Grimsby Town 1-1 Luton Town
JAMES McKeown was the injury time hero as his penalty save ensured a point for Grimsby Town against Luton Town at Blundell Park.
In an entertaining and physical contest between two well-matched sides, the Mariners had edged ahead when Chris Clements scored his first goal for the club.
But the visitors hit back through Isaac Vassell and they looked to be heading towards all three points when they were given a penalty deep into stoppage time.
McKeown - restored to the team after Dean Henderson was recalled from his loan by Manchester United – had other ideas though, stopping Danny Hylton’s spot-kick to make sure the scores remained level.
Five changes were made to the Town starting XI after the defeat at Stevenage last week and after a dramatic transfer deadline day which saw top scorer Omar Bogle leave the club as two others came in.
One of those new arrivals, Calum Dyson, was handed a first start in a new-look frontline which also saw Adi Yussuf restored to the starting line-up.
The other changes saw McKeown handed what may have seemed earlier in the week like an unlikely return in goal, while Gavin Gunning made his first start in defence in place of Andrew Boyce and Ben Davies was preferred to Zak Mills on the right.
McKeown started behind a central-defensive trio of Gunning, Shaun Pearson and Danny Collins, with Davies and Danny Andrew operating as wing-backs.
Clements, Brandon Comley and Jamey Osborne were the midfielders, with Dyson and Yussuf lining up in attack.
That meant Scott Vernon dropped to the bench, where Craig Disley, Dominic Vose, Mills, Akwasi Asante and the other deadline day signing Sam Jones were also selected.
Luton made the journey north looking for three points which could move them closer to the automatic promotion places.
The Hatters began the day in fifth place, six points and seven places ahead of the Mariners, and would look to the likes of strikers Hylton and Isaac Vassell to score the goals.
Town were the first to attack when a nice touch from Dyson almost put Yussuf through, only for defender Scott Cuthbert to get to the ball first and clear the danger.
Luton’s response saw Hylton make a run down the right and after he cut into the penalty area, a good challenge from Collins led to the game’s first corner. Hylton was first to the delivery and after he headed the ball on, Gunning had to concede another corner, which was headed clear.
A foul on Yussuf gave Town a free kick midway between the halfway line and the Luton box on 10 minutes and although it was a long way out, the shot from Andrew forced visiting keeper Stuart Moore to push the ball out for a corner.
Jordan Cook tried a shot from 25 yards at the other end six minutes later, then the Mariners had to defend two corners in quick succession as the visitors aimed to build some pressure.
Another Grimsby free kick came after Osborne was pulled down as he looked to run through the middle, although Andrew’s ball from it was headed away by Hylton and a foul by Clements then ended the attack.
A mistake in the Luton defence led to a chance for Town on 27 minutes. The ball came to Davies on the right and he crossed for Dyson but the striker could not keep his header down and it cleared the crossbar for a goal kick.
Dyson did well to win a corner after getting onto a ball down the line and holding off Cuthbert with half an hour on the clock. Davies’ delivery was pushed clear by keeper Moore but the hosts kept possession and Davies eventually shot wide.
Town were showing plenty of energy and were doing most of the attacking, albeit without seriously testing Moore in the Luton goal.
Vassell was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon after a foul on Pearson near the halfway line and after the resulting free kick was pumped into the Luton penalty area, the ball was missed by the keeper but nobody in black and white was in a position to take advantage.
The away side were starting to see more of the ball in attacking areas by the 40-minute mark, with Jake Gray shooting over the bar from 20 yards.
At the other end, Osborne tried his luck with a strike from distance but the ball went wide of the far post.
An Osborne cross was headed clear, before a foul on the midfielder gave them another opportunity to attack from inside the Luton half, although the free kick was cleared after Pearson appeared to be pushed.
One additional minute was signalled to be played at the end of the half and Dyson sent a speculative effort well over the bar in what proved to be the last attack before the interval.
No changes were made by either management team before the restart and a run from Gunning through the middle launched the first attack of the second half, although it did not lead to a chance in front of goal as Andrew’s cross was too high for Yussuf.
A cross from Davies came from the opposite flank after a good build-up from the Mariners but it was headed away by Cuthbert, who was adjudged to have been fouled.
A Luton cross was headed away by Pearson, before a mistake by Clements almost let the visitors in, although Comley got back to clear off the line from Hylton.
The visitors had a good chance when Cook played a through-ball for Vassell, who beat the offside trap to race into the box, where Gunning did well to put pressure on the striker, whose shot was blocked for a corner.
Soon afterwards, the deadlock was broken as the Mariners took the lead. Luton failed to clear their lines as the ball bounced around their penalty area and when it was eventually played across to the far post by Andrew, CLEMENTS was there to power a header into the net.
Luton manager Nathan Jones responded with a double substitution, sending former Town loanee Ollie Palmer on for Luke Gambin and Alan Sheehan on in place of Gray.
A corner was dealt with by the hosts, before a free kick from Sheehan beat everybody and went out for a goal kick at the far post.
Hylton was booked for bringing Gunning down near the halfway line, before Collins was also shown a yellow card for a late challenge just inside his own half.
Striker Hylton won a corner for the visitors on the right on 65 minutes but Sheehan’s ball from it was headed away.
Town then broke and launched an attack which resulted in a corner on the right. Moore got to it first but could only punch the ball up in the air and the Mariners kept possession, with Pearson doing well to get into the box and win another corner on the left. Again, the visitors could not clear their lines but despite the best efforts of Dyson, Yussuf, Davies and Andrew the home side could not force a second goal.
At the other end, Luton threatened when a ball from Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu was pushed through for Hylton. McKeown read it well though, racing off his line to deny the attacker.
A stoppage came when Pearson went down with an injury but he was passed fit to play on and the game continued.
Left-back Jack Senior became the latest to be shown a yellow card for a foul on Davies inside the Grimsby half with a little more than 15 minutes left to play.
After threatening an equaliser, Luton were finally back on level terms with 13 minutes remaining. Davies appeared to be pushed but when no action was taken by the referee, Ruddock-Mpanzu took the ball on and crossed for VASSELL to head into the net.
The away side had taken the initiative and a free kick from Sheehan saw them get the ball into the Town penalty area again on 79 minutes although this time, the Mariners were able to get it clear.
A shot from Hylton was blocked and another from Cook went over the bar as the hosts looked to be hanging on with the clock ticking into the last 10 minutes.
Town boss Marcus Bignot reacted by making a triple substitution, with Jones coming on for his debut in place of Clements, Yussuf being replaced by Asante and Vernon replacing Dyson.
Cook had two shots blocked in quick succession with four minutes to go, before Jack Marriott was sent on in place of Vassell in Luton’s final substitution.
A good run into the box by Ruddock-Mpanzu led to a corner, which then turned into another one after a shot was blocked by Comley.
And the pressure continued with another flag-kick, which was dealt with bravely by Pearson, who was fouled as he headed the ball away.
Five added minutes were signalled and a foul on Comley brought a free kick, which eventually led to a header from Vernon being blocked.
After looking like they were hanging on for a draw, the Mariners were now the team pushing for a winner as the ball was mostly in the Luton half.
But a sucker-punch looked like it was about to come for the home side in the fourth of the added minutes when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after a handball. Hylton stepped up to take the penalty for Luton but McKeown saved it and as Hylton headed the rebound into the net, the referee had already blown for a foul and Town survived.
It was a dramatic end to an excellent contest which perhaps ended in a fair result at 1-1.
Town are next in action when they travel to Crewe Alexandra on Saturday