Marek is magic for Jones and his Hatters
JAMES Collins’ superbly struck goal in first-half injury-time steered Luton into the FA Cup’s second round and inflicted a fourth straight defeat on Portsmouth.
However, while the scoreline suggested a close encounter, it did not reflect 90 minutes of a classic cup tie that was packed with exciting end-to-end action, with both goalkeepers producing outstanding performances.
Portsmouth’s Luke McGee had no chance of stopping Collins’ winner as he smashed the ball home from 15 yards after he was set free by Danny Hylton.
And just after the break Luton might have had a second but McGee at full stretch tipped Luke Berry’s shot onto the crossbar.
He also managed to keep out another effort from Collins after he had been put through by a mistake from defender Brandon Haunstrup.
However, his efforts were eclipsed by Luton’s Czech international keeper Marek Stech, who was announced as the man of the match to great acclaim.
His effort was summed up by Luton manager Nathan Jones, who said: “Portsmouth had a lot of chances in the second half but Marek did well whenever he was called upon.
“We had a lot of wonderful opportunities as well and it was a really good cup tie for the fans and I am delighted that we won it.”
As early as the 20th minute Stech managed to fingertip a powerful Brett Pitman shot onto the crossbar, and after the break as Portsmouth searched for an equaliser he somehow kept out a strong shot from Ben Close.
And while Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett was disappointed with the result, he too acknowledged the competitive quality of the game.
“It was an end-to-end game in which both teams had a lot of chances and in which I thought the first goal was always going to be crucial,” Jackett said.
“I knew it was always going to be a tough tie and unfortunately we just couldn’t find the crucial cutting edge. We created a lot but their goalkeeper was in good form.”
And as Jackett tries to end Portsmouth’s losing run away at Blackpool next week he knows he will not have two members of his cup line-up available.
In the 84th minute they were reduced to ten men when full-back Nathan Thompson was sent off after being shown a second yellow card, while Stuart O’Keefe had earlier received his fifth booking of the season.