Hatters held at Whaddon Road
The Hatters came from behind to earn a point at Cheltenham and make it six games unbeaten in League 2.
Cheltenham led after 20 minutes when Zack Kotwica pounced in the penalty area following a right-wing cross but, on a pitch labelled “atrocious” by John Still afterwards, the Town levelled almost immediately when Shaun Whalley fired home after Andy Drury’s shot was saved.
Whalley came close to giving the Hatters the lead, only to see his header cleared off the line as an entertaining first half came to a close.
But the second half was a different story as both sides struggled to create chances and the Hatters, despite a late rally, failed to find a winner.
It all began with the Town unchanged after last Saturday’s win at Plymouth and began shooting towards their 1,200-strong support.
Jake Howells, making his 301st appearance in Luton colours, came close to fashioning a chance in the third minute before Mark Tyler needed to be on his toes a minute later to keep out a swerving long-range effort from the hosts’ Jack Dunn.
The ball continued to zip from one end to the other in a frenetic opening 15 minutes and Cheltenham, without a home win under new boss Paul Buckle, twice came close to taking the lead, firstly when on-loan Liverpool midfielder Dunn clipped a free-kick on the edge of the area just wide before Scott Griffiths was in the right place at the right time to hack clear in the six-yard box after Craig Braham-Barrett had snuck down the Town’s right.
However, the Robins did have the lead on 20 minutes. Jake Gray, on-loan from Crystal Palace, weaved down the right to plant a cross to the back stick and the ball was eventually bundled home by Kotwica in the six-yard box.
But the Town are made of strong stuff these days and Still’s troops wasted little time in hitting back on level terms when a minute later it was 1-1. Drury’s shot from 20 yards was parried by goalkeeper Trevor Carson – but Whalley was first to the loose ball and side-footed a first-time finish beyond the reach of the keeper. It was the winger’s third goal of the season.
Buoyed by the leveller, the Town went in search of the lead. Drury then tested Carson on 26 minutes when his shot from close range was palmed away but Jayden Stockley was unable to reach the loose ball.
Two minutes later, on 28 minutes, Jonathan Smith came close to the Hatters’ tally when home debutant Gray cleared his top-corner-bound header off the line following Drury’s dangerous inswinging left-wing corner.
As half-time approached the Hatters upped the ante. Stockley swiped a shot from 15 yards wide of the target, before Howells thought the Town could have been awarded a penalty when his cross from the left brushed the arm of Kevin Stewart in the penalty area.
Neither defence were covering themselves in glory and another defensive mishap, this time from the home side, almost led to a Town goal but Stockley headed over the bar following a skied clearance from the Robins in their own six-yard box.
After the break Tyler was called into action for the second time of the game on 52 minutes when he palmed away a fizzing low strike from Dunn after the Robins man had robbed Stephen McNulty 40 yards from goal and raced goalwards.
Unlike the first half, the Town failed to seriously test Carson at the start of the second, and shortly after the hour, Still introduced Alex Lawless and Mark Cullen for Drury and Howells. Within two minutes the Hatters’ new introductions were involved when Cullen drove a first-time shot wide after Lawless and Stockley flicked the ball into the striker’s path.
But real clear-cut chances were at a premium and Still made a third and final sub with 22 minutes left, replacing goalscorer Whalley for Ricky Miller.
As time ticked down the Town began to create some half-chances, Cullen collected a fine Michael Harriman pass to shoot wide, before the same player drove a shot wide of the post moments later on 85 minutes.
But the Hatters couldn’t find a late winner in three minutes added time and had to be content with a point on their travels.
The point keeps the Town fourth in League 2, five points off the top with a game in hand.
TOWN: Tyler; Harriman, Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Doyle, Smith, Drury (sub Lawless 63); Howells (sub Cullen 63), Whalley (sub Miller 68), Stockley. Subs not used: Justham, Lacey, Wall, Robinson.
Attendance: 3,611 including a magnificent 1,282 backing the Hatters.