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9 March 2013

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Late Martin strike grabs Hatters point

Town 1
Martin 87

Hereford 1
Jackson 23

John Still's home début ended in a draw as second half substitute Dave Martin's strike won the Hatters a deserving point against Hereford.

Marlon Jackson had given the Bulls a first half lead but a determined, dogged Hatters performance earned Still's men a point on his Kenilworth Road début.

Still elected two fellow home débutantes in his squad list as Jake Goodman slotted in beside Steve McNulty at the heart of the Hatters defence. Alex Wall was made to wait for his Kenilworth Road bow however as Andre Gray and Scott Rendell started up front for Still's men.

First chance was soon coming as good interchange between Jonathan Smith and Alex Lawless saw the ball trickle across the gaping goal. A swift switch from Smith found Lawless wide right who jinked inside and drilled the ball across the face. Rendell and Jake Howells both lunged in a desperate attempt to turn the first chance home but a slight nick off of a Bulls body for a corner which was subsequently cleared.

The Bulls responded with an attack of their own and when Goodman brought down a Hereford forward on the edge of the area Jackson lined up the free-kick. A deflection saw the ball skew over the crossbar but the following set piece caused Mark Tyler to spring to the ground to deny a powerful header.

Josh O'Keefe then saw his goal bound effort rejected on the line by some brave defending from Goodman. Sam Clucas sprung the offside trap to race down on goal before squaring for O'Keefe with an open goal to aim at. As it seemed the net was set to bulge Goodman leapt to the Hatters rescue as his goal-line clearance tipped the ball past the outside of the post.

The game went quiet for five minutes as both sides settled into the game and under the watchful eye of Still Rendell and Howells linked up well to give the latter a half sighting at goal. Neat interchange between the pair saw a back-heel from Rendell tee up Howells on the edge of the area. His right footed pile-driver couldn't find the top corner however but was met with rapturous applause from the Hatters fans.

Hereford however found the breakthrough and on 23 minutes broke the deadlock. Jackson picked the ball up on the half-way line before roaring through the gears and galloping between the Hatters defence before sliding the ball underneath Tyler.

A response was required quickly and that response came from Arnaud Mendy. Ronnie Henry's deep cross from the right evaded everyone and left Howells with a lost case to chase. Keeping the ball alive he twisted away from his marker and set the ball back to Mendy on the edge who let fly through a barrage of players. His thunderous effort was gathered by James Bittner in the Hereford goal to maintain the Bulls one-goal advantage.

Howells continued to impress and link up well with his team mates as he tested Bittner from range shortly after the half hour mark. Gray shifted the ball wide to Howells who cut inside and with very little options let rip on a low drive on goal. Bittner was down early to clutch onto the bobbling effort.

Jackson continued to lead the Hereford threat in attack however as his cross forced Henry into a last ditch swiped clearance to prevent a second as half time drew closer.

The final chance of the first half fell to the Hatters and a brilliant reverse pass from Gray gave Rendell a chance to level from close range. Howells initial cross wasn't cleared and Henry turned the ball back into the feet of Gray. He then swivelled and rolled the ball Rendell who was denied instantly by Bittner as his shot ricocheted out of danger.

A cagey opening to the second half for both sides as Hereford attacked with considerable tentativeness but it was the Hatters who nearly turned the ball home early on. Rendell released Gray who's darting run earned a corner. The corner bobbled out to the edge with Smith on the end of it. He dropped the shoulder to work himself a yard before slamming a looping shot goal-wards. With the keeper beaten Stefan Stam headed the ball onto the cross bar from underneath. The ball then hammered down against the ground and bounced off the line. Smith lead the appeals for the goal as half the ground erupted convinced he had found an equaliser but the officials waved away the appeals and Hereford rammed the ball away to safety.

The hour mark arrived and it was time for Alex Wall's Kenilworth Road introduction as Rendell was replaced with a nasty gash to his head and headed straight down the tunnel.

The substitutes' involvement was instant. His physicality forced Stam to climb and his half won header dropped to Henry. The Town skipper rolled the ball into Gray who spotted Howells lung-busting run on the left hand side. Howells' first touch set him up perfectly to strike but his venomous effort fizzed inches wide of the far corner.

A flurry of corners followed for the Hatters as they pressed for that illusive leveller. 20 minutes remained when Lawless swung in a teasing corner which Wall connected with but was denied a home début goal by Bittner who turned it over.

JJ O'Donnell and Martin were then brought into the fray as they replaced Taylor and Mendy. Again the substitutes immediately attempted to make their mark on the game as O'Donnell looped an effort agonisingly over the crossbar. A determined, tricky run by Wall on the left hand side worked space for a cross which found Smith at the far post. His first touch bounced away from him and fell for O'Donnell who was inches away from overturning the deficit.

The game was nearly decided when Martin slammed an effort against the crossbar. Unfortunately it was at the wrong end. As the Town midfield backtracked to match the Hereford break Sharp turned the ball into the middle and Martin swung a leg at it in an attempt to clear it but in-turn nearly caught out Tyler in the Town goal. A breathtaking fingertip stop was all that prevented Martin netting an own goal and Hereford snatching an unjust second.

Luton continued to throw everything at Hereford with Wall and Smith both coming close in quick succession. A deep corner evaded everyone again and Wall couldn't connect with it seemed certain he was set to open his Luton account. A long throw followed which fell to Smith on the edge who drilled a thunderous effort goal-wards which Bittner turned round the post for a corner.

From that resulting corner the Hatters found a deserving equaliser. Again players hurled themselves into the mix to try and connect with Howells in-swinging corner only for it again to bobble out to the edge. Martin this time shifted the ball onto his left foot and rifled the ball into the bottom corner.

All Luton in the dying moments as Gray looked to steal the headlines. Lawless turned down the option to shoot from range and rolled the ball into the path of Gray who spun and shot from an impossible angle forcing Bittner to inadvertently fling up an arm to direct the ball over the crossbar and cling on to a point for his team.

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