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REPORT | LUTON TOWN 2 AFC WIMBLEDON 2

Last-gasp Dons leveller denies the Hatters all three points

23 April 2019

The Hatters were pegged back by a stoppage-time equaliser after a more-than dominant display over struggling AFC Wimbledon, with Elliot Lee and James Collins' first-half goals cancelled out by former Town loanee Joe Pigott and Steve Seddon.

The 13-month unbeaten run at Kenilworth Road continues, with the 2-2 draw setting up another test away at Burton next weekend, where a win could seal the Hatters' promotion to the Championship.

With Sunderland and Portsmouth to play each other on Saturday, the Hatters are still very much in control of their own fate, with just two league games left to play.

The home side could have been out of sight this evening if it had not been for some stunning saves from Aaron Ramsdale to keep his side in the contest.

Mick Harford made one change to the starting XI that won at Accrington Stanley on Saturday, with Andrew Shinnie returning into midfield following his one match suspension. James Justin began the game in the usual full-back position with Alan Sheehan missing out through injury.

Marek Stech retained his spot between the sticks after his shut out over Stanley and Matty Pearson made his 50th appearance for the club.

It was the visitors who began quickest, Anthony Hartigan lofting a smart ball through to Joe Pigott who thrashed a low cross that was just about dealt with by the Hatters backline. But the Town soon had a chance of their own two minutes later, Kazenga LuaLua testing Ramsdale from distance, saving well down to his right.

The Hatters settled into their stride, playing some lovely passing football, LuaLua finding James Collins who couldn’t quite control in front of the Dons’ net.

The opener soon came though, taking just eight minutes. Shinnie played a tantalising pass into Stacey, who thought he was fouled in the box but found Elliot Lee, who side-footed the ball in, wrong footing the keeper with a strike that dinked off the far post and into the net.

The Town came back again with another Shinnie, Stacey and Lee compination, the latter managing to pick out Collins who let rip, slicing the shot wide but nevertheless, it was another fine counter attack from the home side.

Ramsdale kept the Dons in it after a misplaced header from Will Nightingale sent LuaLua on his way, the striker unable to squeeze his attempt under the Dons stopper, making himself big to deny the Hatters a second.

The Hatters then had one cleared off the line, Anthony Wordsworth in the right place at the right time to block Lee’s acrobatic attempt, Stacey then flicked an unbelievable touch past his marker, only to be stopped when the linesman picked up a slight injury and had to be stretchered off early. A manic five minutes which could have seen the Hatters three-up.

The Dons can be a real force on the road though, remaining unbeaten away from Kingsmeadow since February. They were level mid-way through the first period when Wordsworth found Piggot unmarked, the ex-Luton man glancing a good header past a stunned Stech who had not been tested.

Scott Wagstaff denied the Hatters again from the goal line, Luke Berry rising well and planting his header towards the back post where Wagstaff was waiting to head away. Ramsdale was well beaten.

Toby Sibbick pulled a good save out of Stech as the game began to open up, both teams hunting down a win for completely different rewards. Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu also placed a delightful pass through to Stacey who thought he was through, only to be brought down on the far-right side of the box.

Justin stepped up to float in a pinpoint cross onto the head of Collins, who powered his header into the net to score his 24th of the campaign to restore the home side’s lead in this energetic and entertaining first half.

But the Hatters had to be alert, Ramsdale punting a long-ball down field into Pigott, who couldn’t get away from Sonny Bradley, the centre-half just about getting his foot to the ball in a sliding challenge to evert the danger.

The Dons keeper was called into action once more in the final moments of the half, LuaLua using his strength to create enough time for Collins to make a darting run into the box and hit a strike towards the bottom corner, but Ramsdale, who had pulled off a few good saves, was defian.

The Hatters refused to give the ball away at the beginning of the second 45, holding onto the ball for more or less five minutes, just patiently looking to find that opening. Lee had a go from the far-left side of the pitch but Ramsdale welcomed the effort into his arms at the near post.

The Hatters players were queuing up as the game ticked into its 60th minute. Ramsdale pulled off two more vital stops to deny the Hatters, the first after Shinnie’s shot took a little deflection on its way, the keeper somehow twisting in the air to adjust his position and push it wide of the mark.

The second came when Justin thumped a strike that was destined for the top-corner, only to be denied by the young keeper again, who was making the goal look about three foot wide by this point.

LuaLua thought he’d secured a penalty when Berry played the striker in behind his marker. The home fans were convinced it was a foul, as did the Luton players, but play continued.

Justin then fizzed a fierce cross into the box that Berry just couldn’t get on the end of. The Hatters were knocking on the door, desperately trying to put the game to bed but the Dons continued applying pressure of their own, not testing Stech as such but still forcing their way into the Luton penalty area.

Shinnie, who had been magnificent misplaced a back heel, gifting the opponents a glorious chance to level the tie. The Dons countered at pace, ending with a Steve Seddon header that should have been in, but the midfielder got it narrowly wrong and sent it past the post.

The Dons continued bringing on their forwards as the Hatters were in limbo of trying to see out the match, but also catch a third on the counter. It became less scintillating and more of a battle.

Mpanzu used his full body to block the run of Pinnock as the game drew closer to the end to block a Dons attack. As the match entered stoppage time, Stacey crashed an effort against the bar but still it wouldn’t find its way in, allowing the resilient visitors into the match and claim what they came for.

Seddon redeeming himself for an earlier miss, jumping on a loose ball after Stech made the initial block. The Hatters gave everything in those final few minutes to try and keep the score in their favour but in the end, it wasn’t to be.

The Town will now travel to Burton at the weekend in another huge game in this fascinating title race.

 

TOWN: Stech, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley ©, Justin, Mpanzu, Shinnie, Berry (Baptiste 89), Lee (Moncur 81), Collins, LuaLua (Cornick 81). Subs: Cornick, Connolly, Moncur, Cummings, Panter, Shea.

Goals: Lee 8, Collins 39

Yellows: LuaLua, Berry

 

DONS: Ramsdale, Nightingale ©, Wagstaff (Connolly 63), Hartigan (Pinnock 76), Seddon, Hanson, Sibbick, McDonald (Thomas 46), Kalambayi, Pigott, Wordsworth. Subs: Soares, McLoughlin, Folivi, McDonnell (GK)

Goals: Pigott 28, Seddon 90+3

Yellows: Pigott, Seddon

REFEREE: Ben Toner


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