The Hatters came back from a goal down once again to earn a point and preserve their unbeaten record at Wycombe Wanderers this afternoon.
Joe Jacobson netted a 15th minute penalty to put the Chairboys ahead in a first half in which Nathan Jones’ side struggled to get going.
But after goalkeeper James Shea had pulled off a penalty save from the same taker just after the hour, the Hatters fought back to make it 14 matches without defeat on their visits to Adams Park, Matty Pearson nodding in his second goal of the season with just over 20 minutes to go.
It could have been even more fruitful with new loan signing Eunan O’Kane starring in a terrific second-half display in which Elliot Lee, Dan Potts, Harry Cornick and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu all went close, the woodwork denying the latter, but they had to settle for a point after coming from behind for a third game this season to take something.
Jones had made two changes from last week’s 3-2 win over Shrewsbury, with James Justin and James Collins coming into the starting line-up, with Jorge Grant dropping to the bench and Danny Hylton missing out completely through injury.
O’Kane featured in the matchday squad immediately after his move from Leeds United, with Alan McCormack and Alan Sheehan returning after injury to take their places alongside him on the bench.
The first chance went Wycombe’s way in the second minute, when Anthony Stewart volleyed into the side-netting from ten yards after a Jacobson free-kick from deep found its way into his path via Glen Rea’s head.
Then, after Sonny Bradley had been booked for a foul on ex-Hatters striker Craig Mackail-Smith, Chairboys midfielder Randell Williams saw a glancing header go wide of the far post.
The Hatters’ first sight of goal came in the 13th minute when, after Jack Stacey made good progress down the right, Bradley rose highest to meet Andrew Shinnie’s corner and send a header goalwards that Dominic Gape did well to clear off the line.
Within a minute, the hosts had the lead – captain Matt Bloomfield racing onto a throughball from Gape and forcing Bradley into a challenge that referee Darren England was quick to penalise with a penalty. Jacobson did the rest from 12 yards, Shea diving the right way but unable to keep it out.
Stacey was proving the Town’s most effective outlet down the right flank, but an inviting cross was too difficult for Mpanzu to control, and then – when Justin, playing on the left of the midfield diamond – scooped the ball through for Collins, a linesman’s flag went up for offside as his chip came back off the crossbar.
It took until the 37th minute of a scrappy game for the next attempt on target, Shea getting his body safely behind a 20-yard shot from Williams after Akinfenwa had tussled with Pearson for high ball pumped into the box.
The Chairboys were in again soon after when Akinfenwa intercepted a pass from Collins, intended for Pearson, on the halfway line and played Mackail-Smith in for a clear run on goal. Bradley got back this time and stood the former Town man up, before expertly nicking the ball off his toe as he tried to trick his way into the area.
Jones decided against making a change at the break, and it was the hosts who would make the first substitution, captain Bloomfield forced off through injury just four minutes after the restart, although the Town’s wasn’t long in coming, Cornick on for Justin by the 53rd minute.
The ex-Bournemouth man went up front alongside Collins, with Lee dropping into the number ten role at the tip of the midfield diamond and although the Town mounted some pressure, there were no real chances before referee England awarded a second penalty in the 58th minute.
Mpanzu had tracked back well into the right-back position, but his block on a Wycombe cross went just out of play by the corner flag, and Jacobson delivered another set-piece into the box.
Collins made an attempt to head clear at the near post, but his arm was raised and the ball struck his hand, although the Hatters players claimed the striker had been pushed as he made his way off the post.
Referee England initially showed a yellow card to Rea, but after being called over by fourth official Stuart Burt, he showed it to Collins – and three minutes had passed by the time Jacobson got to take the spot-kick.
Shea dived to his left again, and with Jacobson going the same way as with his first, the Town goalkeeper pulled off a wonderful save. Within seconds the Hatters goalkeeper was called into action again, this time to tip a header from Akinfenwa over the bar, but the spark had been lit.
In the 63rd minute Mpanzu tried to break through into the box, and as the ball bounced loose, Potts lashed it into the top corner of the hosts’ goal, although referee England had already whistled for handball against the left-back. Town were making inroads though.
Jones introduced O’Kane soon after and by the 68th minute, we had parity. Lee was probing on the left of the Wycombe penalty area, and after he got to the byline for a second time, goalkeeper couldn’t hold his cross and Pearson was right on the spot to head over the line.
Shea had to be equal to an Akinfenwa volley two minutes later, but Lee was having a brilliant spell on the left, and in the 74th minute the Hatters forward found himself in oceans of space inside the area.
He delivered a precise cut-back for O’Kane to shoot at goal. The substitute’s effort was blocked, but the ball found its way back to Lee, who tantalisingly tricked his way past his man and whipped an inviting ball across the six-yard box, but the chance went begging.
O’Kane was linking up effectively with Lee, and after the Irishman found the former 25 yards from goal with a lovely clipped pass from the left touchline, Lee went for goal himself, although his shot was well off target.
It was all the Hatters now, one-way traffic, and in the 81st minute O’Kane wriggled his way along the left byline. His cut-back was half-cleared, but only as far as Mpanzu who sent a powerful shot in from the edge of the box, only for the thicket of legs to block it in the six-yard box.
O’Kane was revelling in being out on a pitch again, and with five minutes left he played Lee through on the left yet again, the striker checking back onto right foot in trademark fashion, looking to bend his 15-yard shot into the bottom corner, but keeper Ryan Allsop produced a fine fingertip save to deny him.
Wycombe were still having a go in what had developed into an end-to-end encounter, Shea seeing an effort from substitute Fred Onyedinma fly past his right post with four minutes left, then the Town keeper had to beat Stewart’s effort away from the edge of the box.
From the resulting corner, the Town broke four-on-one, Cornick leading the break from inside his own half. With Lee and Collins to his left, the substitute fed Potts to his right, but Allsop was there to thwart his effort that was destined for the bottom corner.
Still, with 90 minutes up, both sides went for it, Jason McCarthy slicing wide for Wycombe and Bryn Morris calling Shea into action again, either side of a 25-yard shot from Mpanzu that Allsop tipped onto the post at full stretch, then gathered the rebound as Collins looked to pounce.
It was a pulsating finish to an end-to-end second half, with the Town satisfied to take a point from one of the sides promoted alongside them last May.
TOWN: Shea, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley, Potts, Rea ©, Justin (Cornick 53), Mpanzu, Shinnie (O’Kane 64), Collins, Lee. Subs: McCormack, Grant, Jones, Sheehan, Stech
Goals: Pearson 68
Yellows: Bradley, Collins
WYCOMBE: Allsop, McCarthy, Jombati, Stewart, Jacobson, Morris, Bloomfield © (Thompson 49), Gape, Mackail-Smith (Onyedinma 71), Williams (Kashket 80), Akinfenwa. Sub: Ma-Kalambay (GK), Saunders, Harriman, Freeman.
Goal: Jacobson (pen) 15
Yellows: Morris, Thompson, Stewart
REFEREE: Darren England