Stevenage fell to a narrow 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Luton Town this afternoon in a competitive Sky Bet League 2 fixture.
Luke Wilkinson gave the Hatters an eighth minute lead with a free header as the visitors dominated the early stages, but Boro improved as the game progressed and equalised just past the half hour when Tom Pett hooked home. A scrappy second half saw chances for both sides however it was sub Alex Wall’s 82nd minute strike which won it for the Hatters late on.
Graham Westley named an unchanged side from that which started last weekend’s 3-0 win against Mansfield, with the returning Cameron Lancaster the only change among the subs.
With a boisterous crowd roaring both teams on there was always going to be an upbeat start to the game, with Luton enjoying the best of the early spells.
With just four minutes on the clock the Hatters claimed a penalty after former Luton skipper Henry went in on former Boro man Drury, but the ref waved away appeals. The lively Pelly Ruddock saw an effort deflect behind for a corner before the midfielder really should have opened the scoring on 8 minutes, but somehow fired wide after Griffiths found him on the counter-attack.
With the Hatters pushing on and crowding Beardsley out, Boro were penned back in their own half and soon conceded the opening goal on 10 minutes. Bond was booked for a foul and when Drury swung in the resulting free-kick, there was Luke Wilkinson to rise unmarked to direct his free header away from Day and into the corner. 1-0 to the visitors.
Roared on by their large travelling support the Hatters kept up the pressure and went mightily close to a second just before the quarter hour but there was Day to superbly parry Benson’s first time shot wide.
Little by little Boro began to get back in the game although it took until the 20 minute mark to register their first shot; Bond firing over on the volley after a Stevenage corner was only cleared as far as the midfielder on the edge of the box.
Graham Westley’s men were starting to improve in midfield with Dean Parrett looking bright and Charlie Lee finally finding space and becoming more influential. And despite showing little in the way of attacking threat thus far it was largely thanks to Lee that Boro drew level on 32 minutes. The midfielder showed great feet before pinging a ball to Whelpdale at the back post - his header back across goal missed Beardsley but there was Tom Pett to hook home over the despairing dive of Mark Tyler. Game on!
Boro had their tails up and when Beardsley turned smartly and played in Whelpdale it looked promising, but his first time effort was superbly deflected behind by a sliding Wilkinson.
Parrett tried a cracker from the edge of the box as Stevenage remained on top going into the break but it remained 1-1.
With his driving runs from midfield Pelly Ruddock was exciting the Luton fans and it was another similar run six minutes into the second half that set up a real chance for Benson. Fortunately for Boro the striker’s header at the back post was straight at Day.
Both teams continued to plug away and create chances with Tyler saving from Pett after a flowing Boro move and Ashton then forced into a last gasp block after Ruddock had outfoxed Charles out wide.
A couple of meaty Hatters challenges forced the ref to issue a couple of yellows in quick succession as the temperature began to rise, with the game nicely poised going into the final stages.
After impressing as a second half sub against Mansfield, Roarie Deacon again came on for the last 20 and set about making things happen on the left flank. Within two minutes he was making an impact, getting past Lacey and putting the ball in for Beardsley but Luton were able to clear.
With 10 minutes remaining Luton thought they’d scored when a Drury free-kick was met with a free header from Walker, but there was Ashton to somehow clear off the line in a let-off for the hosts.
However there was to be a third goal in this one and it went to the visitors. Big striker Alex Wall came on for the final 8 minutes and within seconds had put the Hatters back into the lead. Ruddock was again involved, playing the ball into the sub who turned inside Charles and curled home past Day to send the travelling fans wild.
Down but not out, Stevenage threw everything forward but despite being given an additional five minutes they were unable to equalise for a second time, bringing their recent mini run of form to an abrupt halt.
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Ashton, Wells, Charles, Whelpdale, Bond, Parrett (Conlon 61), Lee, Pett (Deacon 69), Beardsley (Calcutt 80)
Subs not used: Reading, Dembele, Lancaster, Johnson
Luton: Tyler, Lacey, McNulty, Wilkinson, Griffiths, Ruddock, Doyle, Smith (Stevenson 65), Drury, Benson (Walker 69), Cullen (Wall 82)
Subs not used: Justham, Howells, Guttridge, Robinson