Report: Luton Town 0-1 Crawley TownThe Town bowed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in their first match in the competition since lifting the trophy at Wembley in 2009 as Crawley registered a narrow victory at Kenilworth Road.
The visitors earned their place in the area quarter-finals thanks to Gwion Edwards’ early strike in the second half but the Hatters went close on several occasions as they more than matched their League 1 opponents, hitting the woodwork on three occasions.
The Hatters began showing four changes to the side that beat Stevenage with Saturday’s match-winner Alex Wall joining goalkeeper Elliot Justham, Luke Guttridge and Jake Howells in the starting XI. Crawley, meanwhile, fielded former Town midfielder Keith Keane, who made his first return to Kenilworth Road since leaving in 2012.
The first half was short on real goalmouth action as the Town passed the ball around confidently whilst the visitors carried their threat from wide areas with the ball-carrying pair Lewis Young and Gavin Tomlin given the Hatters defence plenty of problems.
Justham made his first save on 10 minutes, holding onto Tomlin’s header from 12 yards and five minutes later the keeper stopped Young’s shot from 20 yards and then watched Matt Harrold’s header drop just wide.
Wall had his first sight of goal midway through the half, cutting inside on his left-foot like he did to win the Town the game on Saturday, but saw his drive from the edge of the box fly narrowly over the crossbar.
Guttridge headed wide after being found well by Jonathan Smith’s accurate left-wing cross but Crawley finished the half stronger as Justham did well to keep out a well-hit drive from Edwards from the edge of the box that was destined for the corner of the net.
Keane mis-hit a shot for the visitors which was the cue for the biggest cheer of the night with the midfielder’s name ringing around the empty Kenilworth Road stands and his slip that conceded a throw six minutes before half-time allowed Guttridge a sight of goal but his low drive clipped the outside of the post.
Harrold’s aerial presence continued to cause the Town backline problems and Nathan Doyle was in the right place at the right time to hack the visiting striker’s back-post header off the line a minute before the break.
The Town began the second period by making two changes, with Alex Lawless and Jake Howells introduced in place Smith and Scott Griffith as the Hatters switched to three centre-halves and wing-backs.
However the Hatters fell behind six minutes after the restart. Young’s forceful run into the box eventually saw Harrold whack a shot against the crossbar, but with the Town defence slow to react to the loose ball Edwards was on hand to rifle an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Marvin Elliott then headed wide as Crawley sensed a second before the Town made their third and final change when Charlie Walker replaced Wall. Within a minute of his introduction the striker went mighty close to making it 1-1 when his lob following Paul Benson’s flick-on came back off the inside of the post.
All of a sudden the Town were dominating. Guttridge slammed a shot a yard over the bar on 64 minutes and Benson was inches away from connecting with Guttridge’s cross from the right.
Walker wormed his way into the box on 73 minutes but saw his shot saved and five minutes later Luke Wilkinson nodded straight at the goalkeeper following Howells’ teasing left-wing cross.
As time ticked down, the Town continued to press but their luck in front of goal was summed up with seven minutes left when Guttridge’s clean strike from 20 yards bounced off the underside of the crossbar.
Benson was inches away once again from being picked out for a tap-in following Walker’s cross in the final minute before Benson nodded wide in injury time and that proved to be the final action as the Hatters’ six-year unbeaten run in the competition came to an end.
TOWN: Justham, Lacey, Griffiths (sub Robinson 46), McNulty, Wilkinson, Doyle, Smith (sub Lawless 46), Guttridge, Howells, Benson, Wall (sub Walker 60). Subs not used: Tyler, Stevenson.
ATTENDANCE: 2,186, including 125 from Crawley.