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Club News


29 July 2014

Club News


29 July 2014

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Returning Guttridge helps Hatters to draw

Luke Guttridge scored on his Hatters’ comeback to earn Luton a share of the spoils against Colchester.

The wily midfielder found himself in time and space to smash home Mark Cullen’s right wing cross in the 69th minute.

It was a thoroughly deserved reply to an unfortunate Paul Connolly own goal and a Jabo Ibehre strike, after Mark Cullen had put Town 1-0 up.

Meanwhile, the other half of Town's squad also drew, held 0-0 by Boreham Wood at Meadow Park.

After the passion, colour and sheer noise the Antwerp fans brought with them on Saturday, the atmosphere at Kenilworth Road seemed subdued and for the first ten minutes, action on the pitch was in short supply with the U’s happy to play keep ball.

Colchester’s Drey Wright was giving youngster Onyemah plenty to think about though and his pull back across goal in the twelfth minute cried out for someone to turn the ball home. Gavin Massey was too slow in getting into the danger zone, however, and the chance went begging. Onyemah did better sixty seconds later, blocking Wright’s cross for a corner.

Ross Lafayette, looking bright again after getting on the scoresheet against Antwerp, was bullying Okuonghae at times, brilliantly taking the ball down and holding it up, before Balanta lashed over on 17.

And it was Luton who came closest to scoring in the first quarter. As on Saturday, their aerial dominance from set pieces was telling, with Fraser Franks nearly getting another pre-season goal to his name, his header coming back off the post following a Balanta free-kick.

Colchester boasted Premier League experience in their line-up in the shape of ex-West Ham man Freddie Sears and he demonstrated his class with a clever crossfield ball that put Wright clear on 23 minutes. Elliot Justham kept on his feet though, forcing Wright to make up his mind and saved with his legs.

The game had sprung to life. Suddenly, Luton clicked into gear, one touch exchanges between Onyemah and Balanta put Lafayette in the clear. The former Welling man almost had too much time – and his attempt to curl round Walker was parried away. Colchester couldn’t clear their lines though, and seconds later Lawless had put Lafayette through again. His first touch was a heavy one, but it mattered little as marksman Cullen was there to smash the ball home with aplomb.

However, it was to prove a false dawn as the U’s levelled just three minutes later. After Justham saved at point blank range following a cross from the left wing, Town were really unlucky as Ibehre's shot, which was going wide, struck the unfortunate Connolly, with the ball cannoning off his knee into the net.

Wright then struck a shot from the edge of the area, but it was right down Justham’s throat.

Both sides had matched each other in the first half but it was the visitors who took the initiative following the restart. Too much time was given to Freddie Sears in the middle of the park and he slipped in Ibehre. The powerful frontman, the scourge of the Hatters in his Leyton Orient days, slid in ahead of Justham to roll the ball into the net.

Town reorganised and gradually got a foothold in the game, a one-two between Lawless and Robinson forcing a corner on the hour mark. Lawless took it quickly, but Stevenson scuffed wide with the outside of his boot – no rocket this time.

Balanta had impressed during his time on the pitch, his last action a dangerous cross that was well held by Walker. He then made way, along with Onyemah, for the return of two fan favourites, with Jonathan Smith and Luke Guttridge put back in the fray after their serious injuries last term.

It was Guttridge’s first appearance since he was stretchered off at home to Alfreton in March, yet it was like he had never been away. in the 69th minute, Cullen turned provider, crossing from the right wing and Guttridge had the composure to pick his spot from inside the area.

With the Kenilworth faithful delighted to have their hero back, Guttridge nearly did the impossible two minutes later, when his inswinging cross dipped dramatically, but only onto the roof of the net.

Suddenly it was Luton who looked more likely to get the winner. Substitute Ricky Miller buzzed behind Colchester's backline and appeared to be flattened in the area by Okuonghae. The referee ruled that the clash had taken place outside the area though, with Matt Robison unable to capitalise from the direct free-kick.

In injury time Colchester forced a couple of corners, but Luton were worthy of the point and will look forward to more League 1 opposition on Saturday, when Peterborough United come to  town.

Town:  Justham, Connolly, Onyemah (Smith 66), Franks, Wilkinson, Lawless, Cullen, Lafayette (Miller, 75), Balanta (Guttridge, 66), Stevenson, Robinson.

Subs: King, Smith, Miller, Rees, Martin, Trotman, Guttridge.

Colchester: Walker, Gordon, Okuonghae, Eastmond (Lapslie, 72), Ibehre (Bonne, 72), Sears (Szmodics, 72), Wright (Vose, 46) , Eastman, Clohessy, Massey (Watt 46), Moncur.

Subs: Lewington, Lapslie, Watt, Olufemi, Vose, Kent, Bonne, Szmodics.

Attendance: 1,475

Man of the match: Mark Cullen

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