Hatters in the hat for round one
Mark Cullen’s first half header was enough to seal the Town’s place in the first round of the FA Cup after a determined victory at Woking.
The striker, one of six changes made to the starting XI, headed Dave Martin’s right-wing corner on 32 minutes.
Woking pressed for an equaliser in the second period but the Town held on to extend their unbeaten run to nine games.
John Still made six changes to the side that beat Tamworth last weekend and gave a debut to goalkeeper Elliot Justham.
After the young stopper’s confident early claim the Town thought they should have had a penalty on seven minutes when Shaun Whalley was sent sprawling in the penalty area by Jack Parkinson’s challenge but to everybody’s disbelief, referee Colin Lymer booked the Hatters winger for diving.
The Town, though, were on top and enjoying a good spell early on. Cullen was close to reaching Martin’s low, left-wing cross minute later and Jake Howells saw a low shot turned over the crossbar by home keeper Sam Beasant.
Woking, who had failed to score in their previous three matches, almost had a helping hand on 14 minutes when Ronnie Henry’s clearance hit Steve McNulty on the back and the centre-half’s inadvertent touch bounced just wide.
The hosts came close on 24 minutes when Guiseppe Sole headed wide following a right-wing corner but the Cards striker then missed an even better chance four minutes later when he wastefully fired high over the bar having raced onto Matt Robinson’s sliding challenge.
Woking spurned a similar opportunity in the league meeting last month, a fixture the Town went onto win 4-0 and, just like in that game, the Hatters punished the Cards’ profligacy in front of goal on 31 minutes.
Whalley was sent tumbling in the box again but once again whistle Lymer remained unconvinced, instead giving the Hatters a right-wing corne; and from Martin’s flag-kick Cullen rose to nod past Beasant in the Woking goal. It was the striker’s fifth goal of the season and his third at Kingfield - and all of those have been headers.
With their noses in front it was now the Town’s turn to come under pressure from the hosts. Justham did well to smother a dangerous free-kick from the right on 37 minutes before the stopper did even better a minute before half-time, diving at full length to his left to prevent Josh Payne’s thunderous drive from the edge of the box. The danger, however, wasn’t over and a clearance by Howells seconds later stopped John Goddard’s header from finding from the bottom corner.
Justham was called into action seven minutes into the second half when he pushed away Kevin Betsy’s swerving effort from the edge of the box.
Woking continued to push for an equaliser and Gavin Williams almost provided it on 53 minutes but he couldn’t get a shot on target after bursting into the area from the left having beaten Anthony Charles.
The Cards’ were in the ascendancy after the break and the Town were struggling to create any clear-cut opportunities and with 18 minutes left Still made his first change, introducing Andre Gray for Martin.
But it was all the hosts as Woking pushed for an equaliser. Home manager Garry Hill made a number of substitutions and sent centre-half Joe McNerney up in attack.
Whalley almost created a chance to seal the tie with six minutes left when he burst into the box down the left but his cross couldn’t find Benson lurking for a tap-in.
The officials added six minutes on at the end of the 90 and the Town almost sealed victory in the second minute of those when Parkinson’s back-pass eluded Beasant and rolled just past the post.
Woking continued to pump high balls into the box but the Town held out to book their place in Sunday’s first round draw.
TOWN: Justham; Henry, Howells, McNulty, Charles; Martin (sub Gray 72), Robinson (sub Parry 77), Smith, Whalley; Benson, Cullen.
Subs not used: Tyler, Taiwo, Viana, Wall, Stevenson.
Attendance: 1,452 (537 from Luton).