A controversial penalty earned Luton Town a share of the spoils after they played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Cambridge United.
There appeared to be little contact between Andre Gray and U’s goalkeeper Nick Pope as the striker went down in the box in the 66th minute. But referee Brakespear pointed to the spot and Solomon Taiwo stepped up to level the scores.
Tom Shaw’s precise finish put United ahead in the first half, but namesake Jon Shaw made it all square just after the restart with a close range header.
U’s substitute Nathan Blissett put his team back in front with his first touch, powering home a Harrison Dunk free kick. But Taiwo’s spot kick four minutes later meant the points were shared.
Richard Money made two changes to the starting line-up, with Josh Coulson and Sam Smith coming into the side at the expense of Luke Berry and Rory McAuley, both of whom dropped to the bench. Luton’s team contained one ex-United player in form of Simon Ainge, who was on loan at the R Costings Abbey Stadium in 2009. Another former U’s man, Scott Rendell, was on the bench.
Smith’s recall meant Liam Hughes moved out to the right flank, and he was prominent as United dominated the early stages. Shaw’s runs forward from midfield were also causing the Hatters defence some problems, and the ex-Kidderminster man registered the first shot on target with a powerful effort struck straight at Mark Tyler.
Shaw was then denied by a good last-ditch tackle from Jake Goodman, but made no mistake in the 20th minute. Hughes’ cross was headed half clear to the midfielder, who struck an accurate first-time shot through a sea of legs and into the bottom corner of the net.
Back came Luton, and David Martin let fly from 25 yards but saw Nick Pope dive across and make a good save, holding on to his powerful shot. Pope made an even better save four minutes later when Andre Gray laid the ball off to Martin, whose goalbound effort was superbly parried by the on-loan Charlton Athletic goalkeeper.
United suffered a blow just before half-time when Josh Coulson went down in a heap after a robust challenge from Gray. The defender had to be stretchered off, neck in a brace, with Rory McAuley his replacement.
Luton were level just after half-time. Though McAuley’s tackle halted Gray in the box, United were unable to clear their lines, and Martin seized on the loose ball and crossed for the unmarked Jon Shaw to head home from close range.
Kevin Roberts went close with a header from a Shaw corner, before the U’s regained the lead through substitute Blissett, who is returning to Kidderminster next week at the end of his loan spell. Having just entered the field in place of Sam Smith, Blissett was in the right place to head home Dunk’s wicked inswinging free kick and mark his final appearance in amber and black with a goal.
United’s lead lasted just three minutes however, as Taiwo sent Pope the wrong way from the penalty spot following Gray’s tumble.
The U’s put Luton under some pressure in the closing stages, but were unable to find the net for a third time. The closest they came was when Dunk met a cut-back from Blissett but saw his shot deflect off Goodman and fly just wide of the post.
At the final whistle director of football Jez George set off on his centenary walk, and is set to arrive at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank ground in time for United’s match there on Bank Holiday Monday.
Man of the Match: Harrison Dunk – The winger’s pace caused Luton’s defence all sorts of problems.
Cambridge United: Pope, Roberts, Haynes-Brown, Coulson (McAuley 45), Wassmer, Dunk, Hughes, Jarvis, Shaw, Elliott, Smith (Blissett 61). Subs not used: Pugh, Berry, Ross.
Luton Town: Tyler, Ainge, Howells, Rowe-Turner, McNulty, Martin (Wall 65), Goodman, Taiwo, Smith, Shaw, Gray. Subs not used: Rendell, Robinson, Brill, Griffiths.
Referee: Mr C.Brakespear
Attendance: 3,217 (away 737)
FULL TIME: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2-2 LUTON TOWN
16.56: That's full-time, entertaining match, shame about that penalty decision otherwise we may have been celebrating a victory. Still, good stuff from both sides at times.
16.52: Four minutes to be added.
16.50: Couple of U's corners in quick succession, the second of which finds McAuley at the back post. His knock down falls to Elliott, whose shot on the turn flies over.
16.45: U's free kick on the edge of the box after a foul on Elliott. Dunk's free kick is low though, and into the wall. Disappointing.
16.41: Haynes-Brown gets forward and wellies a cross-shot wide for United, then moments later the same player puts in a centre which is just too high for Hughes.
16.36: Good play from Blissett sees him get away from his man wide left and pull the ball back for Dunk, whose shot deflects just wide of the post. Close. There's some pushing from the resulting corner and Luton have a free kick.
16.34: YELLOW CARD: Long cross from the Hatters' left eventually reaches Ainge, whose low shot is scooped away by Pope and put behind. United clear the resulting corner and Dunk's attempted break away is halted illegally by Smith, yellow card.
16.27: YELLOW CARD. Goalscorer Taiwo late on Shaw, and goes into the book. Martin is on his way off too, Wall his replacement.
16.26: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2-2 LUTON TOWN. Penalty Luton, and United will feel aggrieved about that. Ball loops up off Wassmer's head towards Gray, and as Pope rushes out to meet him the striker throws himself to the ground. Pope didn't make any attempt to tackle him, just stood his ground, but the referee pointed to the spot. SOLOMON TAIWO steps up and sends Pope the wrong way, level again.
