Honours even in new boss's first game in charge
Nathan Jones got his first point at the Hatters helm as his maiden game ended goalless after a stalemate with Cambridge at Kenilworth Road.
The Town pushed in the late stages, but without success to go four games without scoring a goal despite Paul Benson going close in the first half.
The game was also marred with a trio of injuries, as Mark Tyler, Danny Green and Ryan Hall were all forced off with injuries.
The point pushes the side down to 18th, keeping the Hatters winless since Christmas in Sky Bet League 2.
Nathan Jones made two changes to his first starting XI, drafting in Green and Jack Marriott coming in for Cameron McGeehan, missing from the matchday squad, and Craig Mackail-Smith who was on the bench.
The Hatters started brightly with Marriott hassling the defenders, but Jones was forced into making an early change when Tyler was replaced by Elliot Justham. The Town stalwart seemed to go down without outside influence, with his side having a corner at the time of the injury after just eight minutes of the match played.
The switch seemed to unstable the home side, allowing Cambridge their first spell of pressure which Lewis Page wasted by sending the ball having cut inside past Green.
But that proved to be the last of Green’s game, too, who went down with what seemed a leg injury, replaced by Josh McQuoid after receiving several minutes of attention from medical staff.
In a truncated first half, the Town had the ball in the back of the net when McQuoid’s shot looped off a defender into the path of Marriott with his back to goal, but as he and Benson contrived to bundle home, the offside flag ruined the Hatters’ euphoria.
The pressure from Jones’ side ramped up thereafter, although Cambridge still maintained a threat when a ball into Robbie Simpson’s path was hit well before zooming over Justham’s crossbar.
It wasn’t until the 39th minute when the Town got a real sighting, as Jonathan Smith watched the ball across his body before fizzing an effort narrowly wide of Will Norris’ goal.
And the Town had their best effort of the half as we headed into five minutes of first half stoppage time.
Benson, who had moments previously disappeared off the pitch and behind the advertising hoardings at the Oak Road end, came back on to almost profit from Hall’s corner. The striker lurked at the back post to punch a shot from just three yards, only for the strike to be scuffed off the line in a penalty area melee.
The Town started the second half with purpose, and came whiskers away from opening the scoring when Howell’s left-wing cross towards Benson was only headed half-clear. The resulting ball found Hall, but his first-time effort from inside the area could only fly wide after bending away from goal and the last moment.
And it was Hall who was integral in the next attack, picking up the pieces after a hopeful ball towards Marriott wasn’t properly dealt with. His ball picked out McQuoid out on the left, who cut inside to strike just over the Cambridge bar.
The visitors fought back with half-chances of their own, but the Town almost found the lead when McQuoid – found by a cross-field Stephen O’Donnell ball on numerous occasions across the afternoon – crossed a ball which Benson was inches from connecting with.
Moments after the Town were forced into a third injury switch with Paddy McCourt coming on for Hall, the visitors were aggrieved not to be ahead.
Benson’s tackle on Lewis Page didn’t stop the Cambridge man getting a ball in, which Williamson duly nodded home, but the referee had called the foul back just seconds before the ball rustled the net, a literal head-in-the-hands moment for official Andy Madley.
The grievance sparked the U’s into their own spell of pressure, with Ryan Donaldson – on as a substitute – forcing Justham into a sharp grab from a free-kick around 25 yards from goal.
But the Town kept pressing, and almost found the breakthrough as McCourt’s dink over the top proved just too sharp for Marriott, dropping deeper as the second half went on, to make anything of.
The Hatters almost stole the points in the final minute, Jake Howells’ shot forcing an excellent save from Norris before Justham was forced to scramble behind Donaldson’s distance shot as both teams were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.
Attendance: 9,227, including 1,022 following Cambridge.
Town: Tyler (sub Justham 8), Howells, Okuonghae, Cuthbert, O’Donnell, Lawless, Smith, Hall (sub McCourt 65), Green (sub McQuoid 23), Marriott, Benson.
Subs not used: Mackail-Smith, Potts, Lee, Wilkinson