PICTURES BY GLENN ALCOCK PHOTOGRAPHY
Playing in difficult wet conditions at Bell Close, in front of a bumper crowd of 868, it was 0-0 at half time.
The youthful Luton side went ahead in the 81st minute and it looked like Leighton were going out of the competition until Luke Pyman scored in the first minute of added time after a mistake by the Hatters’ goalkeeper. Staying at 1-1 at the final whistle, the tie went straight to penalties.
The visitors missed two spot kicks, so with success for James Towell, Ashton Campbell, Luke Pyman and Ross Adams the underdogs went through to the next round 4-2, sparking scenes of great celebration in the home camp.
“It was a fantastic evening - and all credit to the groundstaff and volunteers for getting the game on after all the rain,” said manager Paul Bonham.
“It was a brilliant night for the fans and everyone involved.”
Luton were a very young side with some scholars, but three of their players had made first team appearances.
“We defended really well as a team in the first half and looking back we had two or three good chances and could have been winning the game,” he said.
“In the second half we totally matched them and their goal came when we switched off defensively.
“But rather than giving the game away and letting them in for another, we really kicked on for the last ten minutes and pinned them, with Luke Pyman popping up to score the last-minute equaliser.
“Penalties are always a lottery, but ours were clinincal. There were some great penalties from us and we fully deserved to win overall.
“With just under 900 fans at the game there was a really great atmosphere and scenes after we scored. You could feel the tension and everyone enjoyed it.
“It’s great to give back to all the volunteers and everyone working at the club and it was a nice distraction from the league. There was no pressure on us so we could enjoy it. Moments like that are rewards for all the hard work you put in.
“Whoever we play in the semi-finals we will be underdogs again, so we will just go out and enjoy it.”
Leighton were due to be back in league action in the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division on Saturday, hosting Leverstock Green, but the game was postponed because of the weather.
Tonight (Tuesday) Town have a trip to Ardley United, who are tenth, in the Dudley Latham Memorial (Premier Division) Cup.
“It will be a really tough game,” said Bonham. “But we are approaching it to win, with one eye on Harpenden on Saturday.”
Town are still third in the table with 55 points from 28 games, behind New Salamis, who drew 1-1 with Harpenden at the weekend, the leaders on 63 points after 27 and Risborough Rangers on 61 points having played 24.
Hadley in fourth are on 52 from 25 games.
Fifth placed Harpenden, Leighton’s next league hosts, are on 48 points after 28 outings.
“They are doing quite well at the moment and we expect the game to be another very tough test. But we are going into it with a lot of confidence to come away with all three points.”