16.23: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2-1 LUTON TOWN. What a first touch from NATHAN BLISSETT. Dunk's free kick is a beauty, inswinging with pace and at a great height for Blissett to head
16.22: United make another change, Nathan Blissett on for Sam Smith. And just afterwards Liam Hughes does well to charge down the right and win a free kick off Howells.
16.17: McNulty heads behind after a Dunk cross, U's corner. In it comes from Shaw, Roberts climbs highest but heads across goal and wide.
16.15: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1-1 LUTON TOWN. Luton level after a lovely sliding tackle from Rory McAuley foils Martin in the box. Sadly for us Martin retrieves the ball and delivers a great cross which JON SHAW glances past Pope from six yards, no chance for the keeper, all square.
16.11: Great play from Dunk, running at the heart of the Luton defence and laying the ball off to Smith, whose shot is into the side netting.
16.06: Back underway, this afternoon's attendance is 3,217 (away 737).
HALF TIME: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1-0 LUTON TOWN
15.51: There goes the half-time whistle, good half from the U's, who deservedly lead thanks to that Shaw goal. Coulson's injury has taken the gloss off what was a promising 45 minutes.
15.47: Applause for Coulson as he's stretchered off, neck in a brace. Hopefully that's just a precaution. McAuley on.
15.46: Two minutes stoppage time to be added, but at the moment Josh Coulson is down in a heap after a robust challenge from Gray. Coulson, who has been excellent so far for United, heading everything that comes near him, is holding his face and is now being helped on to a stretcher. Rory McAuley is primed and ready to replace him.
15.36: Dunk puts on the afterburners and finds Smith, but his attempted cross spins behind off Ainge. Shaw's corner is met by Hughes at the near post but he can only head over.
15.28: ... and that's an even better save from Pope, ball finds Gray in the box who holds it and feeds Martin again, but Pope dives to his right full stretch to scoop his goal-bound shot away to safety.
15.24: Martin goes for goal from distance but Pope makes a good stretching save, holding the ball too.
15.20: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1-0 LUTON TOWN. United lead through TOM SHAW. Hughes does ever so well to hold the ball up and deliver a tempting cross, which is headed away by Goodman to Shaw, who strikes a well-controlled half-volley which nutmegs a couple of defenders and finds it's way to the bottom corner past the unsighted Tyler. Deserved goal after United's early pressure, 1-0.
15.19: Elliott hooks the ball over the top, it holds up in the wind and Shaw almost gets the better for
15.14: Shaw seizes on a poor clearance and hits a half volley which Tyler holds comfortably enough, good start from United.
15.11: Dunk's free kick causes mild panic in the Luton box, but Jarvis scoops the ball back in and Smith is offside.
15.10: Elliott chopped down in full flight just inside Luton territory. However, Haynes-Brown's free kick is poor and easily cleared. However United come again, and Smith shows good determination to work the ball to Roberts, who goes down under challenge from Martin. Free kick in a wide position on the U's right.
15.03: Smith makes good progress down the left and puts in a low cross which McNulty shanks behind. Shaw's corner is headed away, Wassmer retrieves and floats it back into the box but Coulson's header is clutched easily by Tyler.
15.01: Early free kick for the U's floated in by Shaw, half-away to Jarvis who half-volleys well over.
15.00: The teams are out, and United will be attacking the Newmarket Road End in the first half. A goodly number of Hatters fans have made the short trip from Bedfordshire, good atmosphere at the Abbey today.
14.50: Just waiting for the teams now. Luton were 2-0 winners here earlier in the season in an FA Cup tie, Andre Gray and Jon Shaw on target. Last year's league fixture between the teams finished 1-1, Liam Hughes slamming in a late equaliser for United after Stuart Fleetwood had opened the scoring.
Cambridge United: Pope, Roberts, Haynes-Brown, Coulson, Wassmer, Dunk, Hughes, Jarvis, Shaw, Elliott, Smith. Subs: McAuley, Pugh, Berry. Blissett, Ross.
Luton Town: Tyler, Ainge, Howells, Rowe-Turner, McNulty, Martin, Goodman, Taiwo, Smith, Shaw, Gray. Subs: Rendell, Robinson, Wall, Brill, Griffiths.
14.30: TEAM NEWS. Richard Money makes two changes from the team that lost at Hyde, with Josh Coulson and Sam Smith coming in for Rory McAuley and Luke Berry. Smith will presumably play up front alongside Tom Elliott, with Liam Hughes being moved into a wide role.
One ex-U in the Luton side, right-back Simon Ainge, although another familiar face, Scott Rendell, is on the bench.
14.00: Good afternoon and welcome to the R Costings Abbey Stadium for this afternoon's Blue Square Bet Premier clash between Cambridge United and Luton Town. U's boss Richard Money will be looking for an improved performance after Tuesday's 2-1 draw at Hyde, while for the visitors three points is a must if they are to keep alive their faint play-off hopes.