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2 November 2013

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Town earn point in dour draw

The Hatters extended their unbeaten run to 10 games with a determined goalless draw at Gateshead.

The pre-match rain made way for sunshine in the opening exchanges in which the Town came close early on. Jonathan Smith, one of five players who kept their place in the side following last weekend’s FA Cup win over Woking, saw a low shot from distance deflected narrowly wide on three minutes.

That would be the nearest the Town would come in a first half dominated by the in-form hosts. The Heed, who had won seven of their last eight games – and five on the spin – were playing patient, attractive football, holding the Hatters back.

Steve McNulty came to the Town’s rescue on 11 minutes when Mark Tyler failed to punch clear following a high, high free-kick pumped into the box, and James Curtis’ shot on the turn was cleared by the Hatters’ centre-half.

On 19 minutes the Hatters engineered their best move of the opening 45 minutes but Luke Guttridge fired a left-foot shot wide of the target from 15 yards after good link-up play between Andre Gray and Paul Benson.

But in truth it was the hosts who were dominating, and McNulty had to make his second goal-line clearance of the afternoon on 24 minutes. This time Jamie Chandler snuck in behind the Town defence to arch a shot over the advancing Tyler but McNulty was there to head clear.

McNulty then came close at the other end – not that he knew much about it – five minutes before half-time when Jake Howells – making his 250th appearance in Luton colours – saw his free-kick rebound off the defender from close range.

The second half was played amid torrential rain but the Town were enjoying more of the ball than they did in the first.

Clear-cut chances, however, were scarce. Home left-back Lewis Sirrell saw a long shot deflect off of the head of McNulty on 58 minutes before Colin Larkin’s low, teasing cross two minutes later flashed across goal with substitute James Brown unable to connect.

The Town, though, spurned a decent chance to take the lead on 64 minutes when Gray eased his marker out the way to find Guttridge but the midfielder could only drag his shot well wide of the post from 12 yards.

On 67 minutes the Town converged in numbers on the Tynesiders’ goal but couldn’t create a chance before Gray made way for Mark Cullen on 71 minutes in John Still’s first change.

A minute later, as the rain lashed down, there was almost a freak own goal when home goalkeeper Adam Bartlett took a heavy touch following Sirrell’s back-pass.

Still introduced Alex Wall with six minutes left but as the game swung from end-to-end in sodden conditions with the ball holding up in the wet turf.

TOWN: Tyler; Henry, Griffiths, McNulty, Lacey; Howells (sub Wall 84), Smith, Parry, Guttridge, Benson, Gray. (sub Cullen 71).

Subs not used: Taiwo, Stevenson, Justham.

Attendance: 1,080 (302 backing the Town).

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