STAGS BEATEN BY REF AND RAMPANT HATTERS
Luton Town 2 - 0 Mansfield Town
Crow 53, Morgan-Smith 55. Foster sent off 45.
Attendance: 6024 (303 from Mansfield)
Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at Kenilworth Road
In a truly horrible evening at Kenilworth Road, Mansfield Town suffered at the hands of one of the most inept refereeing performances in history, and went down to a 2-0 defeat against an impressive Luton side. There was no doubting that Luton deserved their victory but the manner of defeat will leave a sour taste in the mouths of the players and supporters for a long time to come. Luton were awarded a penalty on 43 minutes went the ball struck the hand of a Mansfield player in the box and the referee awarded a harsh penalty. Marriott saved superbly from Gnakpa, but the referee awarded a retake, apparently for encroachment by Foster, who was booked during the protests. Crow stepped up to take the next penalty and Marriott pulled off another brilliant save. This sparked a melee involving 19 players on the far side, which the referee stayed 20 yards away from, and then decided to book Foster and Barnes-Homer, thus sending off the Stags captain. How he booked two players out, we just don't know. David Holdsworth was then sent to the stands by the referee. Luton were awarded another penalty in the first minute of the second half, and Barnes-Homer blazed over the bar. But Marriott was beaten on 51 minutes by Crow's fine strike, and then again on 53 minutes after his punch only found Amari Morgan-Smith who acrobatically fired into the corner of the net from the edge of the box. Just three minutes later, Luke Medley appeared to be blatantly brought down in the box after a lovely flick and turn, but the referee decided it was a dive and booked Medley. There was no reason for Medley to dive having got away from the defender. After that the Stags rarely looked like getting back into it, and the result was not in doubt.
Man of the match: Alan Marriott
Stagsnet player ratings in the Match Centre.
Ten-man Stags left to do damage limitation job as they lose to Luton
Evening Post report
THERE seems to be something in the air that makes for an explosive mix when Mansfield Town visit Kenilworth Road.
Many Stags fans will remember last season when both sides had a player sent off – Scott Gardner for the visitors – in a volatile affair that ended in a 4-1 defeat.
This clash was even more highly charged and ultimately ended Mansfield's hopes of making a statement to the rest of the division.
A draw, or a win at a Hatters side unbeaten on home territory, would have taken the Stags to the top of the table.
But they were left with a damage limitation job in the second half after captain Steve Foster and manager David Holdsworth had both been sent off, meaning Luton could have won by several more goals.
The Stags also picked up no less than seven bookings in a night that was as much to forget as Saturday's 4-0 win over Eastbourne, together with takeover from John Radford, had been memorable.
It all rendered meaningless an incredible three penalty misses by three different Luton players either side of the break – two of them superbly save by Alan Marriott.
He was outstanding on the night, but could do little to prevent a fourth league defeat of the season, a third on the club's travels.
A sign of what was to come saw Kevin Sandwith cautioned in the sixth minute when challenging Claude Gnakpa and appearing to win the ball, but the referee took a different view. It was the same story when Keith Keane was cautioned for Luton soon after.
The Hatters should have gone in front in the 15th minute when Danny Crow but Gnapka clear on the right-hand side of the box.
However, Marriott was quickly off his line to make a fine block before the winger scuffed his attempt from the rebound wide of the left-hand upright.
Luton were doing all the attacking and as Crow played the ball out for Gnakpa, he ran into the area to get on the end of the resulting centre, only to steer his effort wise.
With half-time approaching, Adam Smith was not a million miles away with a cross-cum-shot from the left-hand corner of the box that drifted wide of Mark Tyler's far post.
In a tumultuous end to the half, first Foster was adjudged to handled Keane's free-kick in the box.
Marriott went the right way and kept out Gnakpa's kick, diving to his left, only for the referee to a re-take after encroachment from a visiting player, which saw Foster booked for protesting.
Crow stepped up to take the second spot kick, but Marriott went the same way and pulled off another terrific stop.
That wasn't the end of the drama as a mass melee exploded on the right byline and, after things had calmed down, Matthew Barnes-Homer and Foster were shown yellow cards for their involvement, the latter resulting in a red.
A raging Holdsworth was also sent off, clearly angry at how events had unfolded.
At half-time, Mansfield sacrificed Adam Smith to bring on another defender in the shape of Tom Naylor, his first action of the season.
