Hatters are out but Championship visitors pushed all the way
Luton Town 0
Leeds United 1
Att: 7,498 (1,510 away)
Luton’s EFL Cup run may be over after Tyler Denton’s 23rd-minute goal took Leeds United through to the third round, but Nathan Jones’ men went toe-to-toe with Championship opposition once again and, like the Hatters boss is of them, can be proud of their performance.
Jones made just two changes from Saturday’s defeat at Stevenage with Johnny Mullins back in after suspension at centre-half for Scott Cuthbert and Jonathan Smith coming in for his first start of the season in midfield, in place of Jordan Cook.
The visitors’ boss Garry Monk, by contrast, changed all 11 of the players that started their first win of the season at Sheffield Wednesday in their last outing.
The Yorkshiremen made their presence known from the off, midfielder Matt Grimes going into referee Kevin Johnson’s notepad for a foul on Jake Gray with just 22 seconds on the clock.
In an even opening period though, the Hatters enjoyed their fair share of possession and after a patient build-up through midfield, Dan Potts set Smith free on the left, but Gray’s header at the far post was high and wide on eight minutes.
Olly Lee, once again in the midfield holding role, let fly with a shot from fully 30 yards just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark, before Danny Hylton used his strength to make space for himself in the middle of the Leeds half and almost put Cameron McGeehan in.
McGeehan, the Hatters’ top scorer, looked to make it five for the season in the 19th minute, but although his 25-yard free-kick moved plenty in the air, it didn’t dip enough to trouble Marco Silvestri in the Leeds goal.
Against the run of play, the visitors got the breakthrough in the 23rd minute, however, when Tyler Denton burst onto a ball laid back to him on the edge of the penalty area and fired past Christian Walton.
Just before the half-hour Leeds came within a lick of paint of extending their lead when Kemar Roofe, League Two player of the year last term with Oxford, sent an acrobatic volley crashing against the post.
Hatters keeper Walton had to be alert to keep out Stuart Dallas’ follow-up from close range as the Town came under the cosh.
Jack Marriott went some way to releasing the pressure in the 35th minute when the Hatters striker cut inside from the right and crashed in a left-foot shot that stung the palms of Silvestri, but Walton was soon in action again, racing off his line to save bravely at the feet of Souleymane Doukarra.
Marriott had another great chance – the Town’s best of the half – when Smith sliced the Leeds defence open with a brilliant through ball. Unfortunately, Marriott’s 38th-minute effort was always rising after he’d beaten the offside trap and seemingly rounded Silvestri on the edge of the box.
Dallas then fired over from distance in what was developing into an end-to-end affair, with Lee stretching Silvestri on the stroke of half-time as the Hatters searched for an equaliser.
Lee became the first Hatter to be booked six minutes after the break for tugging on Roofe’s shirt as he fed the ball to Doukarra, whose attempt at bending one into the top corner proved just off target.
It was a scrappy opening period to the second half, but Jones introduced Cook for Gray and around the hour mark, the Town started to take control.
In the 63rd minute, McGeehan tested Silvestri with another free-kick, this time after Hylton’s strength had proved too much for Leeds defender Lewie Coyle, who received a yellow card for pulling the Hatters striker down to the left of the box.
It was the start of a rousing spell for the Town, McGeehan again going close from distance a minute later, taking Stephen O’Donnell’s ball inside first time with the inside of his right-foot, but Silvestri again tipped his low shot around the post before Glen Rea fired one over as Leeds struggled to clear the resulting corner.
Jones soon introduced Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu for Hylton, but it was Roofe who was next to try his luck with another long-range effort that Walton proved equal to with 20 minutes to go, just as he was to another low left-footer from the ex-Oxford man two minutes later.
The Hatters third and final sub, Isaac Vassell, came on for Lee with 15 to go, and as the Town pressed the Kenilworth Road end roared for a penalty as Marriott went down under a challenge from Silvestri, but referee Johnson waved play on.
Then another glorious chance came the Hatters striker’s way, Smith again threading him through but Marriott’s low 79th-minute effort flashing past the far post as Silvestri raced out of his goal.
Leeds sub Alex Mowatt tested Walton with six minutes to go with yet another shot from outside box, then the Hatters broke again with O’Donnell rampaging down the right, and after his low cross was only half-cleared, McGeehan fired over from the edge of the area.
Within seconds McGeehan was announced as match sponsors’ Country Properties’ man of the match, but sadly the Town midfielder couldn’t find the goal he deserved to make it a more profitable night for himself and his team.
Indeed, it was Town keeper Walton who had to make the last big save of the game, denying Roofe with a point-blank save in the dying seconds of injury-time, but a second Leeds goal at that stage would certainly have put an unwarranted gloss on their winning margin.
TOWN: Walton, O’Donnell, Mullins ©, Rea, Potts, Lee (Vassell 75), McGeehan, Smith, Gray (Cook 56), Hylton (Mpanzu 66), Marriott. Subs: Cuthbert, McQuoid, King (GK), Justin.
LEEDS: Silvestri, Doukarra, Murphy (Phillips 58), Roofe, Jansson (Cooper 74), Grimes, Denton, Hernandez (Mowatt 68), Bamba ©, Coyle, Dallas. Subs: Sacko, Antonsson, Phillips, Green, Cooper, Ayling.
Yellows: Grimes, Coyle