Hatters defeat on first trip to Burton
The Hatters fell to their first defeat in 11 League 2 matches after losing narrowly at Burton Albion.
After dominating the first half, the Town fell behind two minutes into the second period when Albion defender Phil Edwards rose to plant a header into the top corner.
After going behind, the Hatters pushed the home side back but couldn’t find a way through the Brewers’ back-line and the Town’s misery was compounded in injury time when Luke Wilkinson was shown a straight red card for a professional foul.
The Town lined up with two changes to the side that beat Tranmere last weekend with Scott Griffiths and Shaun Whalley given starts. Fraser Franks and Mark Cullen both dropped to the bench.
Backed by a magnificent following of 2,000 supporters, the Hatters almost gave the travelling hordes an early goal to celebrate in the second minute. The ball sat up kindly for Luke Guttridge on the edge of the box and his left-foot volley flew goalwards. For a moment it looked as though the ball would sail home, only for the hands of home goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin to turn it over the crossbar.
And, in truth, that was as good as it got where chances were concerned in a first half that the Town dominated without being put under any serious pressure from the Brewers.
The Town were enjoying a lot of their success thanks to Whalley’s pace and trickery down the right flank. The winger thought he should have had a penalty on nine minutes when he tumbled in the box but referee Adcock waved away the midfielder’s claims.
The Hatters’ patient approach almost paid off on the quarter-hour when Guttridge, having taken a pass from Jake Howells, saw a firm drive from the edge of the box charged down by the Burton defence.
Mark Tyler, making his 250th appearance in Luton colours, made his first contribution of the game in the 18th minute when he slid to claim the loose ball after Adam McGurk’s shot from inside the penalty area was blocked by the Town defence. Tyler then hung in the air to pluck out a towering back-post header from Phil Edwards four minutes later.
As the half came to a close, the Town upped the ante. Whalley dropped a shoulder on 32 minutes to cut inside and fire a shot from the edge of the box that Shane Cansdell-Sherriff did well to get his body in the way of.
Just before the break Tyler was put under pressure by a short back-pass from Stephen McNulty but with the home attack bearing down on him, the keeper he was able to clear.
However, two minutes into the second half, with their first clear-cut chance, Burton took the lead. Scott Griffiths conceded a left-wing corner and from it defender Edwards rose to nod home into the top corner of the net.
Hurt from going behind the Hatters responded well. Whalley’s surging run down the right came to an end on the edge of the box, but no Town man could get on the end of Guttridge’s dangerous free-kick.
On 55 minutes John Still made his first change of the game, introducing Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu in place of Howells.
The change was followed eight minutes later by another as Luke Guttridge made way for Ricky Miller, the Town’s hero against Tranmere last week.
But the Hatters had a touch of fortune as Stuart Beavon picked out Alex MacDonald on 66 minutes and the home forward miskicked and Griffiths was able to clear the danger.
The Town continued to push Burton back though , with the home side only threatening on the counter-attack. With 20 minutes to go Still sent on Andy Drury as his third and final substitute, replacing Nathan Doyle.
With 15 minutes left and with the Town pushing forward, Burton spurned a great chance to double their lead when Beavon’s pass found MacDonald free inside the penalty area but he could only side-foot his shot across goal and inches past the post.
As time ticked down the Hatters came mighty close to finding an equaliser. Paul Benson's 12 year drive was denied by a fine save from McLaughlin with seven minutes remaining and 30 seconds later Griffiths was inches away from getting on the end of a right-wing cross when left unmarked in the penalty area.
A minute later Miller was gifted the ball in the Burton penalty area but off balance and on his right foot he could only swing his shot wide.
The Hatters continued to push forward in search of a late equaliser, and in five minutes of stoppage time McNulty saw a header claimed by McLaughlin.
In the fourth minute of stoppage time Wilkinson was then shown a straight red for hauling down Matty Palmer as the Town ended the game with 10 men but after over seven additional minutes the home side held out to record a win.
TOWN: Tyler; Harriman, Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Doyle (sub Drury 70), Smith, Guttridge (sub Miller 63); Howells (sub Ruddock Mpanzu 55), Whalley; Benson. Subs: Justham, Franks, Cullen, Rooney.
Attendance: 4,772, including 1,998 backing the Hatters.