The Hatters picked up a second penalty shoot-out bonus point in the Checkatrade Trophy Southern Group F tonight after a 1-1 draw with Barnet at Kenilworth Road.
Man-of-the-match Elliot Lee hit his second goal of the season, a magnificent 65th-minute curling effort, to cancel out Jack Taylor’s 63rd-minute penalty in normal time.
Then the striker netted from 12 yards in the penalty shoot-out that follows a draw in the group stages of this competition – along with Jordan Cook, James Justin and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu – as the Town won 4-3 to earn a second point for the night, goalkeeper James Shea saving from Bees’ left-back David Tutonda and Ricardo Santos blasting their fifth high into the Oak Road End.
The bonus point puts the Hatters on four in total, after taking the same haul from the August clash with Tottenham Under-21s, and leaves them two behind leaders AFC Wimbledon, who beat Spurs 4-3 – the same scoreline by which they defeated Barnet in their opening match.
It all means a draw for Nathan Jones’ men on the trip to face the Dons on 31st October will be enough to see both teams progress to the knockout stage.
For this one, played out in front of 1,530 at Kenilworth Road, Jones handed teenage striker Aaron Jarvis his first start in a Luton Town shirt.
There was also a first appearance of the campaign for midfielder Lawson D’Ath, who suffered an ankle injury two days before the opening game against Yeovil.
Johnny Mullins was named captain of a side in which England Under-20 full-back Justin was given his second start of the campaign in a back four that also featured Akin Famewo and Jack Senior, with goalkeeper Shea behind them.
Midfielders Mpanzu and Luke Berry were given a run-out after missing recent league games through suspension, with Cook and D’Ath alongside them in the midfield behind Jarvis and Lee.
Lee had the Town’s first chance on five minutes when Cook won the ball in midfield and played it wide to the striker on the right edge of the area. The summer signing from Barnsley made space for a shot, which was blocked, before his follow-up was deflected behind for a corner.
The next sight of goal came two minutes later, but Cook couldn’t take full advantage of Andre Blackman’s slip on the Barnet left.
Lee had started brightly, and after going down under one challenge after a neat bit of skill on the left byline, with referee John Busby waving play on, he then tricked his way past Bees’ captain Ricardo Santos right in front of the tunnel, but the visitors managed to clear his low cross comfortably.
The Hatters were well in control and should have one in front when Cook’s 13th-minute corner was flicked on at the near post and reached Famewo at the back stick, but the centre-half’s volley flew just wide.
Barnet registered their first sign of attacking intent when Jack Taylor met Ruben Bover’s free-kick with a glancing header that went narrowly wide of Shea’s right-hand post.
Just before the half-hour the Town launched a rapid break when Lee won the ball just inside the Barnet half and drove towards the Barnet penalty area, feeding Mpanzu to his right. The midfielder’s chipped cross was inches too high for Jarvis in the middle, however.
Lee was enjoying himself and a lovely touch around the corner on halfway found Berry, who looked to set Jarvis away – but the ball struck the striker’s heel as he looked to let it run ahead of him, and another good opening came to nothing.
Mpanzu was caught late by Bover, who was shown a yellow card, but the midfielder was soon back on his feet after receiving treatment and was part of the next chance that came along on 42 minutes.
Lee started an attack on the left with another driving run to the byline that was taken on by Mpanzu, who tried to force his way past Santos but his deflected cross looped up to Justin on the right side of the area. The full-back traded passes with Berry and sent in a cross that Lee controlled and hit a half-volley on the turn that flew a foot over the bar and into the Oak Road End.
Jones withdrew D’Ath at the break, a 45-minute run-out sufficient on his return, bringing Frankie Musonda on at right-back and moving Justin into midfield in the ex-Northampton man’s place.
Lee continued his good showing into the second half, producing a terrific curling 53rd-minute effort from the edge of the box that had Bees’ keeper Craig Ross beaten, but unfortunately not the post, after Mpanzu had gone on another surging run from deep.
Barnet reminded the Town they could carry an attacking threat on the hour when Ephron Mason-Clark crossed from the right for Malakai Mars to get a shot in.
Then, two minutes later, they had the opening they wanted when Mullins’ short backpass was intercepted by Blackman, who was brought down by Shea.
Ref Busby initially showed the Town keeper a red card, but then changed it to a yellow, presumably having remembered the new law change where a player does not have to be sent off if a genuine attempt to play the ball has been made when giving away a penalty.
Jack Taylor tucked the spot-kick away to give the north Londoners the lead, but it was wiped out within two minutes when Lee latched onto a loose ball and had Charlie Clough back-pedalling towards his own box.
As the striker reached the edge of the area, he left fly with another curling right-footed shot that again beat Ross, and this time found its way inside the post for a cracking equaliser.
Barnet responded with a 69th-minute effort from Fonguck that flew over, then Cook had two good chances to give the Hatters the lead – the first a curling 70th-minute shot that went over the bar, and then a slide-rule shot that Ross did well to save with his right boot after Justin had slipped the midfielder into the box.
In between those two chances, Lee bent another effort from a similar position to which he had scored, but this one was well off target, before Taylor saw a shot from distance deflected wide as the game took on a real end-to-end feel.
A good move down the Town left involving Mpanzu and Senior saw the left-back find Lee in the box once more, but this time the striker’s 87th-minute shot was blocked almost at source as the Hatters stepped up their search for a winner.
It almost came – twice – a minute into time added on, first when Cook’s through ball put Lee in the clear, only for Ross to once again stick out a big size nine to turn it away. Then, from the follow-up, Mpanzu skipped past a couple of challenges in the box, only to find the keeper once again saving low down to his right.
It went to penalties, and with Berry the only man not to score for the Hatters – Ross saving low to his left – and Shea diving the same way to save well from Tutonda before Santos’ blast flew over the bar, the night ended on a positive point.
TOWN: Shea, Justin, Mullins ©, Famewo, Senior, Mpanzu, Berry, D’Ath, Cook, Jarvis, E Lee. Subs: Read, Musonda, James, Mead, Tomlinson, Neufville, Isted (GK)
Goals: Lee 65
Penalties scored: Lee, Cook, Justin, Mpanzu. Missed: Berry
BARNET: Ross, Clough, Santos ©, J Taylor, Tutonda, Bover (Shomotum 73), Fonguck, Blackman (Kyei 69), Mason-Clark, Mars (Aghadiuno 61), Pascal. Subs: Akinola, H Taylor, Smith, McKenzie-Lyle
Yellows: Bover, Tutonda
Goals: J Taylor (pen) 63
Penalties scored: J Taylor, Fonguck, Shomotum. Missed: Tutonda, Santos
REFEREE: John Busby
ATT: 1,530 (68 away)