A young and much-changed Town were denied a place in the second round of the FA Trophy by a fine goalkeeping display from Staines’ Jack Turner.
The home goalkeeper earned his team, who played the tie with 10 men for an hour, a replay at Kenilworth Road with a series of excellent saves in both halves.
After keeping out Mark Cullen’s effort in the fourth minute, the stopper pulled off a number of breathtaking stops in the second, thwarting Matt Robinson, Cullen again, David Viana and Charlie Smith to ensure both sides meet again for a place in the second round in three days’ time.
Showing 11 changes to the side that beat Southport in the Skrill Premier in the week, manager John Still fielded a side with an average of just under 21.
There were debuts for loan signings Joe Davis and Pelly Ruddock, midfielder Viana and 17-year-old youth team defender Tinashe Chabata at right-back. Zane Banton, also 17, was given his full debut in attack, whilst Arnaud Mendy made his first appearance since March in the centre of midfield.
The Town had the first chance on four minutes. Shaun Whalley, at 26 the oldest player on show for the Hatters, sent a ball through to Cullen to race on to, but the striker’s shot from 12 yards was well saved by Jack Turner in the Staines goal.
That would turn out to be the last real clear-cut chance of a first half that the Hatters dominated. Elliot Justham in the Town goal, did, however, have his fair share of saves to make. The stopper held a low shot from Max Worsfold on 22 minutes which crept towards the bottom corner.
However, the hosts were reduced to 10 men on the half-hour when left-back Jordaan Brown was sent-off for a second yellow card. The defender had been cautioned in the eighth minute for a deliberate handball and he received his second card for exactly the same offence to leave the Town with a man advantage for an hour.
The Town upped the ante with an extra man but couldn’t force Turner into another save. Viana and Robinson were both off target with efforts from distance before Chabata blocked a goal-bound shot from Mark Cullen inside the penalty area on 40 minutes.
Staines could have had a lead at the break but Justham was equal to a header from home striker Dan Brown after a right-wing cross had caught the Town defence standing still.
Cullen had an early chance at the beginning of the season half, nodding a Whalley cross onto the roof of the net before Whalley tested Turner with a dipping strike from the edge of the box that the keeper had to tip over.
Turner then came to the home side’s rescue three times on 53 minutes with a series of acrobatic stops to keep the Hatters at bay. Firstly, Robinson’s swerved effort was turned away by the goalkeeper before he made an even better save to deny Cullen from point blank range on the follow-up. The Town still weren’t done, though, and neither was Turner, then throwing out his hands to stop Viana’s shot from the edge the box.
The Staines keeper then stopped another low Whalley shot before Still made a double substitution, bringing on Alex Wall and Smith for Banton and Viana.
Staines had barely had a sniff in the second half but had two efforts in as many minutes with leading goalscorer Louie Theophanous shooting over from the edge of the box on 69 minutes before Justham dealt with a routine shot from Worsfold.
Back came the Town, and agains Turner came to the hosts’ rescue when he dived away to his left to tip away a shot from Smith from 20 yards that seemed destined for the top corner. Moments later the keeper was involved again, this time holding onto a low free-kick from Wall from distance.
As time ticked, skipper-for-the-day Jake Howells, making his 254th appearance for the club, saw his dangerous left-wing cross elude both Wall and Cullen as the Town pushed for a late winner.
Both sides pushed for a goal in the closing stages. Staines sub Bajram Pashaj tested Justham before Cullen missed a chance in stoppage time but couldn’t pull the trigger and it meant with the game finished goalless.
Town: Justham; Chabata, Davis, Ruddock, Howells; Viana (sub C. Smith 63), Robinson, Mendy, Whalley; Banton (sub Wall 61), Cullen.
Subs not used: Barnes, Amu, Rees.