Birthday boy Hylton nets, but Tanner spoils the party
LUTON TOWN 1
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 1
Att: 9,124 (1,027 away)
Top scorer Danny Hylton celebrated his 28th birthday with his 19th goal of the season against Plymouth this afternoon – but the Hatters had to settle for a single point from one of the top sides in Sky Bet League Two for the second successive week.
Hylton gave the Town an early lead with a stunning counter-attacking goal he started himself by heading clear inside his own penalty area and racing forward to collect a pass from Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, before lobbing a beauty into the roof of the Argyle net.
But just like last week at table-toppers Doncaster, Nathan Jones’ boys were pegged back by a 25th-minute equaliser from second-placed Plymouth’s wide man Craig Tanner, and although the Hatters dominated the second half, they couldn’t find a winner and drop a place in the table to fifth, with Portsmouth winning 3-0 at Carlisle.
Jones initially named an unchanged side following last week’s 1-1 draw at Donny, but was forced into a late alteration when Stephen O’Donnell suffered an injury in the warm-up and James Justin came in at right-back, two days after a birthday of his own – his 19th!
The Hatters started brightly and had a penalty appeal waved away in the third minute when Isaac Vassell went on a strong run down the left and cut inside, only to be challenged by centre-half Sonny Bradley.
Town calls for a spot-kick were waved away by referee Darren Drysdale, who instead pointed for a corner, from which Jonathan Smith saw a volley drift just wide of the far post.
Hylton was next to make inroads down the left, but his low cross was cleared by an Argyle defence who were coming under some intense early pressure.
It was from a Plymouth set-piece, however, that the Town broke away to take the lead, Hylton heading Graham Carey’s centre clear and Mpanzu winning possession just outside the area before racing down the right and floating a delightful ball into the middle for Hylton.
The birthday boy still had a lot to do, but he took the ball on his chest 18 yards out and lifted it over the onrushing Argyle goalkeeper Luke McCormick with his outstretched boot for a wonderful breakaway goal.
The next chance came in the 11th minute after another surge down the left by Vassell, the Hatters working the ball back inside for Mpanzu to fire a powerful 25-yard volley that McCormick had to be alert to keep out.
Argyle’s first attempt on goal came in the 23rd minute, but Antoni Sarcevic’s volleyed effort was deflected well off target by his own team-mate Ryan Taylor, just before Justin burst down the right and saw a dangerous looking cross go just over the bar and land on the roof of the net.
The visitors were level two minutes later, however, when Carey broke down the left and crossed low for Tanner to nip in at the near post and net from close range.
Centre-half Yann Songo’o got his head to a corner soon after, but Matt Macey gathered comfortably, and Hylton was on the prowl at the other end, taking a curling ball from Cook on his chest and fashioning a chance for himself to fire low across the six-yard box, but McCormick saved low with Vassell lurking.
Mpanzu was playing well and, once again dictating play, fed Senior who whipped in an inviting left-wing cross that was an inch too high for Vassell, but almost caught out Carey at the far post, the Argyle midfielder’s header behind narrowly missing the stanchion.
Jordan Cook soon joined Smith, who had been booked for a foul on Carey in the opening stages, in referee Drysdale’s notepad for a late challenge on David Fox, and a midfield battle took it through to half-time at 1-1.
The Town started the second half as they had the first, on the front foot with Justin racing to the right byline, but his chipped cross hit the top of the crossbar on this occasion before drifting behind.
Argyle looked to get in at the other end with the dangerous Carey pulling the strings, Smith eventually halting his run in the six-yard box with a perfectly timed challenge.
Hylton and Mpanzu linked up in the 57th minute to set Cook tearing towards the byline, but the ex-Walsall man’s low cross was cut out by Oscar Threlkeld, then Mpanzu whipped a terrific ball towards the far post, where Hylton couldn’t climb high enough to get his head on it.
Just after the hour, Smith did well on the right to cut inside and feed Hylton, but McCormick was once again equal to the leading scorer’s right-footed cross-shot.
It was to be Smith’s last involvement, Jones taking the midfielder and Vassell off for Luke Gambin and Ollie Palmer, and it was the latter who won the corner that led to the Town’s next chance, although captain Scott Cuthbert’s looping header from Sheehan’s right-wing delivery was always going to be too high.
Plymouth went close in the 74th minute when a long ball into the Town box reached Taylor, and his low shot deflected off Rea into the side-netting, then Bradley’s flicked header from a right-wing corner drifted just over.
Justin was soon raiding down the right again, but a back-pedalling Hylton couldn’t generate enough power in his header to trouble McCormick, who was quick off his line moments later to claim another cross from Senior after good hold-up play by Palmer.
In an attacking move, Jones took Senior off with a little over ten minutes to go and threw Jack Marriott into a three-pronged attack, with Rea dropping into the middle of three centre-halves and Gambin and Justin moving wide in a four-man midfield.
In the 83rd minute, Marriott looked to be impeded as he tried to race onto a ball over the top by Palmer, then – in the 87th – Hylton clipped a lovely ball through for the Leyton Orient loanee, but Threlkeld produced a brave diving header to clear the danger as Palmer prepared to pull the trigger.
It was all Luton by this stage, and after another dangerous break down the left in which Argyle struggled to clear a Gambin cross, Marriott teed up Cook to deliver a lovely outswinging cross that was just too high for both Hylton and Palmer racing in at the far post.
There was only going to be one winner, if there was one, but the Town – one loss in 11 in all competitions now and half-a-dozen without defeat – couldn’t find a way through and had to settle for taking four points from six this season from both of the current top two teams.
TOWN: Macey, Justin, Cuthbert (c), Sheehan, Senior (Marriott 79), Rea, Smith (Gambin 62), Mpanzu, Cook, Hylton, Vassell (Palmer 62). Subs not used: Mullins, D'Ath, Gray, Moore (GK)
Yellows: Smith, Cook
PLYMOUTH: McCormick (c), Sawyer, Songo'o, Sarcevic, Carey, Bradley, Kennedy (Donaldson 69), Threlkeld, Taylor, Fox (Sokolik 46), Tanner (Spencer 65). Subs not used: Bulvitis, Slew, Jervis, Dorel (GK)
REFEREE: Darren Drysdale