Within 30 seconds, Luton were awarded yet another penalty when Sandwith brought down Gnapka.
Barnes-Homer this time volunteered, but, amazingly, he blasted high over the top, to the disbelief of Hatters fans.
Luton laid siege to the Mansfield goal and it was no surprise when they went in front in the 51st minute.
A short corner routine saw Jake Howells cut the ball back invitingly for Crow, who rifled into the roof of the net from 10 yards for his first Hatters goal.
And Amari Morgan-Smith – ironically signed by Holdsworth when at Ilkeston Town – was celebrating his debut strike three minutes later.
After Chris Smith had argued a booking for handball, Keane lifted a free-kick into the box that was punched clear by Marriott as far as the livewire forward, who instantly returned the ball back through a crowd of players to find the net.
Quickfire goals sink Stags as referee steals the show
REFEREE Steve Cook captured all the attention and headlines on a quite extraordinary evening of drama and frustration for Mansfield Town at Kenilworth Road last night.
Stags, who knew they would go top if they could get at least a point, watched Alan Marriott save two Luton penalties, another one fly over the bar, had skipper Steve Foster sent off and boss David Holdsworth ordered off plus seven Mansfield bookings and two brawls as the Hatters finally saw off the gutsy visitors.
Mr Cook booked Kevin Sandwith for the first tackle of the night after only six minutes to set the tone for the night.
And Stags were furious with a string of contentious decisions he made against them including an incredible end to the first half when he gave a harsh-looking penalty against Foster for handball, then ordered a retake after Marriott had saved the first.
The keeper incredibly saved the second too but a brawl that followed saw Foster red-carded and Holdsworth ejected after he finally blew a fuse on the bench over what he was seeing.
Incredibly promotion favourites Luton spurned another spot kick 20 seconds after the break before they finally broke through with two goals in four minutes.
It was a night the Stags will simply want to forget as they head to Gateshead on Saturday without skipper Foster, though Keigan Parker is available again after suspension.
Luton had completely dominated the first half last night though only forced one real save out of man of the match Marriott and Chris Smith had almost given the visitors a shock lead with a header wide of the far post.
But quickfire strikes from Danny Crow and one of Holdsworth's former Ilkeston stars Amari Morgan-Smith on his debut saw Hatters take the points on a fiery night .
Stags were able to name the same side and bench for the third successive match.
The Hatters gave a debut to striker Amari Morgan-Smith, who was signed by David Holdsworth when he was boss of Ilkeston Town.
The Luton bench included ex-Stags stars Adam Murray and Kevin Pilkington.
Sandwith looked unlucky to be booked after only six minutes when he appeared to tackle Gnakpa cleanly, but was adjudged to have shown his studs.
And, having set out his stall , the referee had his card out again two minutes later after Keane had brought down Nix.
Sandwith was walking a tightrope as he brought down Gnakpa again on 12 minutes, Chris Smith heading the free kick behind at the far post and Keane then overcooking the corner and the ball going out of play well past the far post.
Luton created the first opening on 15 minutes as Crow's pass behind Sandwith split the defence and put Gnakpa in the clear.
Marriott did well to block his first attempt and his follow-up went wide of goal to Mansfield's relief.
Nix did well to rob Crow as he was about to shoot in the box as the Hatters continued to press.
On 26 minutes Crow sent Gnakpa to the right by-line before running for the return ball at the near post where he stabbed inches wide.
Mansfield's first corner eventually reached Adam Smith whose shot deflected up into the air with Chris Smith getting up well but heading across goal.
Luton resumed their offensive and Gnakpa had a shot blocked.
The home side then forced two corners, the second seeing Duffy head off the line as Crow looked like he might force the ball home at the far post.
The pressure was relentless as two more flag kicks took it to four on the bounce. But Marriott's goal remained intact.
But the game erupted on 43 minutes after Istead had brought down Murray and been booked.
The free kick bounced in the box and caught Foster's hand as it came up. It seemed a ball to hand, but the referee stunned Stags by awarding a penalty.
Marriott looked to be the hero as he kept out Gnakpa's kick, but the referee again stunned Stags by deciding it needed to be re-taken for encroachment.
Stags surrounded him with Adam Smith lucky not to be red-carded for his protests. Foster did well as skipper to calm them down and move them away only to be booked himself at the end of it all.
