Shot-shy Hatters dig deep to hold on for Wrexham draw
Blue Square Bet Premier: Luton Town 0 (0) Wrexham 0 (0)
A frenetic encounter low on quality but high on endeavour saw few chances as Town were held to a goalless draw by Wrexham at Kenilworth Road this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.
Town made three changes from the side that went down 3-0 at Alfreton the week before. Strikers Jon Shaw, Scott Rendell and Stuart Fleetwood started following a mixture of suspensions and injuries as Jake Robinson dropped to the bench and Greg Taylor and Adam Watkins missed out entirely.
The visitors almost made the perfect start when Danny Wright threaded through Andy Bishop after just 34 seconds but his weak effort was easy for Mark Tyler.
JJ O’Donnell sent a well-placed free-kick into the wall and Andre Gray bizarrely lashed wide from range as Town’s pressure began to grow.
Good work by Rendell created the opening for O’Donnell to thrash just over while Shaw’s astute through ball released Gray who was just beaten to it by keeper Joslain Mayebi who had raced miles out of his box.
Jay Harris’ fine cross just eluded Adrian Cieslewicz on 14 minutes and, with Luton’s defence stretched, they should have taken the lead three minutes later with a swift break. Cieslewicz skipped past Jake Howells and Tyler’s stop did just enough to take the sting out of his effort as skipper Ronnie Henry raced back to clear off the line.
An injury to Howells then forced the Wales U21 off as he was replaced by Lathaniel Rowe-Turner on 21 minutes.
With neither side stamping their authority on the encounter Town went close midway through the half when O’Donnell’s free-kick was flashed just wide by Janos Kovacs at the far post while Bishop stole a march on Luton’s defence but was just unable to connect with a great ball into the box.
Both sides played out the remainder of a scrappy first half to go in goalless at the break.
The Hatters were given an early warning five minutes into the second half when some desperate defending resulted in the ball breaking to Johnny Hunt but his low curler went just past the far post.
Luton finally got a good ball into the box four minutes later but Rendell’s header from Henry’s delivery was straight at the keeper with referee then blowing up for a foul.
The referee’s whistle was dominating proceedings but he strangely decided only to warn Mayebi after the visiting keeper twice ignored his orders at a free-kick.
Wrexham then twice went close as Hunt’s drive was cleared by Kovacs and Dean Keates smashed a good chance well over before becoming the first man into the book for a blatant foul on Gray.
A second Luton substitution followed when Dan Walker made his first appearance of the season for the ineffective Fleetwood, before a Cieslewicz elbow appeared to leave Henry on the deck but nothing was given by the officials.
Referee C Knowles then took an age to allow Henry to rejoin the fray much to the further ire of the home crowd.
More than once Rowe-Turner was required to make a last-ditch challenge to save the Hatters, while Bishop miskicked at the vital moment on 71 minutes as the Red Dragons bossed the second half.
Speculative efforts from Walker and Rowe-Turner failed to trouble the keeper, while Kovacs headed wide from O’Donnell’s corner on 77 minutes as the games meandered to a draw.
Yaser Kasim came on at the expense of Gray and Town wasted a great chance to snatch the lead on 79 minutes when Shaw strangely chose to try and take Walker’s cross on his chest rather than head goalwards and the visitors were rescued by Neil Ashton’s astute challenge.
Finishing with more purpose Town crafted their best move of the game on 83 minutes but Rowe-Turner’s low drive at the far post was deflected behind for a corner as the Kenilworth Road end mistakenly celebrated a goal.
An open ending to the game saw Bishop’s shot blocked and Harris drag wide as both sides pushed for a winner.
Hanging on at the end Luton needed some desperate defending to keep the Welshmen out as Tyler’s firm hand turned Bishop’s low drive aside before he brilliantly cut out the follow-up cross as the game finished goalless.
Hatters (4-3-3): Mark Tyler, Dean Beckwith, Janos Kovacs, Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw, Scott Rendell, Jake Howells (Lathaniel Rowe-Turner 21), Stuart Fleetwood (Dan Walker 60), JJ O’Donnell, Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray (Yaser Kasim 77). Substitutes not used: Jake Robinson, Connor Essam.
Red Dragons (4-3-3): Joslain Mayebi, Stephen Wright, Neil Ashton, Martin Riley, Adrian Cieslewicz (Brett Ormerod 81), Jay Harris, Danny Wright (Robert Ogleby 82), Dean Keates (C), Johnny Hunt, Declan Walker, Andy Bishop. Substitutes not used: Andy Morrell, Glen Little, Chris Westwood.
Bookings: Keates 59.
Referee: C Knowles.
Assistant Referees: S Feerick and S Pawley.
Fourth Official: D Stobbart.
Attendance: 6,675 (319 Wrexham)
Star Hatter: Alex Lawless. Most composed player on the pitch for the Hatters.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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