Laird strike secures famous win at Luton
Luton Town 0 Stevenage Boro 1 A fantastic late strike by Scott Laird earned Boro the bragging rights at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday evening. The young defender s sublime 85th minute strike gave Graham Westley s side three vital points in their hunt for p
Luton Town 0 Stevenage Boro 1
A fantastic late strike by Scott Laird earned Boro the bragging rights at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday evening.
The young defender's sublime 85th minute strike gave Graham Westley's side three vital points in their hunt for promotion and prompted the home fans to call for the head of Hatters' boss Mick Harford.
It was the least Boro deserved having been denied a blatant penalty towards the end of the first half when Mitchell Cole was fouled by Ed Asafu-Adjaye inside the penalty area.
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Boro appeared to have the measure of a surprisingly lacklustre Luton side for most of the evening but it looked like they would have to settle for a point as clear-cut chances were at a premium.
But up popped Laird late on to fire home a memorable winner and secure a famous win.
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Westley made two changes from the side that drew with Altrincham as Joel Byrom shrugged off a slight knock to partner Darren Murphy in central midfield while Michael Brough dropped to right back in place of Eddie Odhiambo.
Charlie Griffin was handed a start in place of Lee Boylan, who didn't make the match day 16, with the former Salisbury man paired with Chris Beardsley up front.
Crowd congestion meant the kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes and Luton looked like their heads were still in the changing room when the match finally started as Boro took charge.
Drury had been handed a free role by Westley and the former Lewes man certainly looked lively and came close to opening the scoring in the 12th minute.
The 26-year-old pressured Hatters defender Alan White into a mistake and he wriggled free before unleashing a left-footed shot from 12 yards that, fortunately for the home side, deflected just over the bar off George Pilkington.
A succession of corners underlined Boro's superiority while Luton lacked any kind of presence up front as Tom Craddock and Asa Hall struggled to get any change out of Michael Bostwick and Mark Roberts.
However, for all Boro's impressive approach play they failed to make Hatters' goalkeeper Mark Tyler make a save in the first half.
They were almost made to pay as well when, against the run of play, Luton almost took the lead. Adam Newton skipped inside Scott Laird before scuffing a shot that ran perfectly for Hall.
The makeshift striker suddenly had just Day to beat inside the six-yard area but the Boro shot-stopper rushed off his line to smother his shot and the travelling fans breathed a huge sigh of relief.
But it was the Luton faithful counting their lucky stars six minutes before half-time when Stevenage were denied a stonewall penalty.
Some fantastic work by Drury in the centre circle ended when he sprayed the ball out wide to Cole, who had isolated himself against Asafu-Adjaye. The former Grays showed the Luton full back a clean pair of heels until he was unceremoniously hacked down inside the box.
Everyone waited for the referee to point to the spot but Ian Smedley waved away Boro's appeals to the utter consternation of the visitors. When the ball eventually went out of play the Stevenage players surrounded the official with Cole talking himself into a booking but there was no getting away from the fact the referee had got the first major decision of the contest completely wrong.
There was an ugly incident just before half-time when Darren Murphy and Kevin Nicholls clashed with the Luton man picking up a yellow card for appearing to deliberately stand on the Irishman's foot.
Boro still looked the more likely to break the deadlock at the start of the second half with Cole having a snapshot from a tight angle that was easily saved by Tyler at his near post.
Luton did however start to enjoy more possession and Mark Roberts would have had his heart in his mouth when he miscued a Rossi Jarvis cross just wide of Chris Day's right-hand post.
Drury had a decent curling effort in the 55th minute that Tyler did well to save but Boro's best opening arrived just after the hour-mark when Beardsley was presented with a golden opportunity.
The former Kettering man latched on to Byrom's through ball to get in behind the Luton back four and his dangerous cross was cleared inside his own six-yard box by Asafu-Adjaye straight back to the Boro front man with just Tyler to beat.
Beardsley took aim but shot straight at the Luton 'keeper and the ball was scrambled to safety.
Yemi Odubade was next to go close when a mix-up between Freddie Murray and Tyler inside their own six-yard area almost saw the former Oxford man profit.
But as the contest wore on Luton began to exert more pressure and they should have taken the lead in the 68th minute when a howler from Michael Bostwick saw Plikington with just Day to beat from six yards out but the defender's effort crashed off the outside of the post.
Then came the moment the Boro faithful had been waiting for. Odhiambo picked the ball up midway in Luton's half and spotted out the corner of his eye the buccaneering run of Laird down the left.
Odhiambo's perfectly weighted pass meant the former Plymouth man didn't have to break his stride and he rifled an unstoppable left foot shot past Tyler.
The closing stages were not without its frights for Boro however and only a remarkable save by Day prevented Claude Gnapka's 20-yard drive from nestling in the bottom corner.
Luton Town (4-4-2): Tyler 7, Asafu-Adjaye 5 (Gnapka 65, 7), White 5, Pilkington 6, Murray 6, Newton 7, Nicholls 5 (Wright 80), Jarvis 6, Howells 6 (Charles 87), Hall 6, Craddock 6. Subs not used: Blackett, Gore.
Boro (4-3-3): Day 8, Brough 7, Bostwick 7, Roberts 8, Laird 8, Drury 7 (Odhiambo 73, 7), Murphy 7, Byrom 7, Cole 7 (Odubade 60, 7), Beardsley 7 (Vincenti 84), Griffin 7. Subs not used: Subs not used: Bayes, Albrighton.
Referee: Ian Smedley (Derbyshire)
Attendance: 8,223 (793)