Date: 26th January 2011 at 8:20pm
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Neil Woods made just one change to the side that had started against Crawley, with Michael Leary coming into midfield in place of Dean Sinclair who dropped to the bench.

Steve Watt continued at right back despite picking up his fifth booking of the season last saturday. A change in the FA rules brought in for this season means he will not face a ban.

It was the home team that set the early tempo and soon made clear their intentions to use both flanks to launch attacks. This strategy was probably due to the poor state of the pitch which was very heavy, particularly down the centre.

The Hatters bright start saw Andy Drury have a shot blocked, and then Claude Gnapka`s shot from the corner of the box brought a smart save from Kenny Arthur although the whistle blew for offside.

A terrific long cross-field pass from Matthew Barnes-Homer found Alex Lawless in space on the right. After easily beating Darran Kempson, he shot into the side netting.

For the first 20 minutes, Luton were the more composed team, looking sharper than the Mariners and were winning all of the loose balls. The Town back four were having to deal with a constant barrage of crosses. From one of these, the dangerous Barnes-Homer had a chance which Arthur dealt with comfortably.

When a rare Grimsby attack broke down, keeper Mark Tyler`s quick throw led to the opening goal in the 24th minute. He found Barnes-Homer in space on the left and his cross was met first time by Gnapka. The ball looped off the diving Arthur towards the goal and, despite a gallant attempt to clear by Bradley Wood, the ball was judged to have crossed the line and the goal was awarded to Luton.

The home side`s pressure continued relentlessly, with Lawless controlling the midfield, intelligent running from Gnapka and Barnes-Homer, and Drury`s constant supply of dangerous crosses from either wing.

Lawless ghosted into the Town box to meet a low centre from Barnes-Homer, but his effort from 15 yards fizzed past the foot of the post. Soon after, Lloyd Owusu headed over before Luton produced their best move of the game. The busy Lawless found Owusu who laid off a great pass into space for the onrushing Drury. Fortunately for the Mariners, his shot lacked power and was easily collected by Arthur.

With ten minutes of the half remaining, Grimsby had a little spell of their own. Firstly, Rob Eagle collected the ball in the centre circle, ran forward about 20 yards before unleashing a rocket that Tyler, diving to his right, managed to parry to safety. Then Alan Connell made space for himself, but his shot from distance was blocked by the home defence.

But the half drew to a close with the Hatters again on the attack, with Arthur gathering a free kick under his bar.

Half Time : Luton Town 1 Grimsby Town 0

Grimsby came out for the second half showing far more purpose than before the break. Eagle tested Tyler, again from distance, and then Makofo had his shot charged down, following good inter play between Connell and Peter Bore.

The Mariners were now pulling the strings themselves, knocking the ball around nicely, and finally offering some service to Connell and Makofo. Bore, anonymous in the first half, made a surging run down the right and pulled the ball back into the path of Watt, whose powerful drive was inches the wrong side of the upright.

Conversely from the first period, it was now the hosts who were being limited to counter attacks, although they always looked to be a threat when doing just that.

Connell tried to turn in the Luton box and when he was crowded out, he claimed a free kick when Tyler picked up the loose ball. With nothing given, Town came back on the attack and almost grabbed an equaliser. Makofo went on a positive solo run, darting between two defenders and rounding George Pilkington only to see Tyler somehow deflect the shot over the bar.

Grimsby almost fell for the sucker punch through a quick counter from Luton. The back line was caught square by a through ball down the inside right channel for Owusu. Thankfully, Kempson`s presence kept him wide and the resulting shot was screwed well wide of the target.

The mood inside Kenilworth Road was changing noticeably, becoming more impatient, with Grimsby now bossing proceedings. The Mariners had improved immensely and were now winning tackles, working for each other and, consequently, causing Luton to defend much deeper than in the first half.

Eagle started Grimsby`s best passage of play after collecting the ball just outside his own penalty area. The move then involved Makofo, Sinclair and Bore, and when the Town cross was headed out it fell to Eagle. His shot was blocked with Tyler well beaten.

Watt unnecessarily conceded a free kick to Luton by the corner flag. Drury`s delivery was headed wide by Zdenek Kroca, who really should have done better.

However, the majority of play was still taking place in the Luton half, although the Mariners were being largely restricted to long range efforts, as Bore demonstrated with an over ambitious attempt that flew well over the bar.

The last ten minutes saw the game open up, with play switching from end to end as Grimsby tried to get the equaliser, whilst Luton tried to put the game to bed.

A poor clearance by the Grimsby defence was played straight back through for substitute Jason Walker, but his weak shot didn`t trouble Arthur in goal. Shortly after that, Gnapka shot well wide, when a cross would have certainly been the better option.

Eagle, tireless for Town in this half, laid the ball square across the edge of the box to Connell. He took one touch before curling a left foot chip over Tyler, but the ball hit the top of the bar and bounced over.

In the 90th minute Lawless committed a foul, but the referee played the advantage to the Mariners, only for Keane to fell another Grimsby player. Both Luton offenders were then shown yellow cards.

The three minutes of added time saw each side have a final chance. Walker again got past the Grimsby back line. Although Arthur made a fine save just inside his box, the linesman ruled that Walker had been offside.

Finally, with just ten seconds left on the clock, Eagle struck from 18 yards, only for Tyler to pull off a stunning save. He must have seen the ball late after it came through a ruck of players, but he got down to his left to turn the shot away for a corner, and so deny Grimsby a leveller.

Full Time : Luton Town 1 Grimsby Town 0

Speaking to Premier Sports TV, straight after the televised match, manager Neil Woods said,
“We have to believe that whoever we are playing, we can win and score goals, and I didn’t get that feeling in the first half where we showed them too much respect.
“In the second half we come out, I thought we were magnificent and unlucky not to get something out of it. We hit the bar and their goalkeeper made a couple of good saves.
“The players are frustrated in there because they know from the second half that they could have got something out of it, but a game lasts for 90 minutes, not 45”.

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