Amazingly Marriott produced a second spot kick stop, diving fell length to his left to thwart Keane.
But as the ball ran for a corner, Foster and Barnes-Homer clashed with both sides piling into a mass brawl in the corner.
Stags fans were restrained by stewards on the perimeter as the situation calmed down and the officials consulted.
Amazingly only Foster and Barnes-Homer were called over and Foster shown his second yellow and a red and a yellow for the Luton man.
It was all too much for Stags boss Holdsworth who had a furious row with the referee before being sent from the ground.
The game finally continued into a sixth minute of stoppage time in which Marriott produced more heroics to keep out a Gnapka finish from eight yards from Morgan-Smith's ball in from the left.
Adam Smith was sacrificed at the break to allow Stags to shore up at the back with youngster Naylor.
But the script took another amazing twist as Luton were given and missed their third penalty kick in as many minutes within 20 seconds of the restart.
Sandwith caught Gnakpa with a challenge that sent him to the turf and again Mr Cook pointed to the spot. This time Barnes-Homer took responsibility and blazed his kick way over the bar.
But Luton were finally ahead on 51 minutes from a short corner on the right which Crow rammed emphatically high into the net from 12 yards for his first goal for the club.
Chris Smith was furious with the referee when he was adjudged to have handled when he felt the ball hit his shoulder. He argued long and hard but was eventually booked and, from the free kick, Luton swept into a 2-0 lead.
Marriott punched Keane's ball in out as far as Morgan-Smith, but the youngster was onto it like a flash to steer home with some accuracy from just inside the box.
The match erupted once again on 62 minutes as Mills felled Gnakpa and once more both sides squared up, Mills eventually becoming Stags' sixth player booked.
Marriott almost let in a Naylor backpass but thankfully had time to stop it at the second attempt. The keeper then tipped over a Crowe effort for another home corner as Luton continued to ram home their advantage.
Marriott made another save from a Keane free kick that passed through everyone while Gnakpa sliced wide deep into stoppage time as Stags left Luton licking their wounds.
LUTON: Tyler, Gleeson, F. Murray (Atieno 85 mins), Keane, G. Pilkington, Morgan-Smith (Newton 81 mins), Barnes-Homer (A. Murray 71 mins), Kroca, Howells, Gnakpa, Crow. Subs: Blackett, K. Pilkington.
STAGS: Marriott; Silk, C. Smith, Foster, Sandwith; Istead (Briscoe 69 mins), Nix, Mills; A. Smith (Naylor 45 mins), Duffy (Medley 53 mins), Connor. Subs: Stonehouse, Collett.
REFEREE: S. Cook of Surrey.
GOALS: Luton - Crow (51 mins); Morgan-Smith (54 mins).
CAUTIONS: Luton - Keane (8 mins); Barnes-Homer (45+3 mins). Mansfield - Sandwith (6 mins); Istead (42 mins); Foster (45 mins); C. Smith (54 mins); Medley (57 mins); Mills (62 mins); Silk (87 mins).
DISMISSAL: Foster (45+3 mins, second yellow); David Holdsworth (45+3 mins, dissent)
ATTENDANCE: 6024 (303 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Alan Marriott.
Missed penalties galore but Hatters victorious!
Luton Town 2 Mansfield 0
Blue Square Premier
Luton Town 2 (0)
Mansfield Town 0 (0)
KENILWORTH Road was treated to an evening of high drama and action aplenty as 10-man Mansfield were well beaten 2-0 by the Hatters last night.
Luton contrived to miss from the spot three times while visiting captain Stephen Foster and manager David Holdsworth were both dismissed on the stroke of half time by referee S Cook before Town finally put the Stags to the sword in the second half.
Having earlier missed from the spot, Danny Crow broke the deadlock with his first goal for the club before Amari Morgan-Smith doubled Town's lead on his debut soon after to seal victory.
It was a quite amazing game with how Luton didn't win by more being the biggest mystery of them all.
Adventurous manager Richard Money named a massively attacking line-up, handing a surprising debut to free agent Morgan-Smith, signed earlier the same day.
Hatters made three changes to the side that lost 1-0 at Gateshead with Jake Howells and Crow coming into the starting XI and Adam Newton, Taiwo Atieno and Shane Blackett dropping to the bench.
