saw the full-back peel away from his marker but he couldn't direct his header on target and the game finished goalless.