Hatters see off Championship visitors to advance in League Cup
The Hatters booked their place in the second round of the Capital One Cup for the first time since 2007 with an impressive victory over Championship Bristol City.
Jack Marriott scored two well-taken goals on his full debut for the Hatters either side of half-time, while fellow striker Paul Benson coolly finished in between both Marriott goals as the Town raced into a three-goal advantage.
City, League 1 champions last season, were dangerous in the first half before Marriott’s goal and they reduced areas late on through Callum Robinson – but it was too little too late and the Hatters were left to toast a fine victory come full-time.
The Town began showing eight changes to the side that drew at Accrington on Saturday with John Still tinkering with the formation, going 3-5-2 with wing-backs – both of which, Stephen O’Donnell and Dan Potts, were making their debuts along with fellow new signing Mark O’Brien.
Fresh from a 2-0 defeat on the opening day of the season at Sheffield Wednesday, the visitors dominated the first half-hour as the Town goal lived a charmed life.
Robinson nodded wide of the target on 11 minutes in City’s first real chance, and the Hatters’ goal was almost breached twice in quick succession on 24 minutes. Firstly Jonathan Kodija’s close-range poke was cleared off the line by Potts before Mark Tyler, one of those eight chances from the weekend, claimed a well-hit drive from Korey Smith.
Three minutes later as City continued to press, the Town were indebted to a fine, flying stop from Tyler when the lively Robinson drilled a shot from inside the box.
But the Town were slowly but surely finding their feet, and Marriott spurned a wonderful chance to put the Hatters in front on the half-hour when found by Benson’s deft touch only to shoot straight at City keeper Ben Hamer from eight yards.
However, as the Hatters continued to probe as half-time approached, the miss clearly did not affect Marriott as he broke the deadlock to score his first goal in Luton colours. Taking Cameron McGeehan’s pass two minutes before the break, the former Ipswich striker weaved past two City defenders before slotting home a cool, low finish which kissed the post before rolling over the line.
A goal to the good at the interval, the visitors came out intent on finding an equaliser early in the second period and Tyler needed to be at his best on 49 minutes when diving low to his left to keep out Kodjia’s thunderous low drive from distance.
Four minutes later, as an exciting start to the second period swung from end to end, O’Donnell’s deep free-kick came back off the crossbar for the Town before Kodija dragged a shot wide of the target on 54 minutes.
However, four minutes later the Town were celebrating their second goal when Benson opened his account for the season. Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu was the architect, finding room in midfield to then push through a delightful throughball to the unmarked Benson in the penalty area. The experienced frontman did the rest, finishing smartly past Hamer and it was 2-0.
As the Robins searched for a way back into the match, Kodija fluffed his lines once more on the hour when presented with a chance in the six-yard box – and that missed proved costly as three minutes later Marriott struck again when seizing on a slip in the visiting defence to run through and finish once more.
The three-goal lead was, however, reduced with 19 minutes left to play when Robinson made it 3-1 when hammering a shot past Tyler from inside the penalty area.
But the Town remained in control, and three substitutes were introduced in the closing stages. O’Donnell wasn’t far away from making it 4-1 with a low cross that almost sneaked home at the near post and after five additional minutes the Hatters held to book their place in the second round and a potential meeting with a Premier League side.
Next up…Oxford at Kenilworth Road on Saturday! BE THERE!
Town: Tyler; O’Donnell (sub Griffiths 78), Potts, McNulty, Cuthbert, Wilkinson, Ruddock, McGeehan, O’Brien (sub Doyle 76), Benson, Marriott (sub McQuoid 80).
Subs not used: Lawless, Hall, Guttridge, Justham.
Attendance: 3,948, including 427 from Bristol City.