Town surrender to City late show as discontent grows

Blue Square Bet Premier: Luton Town 1 (1) York City 2 (0)

TOWN’S play-off hopes were dealt a major blow as they surrendered a 1-0 half-time lead to bogey team York City who triumphed 2-1 at Kenilworth Road this evening, writes Mark Wood.

A sharp strike from Andre Gray had given the Hatters the perfect start, but they began to fade and City grabbed two goals in the last 10 minutes through Patrick McLaughlin’s deflected effort and James Meredith’s sniping to snatch victory as Luton’s winless run stretched to seven games.

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Angry scenes followed the final whistle as fans directed their frustrations at manager Gary Brabin and the board as fears continue to grow that Luton will miss out on a top-five finish.

Town named an unchanged side from the one that was held to a 1-1 home draw by Grimsby Town on Saturday while, as predicted, York named maligned former Hatter Jason Walker in their starting XI.

Luton made a bright start as Alex Lawless released Gray, but his low cross was cut out before it could reach strike partner Danny Crow.

And the hosts snatched a vitally important lead as Gray smashed home his second goal in two games after just five minutes. A quick throw was flicked on by Crow and Gray muscled his way past Chris Smith before drilling home from an almost impossible angle into the far corner.

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Rattled, York panicked, as the Hatters proceeded to take the game to them with Lawless again finding Gray, but the on-fire striker could only roll tamely at Michael Ingham on nine minutes.

In the ascendancy Luton should have doubled their soon after when Chris Doig got in a pickle as he was robbed by Crow on the edge of the box. Having got the ball under control Doig was able to recover to block and, although the ball rebounded to Gray, Ingham did well to spread himself to save.

York threatened when Matty Blair was just unable to get on the end of Lanre Oyebanjo’s near-post cross, but it was the Hatters who continued to look the more likely.

A superb Jake Howells pass unlocked the City defence on 20 minutes and as Robbie Willmott skipped past his man he unselfishly tried to square for Lawless whose effort was deflected behind.

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Janos Kovacs almost seemed to have the shirt pulled off his back by Ben Gibson as he glanced wide from a corner, while Godfrey Poku put in a great challenge to Patrick McLaughlin a shooting chance after Mark Tyler had fisted clear.

The Hatters were playing some entertaining stuff and went close again on 23 minutes when Crow and Curtis Osano combined and the right-back dragged his effort just past the near post.

But Town were given a real wake-up call just before the half-hour mark when McLaughlin slipped

Jamie Reed through but Tyler saved astutely at his feet.

And the alarm bells were really ringing moments later when City cut through Town’s defence and Oyebanjo’s low drive thudded against the post and thankfully out.

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McLaughlin fired a woeful effort well wide as York started to make their numbers in midfield tell and, when Walker was bundled over in the box by Osano, nothing was given.

The game grew scrappy and continued in a similar vein after the break as Luton were outbattled for long periods.

A good cross saw Blair head wide before Town should have doubled their lead on 53 minutes. Dogged work by Poku saw the ball bounce kindly through to the onrushing Gray but, one-on-one with Ingham, the keeper saved well with his legs and the ball rebounded off the striker and away.

The Minstermen looked dangerous every time they went forward though and Reed got in behind on 55 minutes but a combination of Tyler and Poku did well to thwart him.

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Reed again threatened moments later as City ratcheted up the pressure and Tyler had to be quickly out of his area to beat the striker to the ball.

Target man Craig McAllister was brought on to bulk up waning Hatters as Meredith whistled well wide for the rejuvenated Minstermen.

What looked a pointless Oyebanjo cross had to be touched on to the bar and over by Tyler on 67 minutes and it was virtually one-way traffic as York searched for an equaliser.

A speculative Poku effort was miles off target while Gray got a hugely warm round of applause as he hobbled off to be replaced by Stuart Fleetwood.

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Oyebanjo’s long-range effort took a nick on its way behind for a corner as York laid siege to Luton’s goal.

Howells was the third Town player in the book for a meaty challenge on Walker and from the free-kick City levelled with 10 minutes to go.

A free-kick was rolled to McLaughlin on the edge of the box and his rasping drive through a crowded box took a deflection as it crept into the bottom left-hand corner.

A rare Luton free-kick was agonisingly out of the reach of Kovacs, but it was still City who dominated.

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And the Minstermen grabbed the lead with four minutes to go when Ashley Chambers’ thump from the edge of the box was parried by Tyler and Meredith was on hand to stab home the lose ball.

Substitute Eugen Bopp sent another long-range effort straight at Tyler, while at the other end Fleetwood’s deep cross found McAllister but his header was too easy for Ingham.

Six minutes of stoppage time were added and Town were inches away from levelling in the second added minute when McAllister’s knockdown found Kovacs, who had desperately been thrown into the attack, and his effort ran just wide.

McAllister could only volley just over from Howells’ cross at the death and more boos sounded at the death as chants of Brabin out rang out across the ground.

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Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Keith Keane, George Pilkington (C), Alex Lawless, Danny Crow (Craig McAllister 58), Robbie Willmott, Jake Howells, Curtis Osano, Godfrey Poku (Adam Watkins 85), Andre Gray (Stuart Fleetwood 73), Janos Kovacs. Substitutes not used: Shane Blackett, John Paul Kissock.

Minstermen (4-3-3): Michael Ingham, Lanre Oyebanjo, James Meredith, Chris Smith (C), Jamie Reed (Ashley Chambers 64), Jason Walker, Matty Blair, Jon Challinor (Eugen Bopp 69), Chris Doig, Patrick McLaughlin (Daniel Parslow 90+3), Ben Gibson. Substitutes not used: Adriano Moke, Matthew Blinkhorn.

Bookings: Willmott 40; Poku 63; Howells 80; Lawless 84; Walker 90+4.

Referee: S Bratt.

Assistant Referees: A Barney and G Taylor.

Fourth Official: J Hopkins.

Attendance: 5,925 (York 196).

Star Hatter: Andre Gray. Great strike for the goal and a tireless runner.