Hatters suffer second successive defeat in Sussex this afternoon
CRAWLEY TOWN 2
LUTON TOWN 0
Att: 2,904 (1,052)
The Town went down to a second successive league defeat this afternoon as Crawley scored late in each half to win 2-0 at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
James Collins and Enzio Boldewijn netted for the Sussex side as Nathan Jones’ men couldn’t bounce back from last week’s 2-1 home reversal against Grimsby.
Jones made three changes to the Hatters team from seven days earlier, with Jonathan Smith, Isaac Vassell and Josh McQuoid coming in for their first league starts of the season in place of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Danny Hylton and Jack Marriott.
Vassell had the first sniff of goal in the fifth minute when Mark Connolly’s attempted header back to goalkeeper Glenn Morris fell short of its target, but the Cornish striker could only find the side-netting from a tight angle.
The Town soon settled into their rhythm and three minutes later, Cameron McGeehan latched onto a loose ball 25 yards out and fired low, just past Morris’ right post.
Christian Walton was soon called into action for the first time, blocking a poked effort from ex-Shrewsbury and Northampton striker Collins on nine minutes, and ten minutes later the Hatters number one was required to deal with Billy Clifford’s low shot, which he did easily.
Within seconds the Town were on the attack and, after Jordan Cook had spread a sumptuous ball out to Stephen O’Donnell on the right wing, McGeehan met the full-back’s low cross first time, only to see his angled shot blocked by a home defender.
In the 27th minute Smith closed down Andre Blackman in the Crawley left-back area and the ball broke to Vassell, who lobbed onrushing keeper Morris but couldn’t quite find the head of McQuoid, who had burst into the six-yard box looking to profit.
Vassell was busting a gut to make an impact up front, and after sprinting back to challenge Morris way outside his box in the hosts’ right-back position, he was rewarded with possession after a brave challenge by McGeehan in the middle of the park and stretched the home defence once again.
The Town fashioned their best chance of the half when, after a patient move that started inside their own half with Johnny Mullins and Alan Sheehan, McQuoid got to the right byline and cut back to the edge of the box for Cook to strike, but the midfielder’s shot flashed just past the post.
McQuoid was impressing too, and it was the ex-Bournemouth striker who had the Town’s next chance, a glancing header from Sheehan’s 37th-minute free-kick that proved a shade too high.
It was Crawley who went into the break with their noses in front, however, when – totally against the run of play – Collins met a right-wing cross from Lewis Young and beat Walton at his near post with a firm header on 43 minutes.
The Hatters had a scare two minutes into the second half when Dan Potts’ nod back to Walton fell short and, after the Hatters keeper had won the challenge with Collins, Sheehan had to react quickly to slide in and deny Enzio Boldewijn a clear shot with Walton out of his goal.
Vassell had the game’s next opportunity, bursting into the box onto a McGeehan chip over the defence, but the ball wouldn’t come down for the ex-Truro City hitman to get his shot off.
Dutch winger Boldewijn managed to do that at the other end in the 55th minute, but Walton could watch it sail safely over his crossbar.
Just after the hour Jones threw Hylton, wearing a mask to protect the cheekbone he fractured against Grimsby, and Marriott up front in place of Vassell and McQuoid, and the Town had soon created a great chance, although Cook’s attempted chip did not match the conviction of his own full-blooded challenge on Blackman that forced the opening.
O’Donnell made good progress down the right on 70 minutes and flashed a low cross through the six-yard box, then Jones made his final substitution of the afternoon, bringing on Newcastle loanee Alex Gilliead for Smith.
Gilliead made an immediate impression on the right flank, combining with O’Donnell to present Marriott with an opportunity to shoot on the turn, but the striker’s effort drifted wide.
Then, with eight minutes to go, O’Donnell fed the ball inside to McGeehan, but the midfielder’s 25-yarder few high into the 1,052 travelling Hatters in the KR-L Stand behind the goal.
With five minutes left the Hatters’ centre-halves combined for two more chances, as Mullins’ low shot from a Sheehan cross was cleared off the line before Mullins crossed for the Irishman to head goalwards, but Crawley again survived.
Another chance came in the 88th minute when Sheehan, Gilliead and Marriott linked up to the right side of the penalty box, with the latter’s blast turned away by Morris in the home goal.
The Town had the ball in the net in the first minute of time added on when Marriott lashed home from the edge of the box, but referee Gavin Ward blew up for an infringement by Hylton when challenging for the initial high ball into the area.
With the Hatters pushing for the leveller, Crawley counter-attacked and two minutes later, Boldewijn sealed the victory when he raced into the box and chipped over the advancing Walton to complete a disappointing afternoon for the Town.
TOWN: Walton, O'Donnell, Mullins, Sheehan, Potts, Lee, Smith (Gilliead 71), Cook, McGeehan, Vassell (Hylton 61), McQuoid (Marriott 61). Subs: Cuthbert, Gray, Marriott, Mpanzu, King (GK)
Yellows: Lee, Sheehan, Mullins
CRAWLEY: Morris, Young, Connolly, Boldewijn, Smith, Banton (Roberts 73), Blackman (Arthur 64), Clifford, Collins, McNerney, Djalo. Subs: Mersin (GK), Davey, Bawling, Tajbakhsh, Yussuf.
Yellows: Djalo, Banton