Oxford United beaten at Luton. Full-time report
United were beaten by a goal in each half as their five-game unbeaten run came to an end at Luton Town. A second-minute header from Luke Wilkinson and a second-half penalty follow-up from Jake Howells gave the Hatters all three points as the teams renewed a rivalry that has seen this fixture played in all five of the top divisions.
The one thing you can't afford to do at a tight ground like Kenilworth Road where the expectant fans are right on top of you and the atmosphere is buzzing is concede after 78 seconds. There was an element of good fortune when a free kick was awarded against the prone Tom Newey, who clearly slipped, but even so a simple crossed ball from Jake Howells evaded the whole back line and was crashed home by Luke Wilkinson to make it 1-0 inside two minutes.
Having conceded twice in the last two minutes the last time they played on this ground, United almost conceded two in two again but were mightily relieved to see Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu blaze over when put clear moments later. If that had gone in it would have been a near-impossible task but having weathered that initial storm the U's began to get on the ball and use the space on a superb playing surface.
Callum O'Dowda sent in two crosses and then a right-footed effort on 15 that home keeper Mark Tyler gathered easily enough, but the purple and white Isinglass-shirted U's were patient and composed and easing themselves into the game. Their cause wasn't helped when Michael Collins limped off after 23 minutes, although replacement Danny Rose settled quickly and was his usual neat self as United pressed. Howard and O'Dowda rasped shots just off target and by half time the U's had recovered well from that early setback.
They hadn't perhaps tested Tyler enough but they had built a decent tempo and taken the game to their hosts, who were content to condense play and dare their visitors to get through them. Tyrone Barnett almost found a way through on 57 as he span and drove in a 20-yard effort which Tyler got down well to get a hand to. The striker should have buried his next chance though as O'Dowda crossed perfectly only to see Barnett guide his header wide with the goal at his mercy six yards in front of him.
Those chances proved costly when the Hatters doubled their lead on 66. Another simple set-piece was United's undoing as a free kick was launched into the box. Hylton went up and was nudged. To his horror the ball struck his arm and ref Mark Haywood had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Howells' penalty was saved by George Long but the ball came back to Howells who planted it into the unguarded net to make it 2-0 and pretty much game over.
United kept going, Riley drilling a free kick over on 72 and nobody shirking their responsibilities. They might have had an injury-time consolation as Barnett thumped another O'Dowda cross into the arms of Tyler but ultimately they could not get beyond the Luton back line again and so slipped to defeat despite having had the chances to get something out of the game.
Report by Chris Williams, pictues Darrell Fisher
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