Hatters held by Exiles after Hylton's 24th of the season
NEWPORT COUNTY 1
LUTON TOWN 1
Hylton 5 (pen)
Att: 2,304 (311 Hatters)
The Hatters were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Newport County at Rodney Parade tonight after Danny Hylton’s early penalty was cancelled out by a stunning free-kick from the Exiles’ striker Sean Rigg before half-time.
Hylton had set the Town on their way to what promised to be a win that would take Nathan Jones’ men to within three points of third-placed Portsmouth, winning and converting the fifth-minute penalty that brought about his 24th goal of the season.
But Rigg’s 25-yard blast just before the half-hour ensured it would be a 12th 1-1 draw of the campaign for the Hatters, leaving the manager frustrated once again after a taking just three points from the last 12 on offer to keep the Town in fifth position.
Jones made four changes to his starting line-up from the one that drew 1-1 at home with Exeter on Saturday, with centre-halves Johnny Mullins and captain Scott Cuthbert returning after injury, and Isaac Vassell coming back in up front with Ollie Palmer in for his first Town start after nine substitute appearances since joining on loan from Leyton Orient at the end of January.
Vassell started on the right, with Palmer and Hylton right up top but it was County striker Rigg who had the game’s first attempt on goal in the second minute, curling just wide of the angle of post and crossbar from 20 yards.
It took just a few seconds for the Town to take the lead, however, when Palmer’s long throw caught the home defence unawares and Hylton raced clear into the box.
The top scorer cut back inside covering defender Sid Nelson, but the Newport man’s trailing leg caught Hylton as he slid and referee Charles Breakspear did not hesitate to point to the spot.
It was the third penalty Breakspear had awarded the Town against County this season after the two that Cameron McGeehan netted at Kenilworth Road in August, but there were no complaints from the hosts and Hylton calmly rolled the ball past goalkeeper Joe Day from 12 yards.
Newport tried to respond immediately with Darren Jones heading a deep free-kick over the bar, although that was a rare high ball into the box that Cuthbert didn’t get his head on in the early stages.
County went close again when the skipper finally did put a foot wrong and miscued a clearance, but Alex Samuel volleyed just wide after David Pipe had wrestled possession away from Cuthbert and Matt Macey.
The hosts were deservedly level in the 28th minute when, after Glen Rea had brought down Samuel 25 yards from goal, Rigg stepped up to crack a stunning free-kick past Macey.
With County taking a grip on the midfield battle on a difficult pitch, and Rigg being given a couple of further opportunities to try his luck from distance, it took until two minutes before half-time for the Town to register their second attempt on goal.
Cuthbert started the move, emerging from his own box with the ball after robbing Samuel to feed Hylton on the right. The Hatters goalscorer then played Palmer down the channel to spring the Exiles’ offside trap, but Day proved equal to his powerful angled drive, tipping it over the bar at full stretch.
At half-time Jones brought James Justin on at left-back, in place of Hylton, with Mullins shifting across to right-back and Sheehan inside to centre-half, with O’Donnell moving to the right side of midfield and Vassell up front alongside Palmer.
The Hatters started the second half brightly, with Sheehan sending a couple of free-kicks in from the right wing and Cook delivering a corner from the left that Cuthbert was primed to head home until former Hatter Mark O’Brien headed clear just in front of him.
It was County who had the first real sight of goal again though when Scott Bennett fired over from the edge of the box on 56 minutes, just before Justin dug out a cross from the left byline for Palmer, who headed wide at the far post.
Vassell did well out by the left corner flag to beat two Newport defenders and create space for a low shot that was blocked in the 64th minute, but Jones was soon forced into his second substitution, with Mullins pulling up injured and Olly Lee coming on in his place.
As the Town reshuffled again with Rea dropping into right-back and Lee replacing him in the holding role, and Newport sub Tom Owen-Evans was soon presented with a glorious chance to give the Exiles the lead on 69 minutes, but Macey produced a terrific fingertip save to keep the scores level.
With 74 minutes played, O’Donnell and Cook combined to try to get Palmer into the right side of the area but the County defence stood strong, then Cook tried his luck from 20 yards seconds before Jones threw Jack Marriott on in his place with his final substitution.
Soon after County captain Joss Labadie was booked for simulation in the Town box, Vassell’s pace took him clear of O’Brien with eight minutes to go, and the former Hatters defender was shown a second yellow card for bringing him down in full flow.
The Hatters tried to take advantage immediately when Cuthbert met Sheehan’s right-wing corner, but couldn’t keep his header down, then ten-man Newport went up the other end with Samuel flashing an effort just wide before substitute Marlon Jackon did similar.
Samuel had another sniff in the 88th minute when Macey had to get down low to his right to make a save, but the Hatters had the best chance to settle it four minutes into time added on when Vassell stood up a great cross from the right and Palmer headed goalwards, but a combination of a home defender and Day managed to smuggle the ball away from the goalline.
TOWN: Macey, O'Donnell, Cuthbert (c), Mullins (Lee 68), Sheehan, Mpanzu, Rea, Cook, Hylton (Justin 46), Vassell, Palmer. Subs: Smith, Marriott, D'Ath, Famewo, Moore (GK)
COUNTY: Day, Butler, Jones, Labadie (c), Samuel (Owen-Evans 56), Bennett, Pipe, Nelson, O'Brien, Rigg, Bird (Jackson 85). Subs: Bittner (GK), Barnum-Bobb, Demetriou, Williams, Gordon.
Yellows: Rigg, O’Brien, Labadie, Pipe, Owen-Evans
REFEREE: Charles Breakspear