Luton’s unwanted run comes to an end
LUTON’S wait for a league win is over and assistant manager Terry Harris admits relief is the overriding emotion.
Craig Mackail-Smith’s penalty moments before the hour mark was enough for Town to seal victory, after the striker was fouled by Ryan Tafazolli.
“It’s a relief,” said Harris. “It was a little bit nervous at the end which is understandable as we’ve conceded four goals in the last minute recently, which is something I haven’t experienced in my career.
“We said to the players ‘for 60 minutes it was excellent, for the last 30 it was nervy’ and it will be. But hopefully that will stop as the games go on now.
“It’s natural as we wanted to get the train rolling again and I thought we played some good football. Craig Mackail-Smith up front was absolutely magnificent, he didn’t give the back two a moment’s rest and got his rewards with the penalty.”
Mansfield had their chances too, with Luton keeper Mark Tyler making some excellent stops from Matt Green and Craig Westcarr in particular.
The Stags were indebted to a fine save from Brian Jensen early on, as he showed good reflexes to parry Jonathan Smith’s low shot.
Mansfield then came close themselves as home skipper Steve McNulty slipped in the area as Matt Green swivelled to shoot, denied by Tyler’s legs.
Moments before halftime, Luton thought they had the lead in stunning fashion as Mackail-Smith connected with a wonderful overhead volley, but a raised linesman’s flag saw the goal disallowed for offside.
Luton did break the deadlock on 58 minutes though, as Mackail-Smith was tugged back in the area by Tafazolli who avoided a red card from referee Kevin Johnson.
Mackail-Smith took the honours himself though, blasting down the middle to beat Jensen.
Craig Westcarr was close to an instant response, firing low at Tyler, before a crucial fingertip stop from the Hatters goalkeeper saw Jack Thomas’ long-ranger flicked past the post.
And Stags boss Adam Murray was left to lament a lack of cutting edge at Kenilworth Road. He said: “We had a chance in the first half and should have scored.
“Then second half we dominated the game and gave away a stupid penalty.You can’t come away to a place like this and miss one-on-ones.
“For the penalty, we got ourselves into a muddle at the back and to be fair to Mackail-Smith, it was good movement. That was the difference, that little bit of movement where they got in and that’s the fine lines.
“We weren’t ruthless. We had a lot of play in their final third and it’s not bounced for us or we’ve not anticipated where it’s going to go.”
STAR MAN MARK TYLER