Both sides made a slow opening, with Morgan-Smith showing some early tenacity and the referee handing out two unnecessary bookings to Kevin Sandwith and Keith Keane, which was a sign of things to come.
Another foul by Sandwith on Claude Gnakpa could easily have drawn a second yellow before the Frenchman wasted a glorious chance on 14 minutes.
Matthew Barnes-Homer fed Crow, whose sublime pass left Gnakpa one on one with the keeper. The Frenchman's first effort was straight at Alan Marriott and he could only slide the rebound agonisingly wide of the far post.
Crow dawdled too long on 20 minutes before the ex-Cambridge man went close again six minutes later.
Gnakpa beat his man but Crow could only bundle his near post cross just wide of the upright.
The Stags finally crafted their first chance on 28 minutes as an unmarked Chris Smith headed well wide.
Diminutive striker Crow was causing all kinds of problems and, while his opportunistic effort from the halfway line was easily saved, Rob Duffy had to be alert to head his overhead kick over the bar.
The half ended in dramatic fashion as Town twice wasted the chance to take the lead from the spot.
A Keane free-kick picked out Zdenek Kroca in the box and his firm header smacked Gary Mills on the arm, and the referee awarded a penalty.
Gnakpa fought off his team-mates to take the spot kick but his effort was saved by Marriott who flung himself to his left to save.
However, drama reigned as the official ordered the kick to be re-taken because of encroachment and booked Mansfield captain Foster for his protests.
This time Crow stepped up to the mark and stroked a tame effort towards the same spot, but Marriott again got down to save.
Barnes-Homer raced to reach the rebound and, as his cross was blocked behind for a corner, a mass melee broke out amongst the players near the corner flag.
It took several minutes to calm the situation before Foster was given his marching orders for a second booking while Barnes-Homer was also shown yellow.
The referee then marched to the sidelines and ordered Stags boss Holdsworth out of the dugout.
The second half started in farcical circumstances as the Hatters again missed from the spot after Gnakpa was felled by Sandwith in the box after just 13 seconds.
The third penalty taker of the night, Barnes-Homer, stepped up and proceeded to blast his effort woefully over.
The Hatters finally took the lead on 51 minutes when Keane and Howells worked a clever short corner and Howells' teed up Crow up to slam home.
Town's second soon followed three minutes later as Marriott's punch reached Morgan-Smith on the edge of the box and his first-time strike whizzed into the bottom right-hand corner.
Mansfield were then denied a certain penalty on 57 minutes when substitute Luke Medley tumbled under Gleeson's challenge, but the referee saw it differently, and booked Medley for diving.
A flowing Luton move saw Morgan-Smith curl straight at Marriott on the hour before Kenilworth Road erupted with more controversy seconds later.
An offside Morgan-Smith beat Mills by the corner flag but the Stags midfielder followed through with an horrendous lunge, yet somehow escaped with a yellow.
Gleeson fired a chance over on 68 minutes while Marriott turned a Crow rocket over the bar.
Town took their foot off the pedal as Paul Connor somehow missed but Luton were comfortable winners.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Dan Gleeson, Freddie Murray, Keith Keane, George Pilkington, Amari Morgan-Smith (Adam Newton 81), Matthew Barnes-Homer (Adam Murray 71), Zdenek Kroca, Jake Howells, Claude Gnakpa, Danny Crow (Taiwo Atieno 85).
Substitutes not used: Shane Blackett, Kevin Pilkington.
Stags: Alan Marriott, Gary Silk, Kevin Sandwith, Gary Mills, Stephen Foster, Chris Smith, Rob Duffy (Luke Medley 52), Kyle Nix, Adam Smith (Tom Naylor 46), Steven Istead (Louis Briscoe 69), Paul Connor.
Substitutes not used: Paul Stonehouse, Neil Collett.
Booked: Sandwith 6; Keane 8; Istead 43; Foster 45; Foster 45+3; C Smith 53; Medley 57; Mills 62; Silk 87.
Sent off: Foster 45+3; Holdsworth 45+4.
Referee: S Cook.
Assistant Referees: J Mellor, M Tweed.
Fourth Official: B Furneaux.
Attendance: 6,024 (Mansfield 303).
Star Hatter: Danny Crow. Missed a penalty but a real menace in the hole.
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