Robins hit back for a point after Hylton stunner
Cheltenham Town 1
Luton Town 1
Att: 3,660 (923)
The Hatters made it three games unbeaten and took another point from the second long away trip of the week after Cheltenham hit back to cancel out Danny Hylton’s stunning sixth goal of the season.
Hylton walked the ball into the Cheltenham net after nut-megging a defender and rounding the keeper seven minutes into the second half at Whaddon Road.
But the hosts belied their lowly second-from-bottom position in the table to bombard the Town defence with some fine set-piece deliveries, and took a share of the spoils with Daniel O’Shaugnessy’s equaliser 12 minutes later.
Manager Nathan Jones made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 up at Hartlepool on Tuesday night, with captain Scott Cuthbert returning to the starting line-up seven days after being stretchered off with a worrying neck injury against Doncaster last Saturday, Jordan Cook coming back into midfield and Hylton returning from his one-match ban up front.
Cheltenham had the first sight of goal in the sixth minute when former Hatter Asa Hall created space for a shot just inside the area, but Alan Sheehan threw himself in the way of it and diverted the ball wide for a corner.
The hosts continued to probe in the early stages, and O’Shaughnessy saw a header drift wide of the far post before Christian Walton had to get his body behind an effort from the sliding Jack Munns.
The Town’s first chance came in the 19th minute when, after a patient build-up saw Cameron McGeehan feed the ball out to James Justin on the right-wing, the 18-year-old delivered a cross that was deflected to Hylton beyond the last defender, but the striker couldn’t direct his volley on target.
Hall soon created another opportunity for the Robins, but Danny Wright’s header from 12 yards out was wide and in general, the Town defence was having to hold strong, with Cuthbert, Sheehan and Potts heading crosses clear and keeper Walton commanding his area well.
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu fashioned a chance for himself on the edge of the box on 34 minutes, but the midfielder’s left-footed shot cleared the stand at the Prestbury Road end of the ground that is currently named after the Hatters’ main sponsor SsangYong!
Walton had to be at his best once more in the 38th minute when Hall let fly from 25 yards, the on-loan Brighton man flying across his goalline at full stretch to push the ball wide. Seconds later, he came out to collect another cross from the right wing, holding on despite being clattered by home striker Wright, who was spoken to by ref Trevor Kettle.
The big goalkeeper comfortably dealt with another long-range effort, this time from right-back Jack Barthram, as half-time approached and the sides went in level at the interval.
The Town took the lead with their first effort on target, and when it came, Hylton proved his class by almost walking the ball into the net after playing a major part in the build-up too.
The move started with Sheehan deep in his own half, spreading the ball to Cuthbert who carried it forward and fed Hylton down the inside right channel. The striker held the ball up and laid it back to Justin, who clipped a lovely ball back into Hylton’s path between the right touchline and penalty area.
The former Oxford striker nutmegged the covering Cheltenham defender and as Russell Griffiths came racing out, he waltzed around the keeper, took his time along the edge of the six-yard box and picked his spot in the home net as two defenders tried to cover the line.
It was almost two in the 57th minute when Cook’s low free-kick from the right was dummied by Jack Marriott and McGeehan, executing the training ground routine almost to perfection, fired millimetres wide of the near post with home keeper Griffiths rooted.
The hosts were level on 64 minutes, however, when Wright’s header from Munns’ corner was cleared off the line, but O’Shaugnessy followed up to ram the loose ball home.
Munns’ deliveries were proving dangerous as the pressure from the home side mounted, and from another left wing set-piece – this time a free-kick – Harry Pell flicked a header over the bar and the Town could breathe a sigh of relief.
With 15 minutes to go, Hall sent another long-distance effort just over Walton’s crossbar, moments before Aaron Downes was booked for hauling Hylton down at the other end.
McGeehan stepped up to arrow in the resulting 25-yard free-kick that skipped up off the greasy turf in front of Griffiths, forcing the keeper to spill the ball, but his defenders managed to smuggle it away.
Having already taken Jack Marriott off for Jonathan Smith, Jones then threw Alex Gilliead into the fray in place of Mpanzu.
Hall twice threatened to win it for the hosts in the closing stages, McGeehan throwing himself in the way of his 87th-minute shot on the edge of the box, seconds before Walton scrambled across his line to claw away the former Town midfielder’s deflected strike.
As the game entered four minutes of added time, Olly Lee fired a 25-yarder that Griffiths again fielded at the second attempt, before Hall cracked another effort in that the Town defence blocked well.
Up the other end, Justin delivered another great cross from the right that Hylton headed into Smith’s path, but the midfielder couldn’t keep his right-footed effort down and the Town were forced to settle for another hard-earned point on the road.
TOWN: Walton, Justin, Cuthbert, Sheehan, Potts, Lee, McGeehan, Mpanzu (Gilliead 82), Cook, Hylton, Marriott (Smith 76). Subs: O'Donnell, Gray, McQuoid, Famewo, King (GK)
CHELTENHAM: Griffiths, Barthram, Downes, Pell, Waters (Morgan-Smith 74), Wright, Munns (Dayton 81), Hall, Cranston, O'Shaughnessy, Dickie. Subs: Parslow, Kitscha (GK), Whitehead, Suliman, Smith.
Yellows: Waters, Downes, Pell