FULL-TIME: Hartlepool United beaten 2-1 at home to Luton Town

Sam Collins. Picture by FRANK REID
Sam Collins. Picture by FRANK REID

STRUGGLING Hartlepool United have been beaten 2-1 at home to Luton Town at Victoria Park.

Goals from Mark Cullen in the 40th minute and substitute Jim Stevenson with ten minutes left to play secured the victory for John Still’s side.

Neil Austin scored from the penalty spot in the 91st minute but it proved too little too late for managerless Pools.

Defeat meant struggling Pools dropped to third from bottom in Sky Bet League Two.

Caretaker boss Sam Collins kept faith with the same starting line-up that beat Exeter City away 2-1 last weekend with Pools again lining up in a 4-3-3 formation.

Pools started well and had the better of the early chances, with Charlie Wyke forcing Mark Tyler into a strong save in the 4th minute after a powerful shot from distance.

Then, four minutes later, it was Ryan Brobbel’s turn to chance his arm from distance. His shot from 25-yards plus just swerved over the bar at the last second.

In the 14th minute there was an emotional round of applause in memory of Hartlepool teenager Rhys Hewitt, 14, who tragically died in a road accident this week.

It was an emotional day at The Vic with a second warm round of applause in the 25th minute, this time in memory of Pools midfielder Michael Maidens who died seven years ago tomorrow.

Pools were then denied what looked like a clear penalty with 30 minutes gone.

Brobbel played in Wyke and he outpaced Luke Wilkinson only to see the Luton defender bring down Wyke with a sliding challenge.

Strong appeals from the players and home fans were waved away by referee Paul Tierney.

Backpeddling Matthew Bates then saw his flicked header from inside the area pushed on to the crossbar in the 33rd minute.

Against the run of play, John Still’s Luton took the lead in the 40th minute.

Striker Mark CULLEN was played in by Pelly Ruddock and fired a low shot underneath the legs of Scott Flinders to put the Hatters 1-0 up.

After the break, Luton - backed by 525 travelling supporters - had the better chances to add to their lead with Ricky Miller and Wilkinson both going close for the away side.

Collins turned to Connor Smith from the subs bench with 63 minutes gone, Michael Woods the man replaced.

Pools were pressing looking for the equaliser but they couldn’t break down a stubborn Luton defence.

They were made to pay in the 80th minute.

Flinders saved well from Ricky Miller’s free-kick from the edge of the area but sub Jim STEVENSON was free to poke the ball into the net.

Luton then looked to further press home their advantage but couldn’t add to their two goal lead.

Pools were given a late lifeline, when sub Brad Walker was brought down inside the penalty area.

Austin stepped up to blast the ball high into the left hand roof of the net but it came too late for Pools.

Full Time: Pools 1 Luton 2

Pools (4-3-3): Flinders (C), Duckworth, Austin, Harrison, Jones, Miller, Bates (Walker, 78), Woods (Smith, 63), Brobbel, Hawkins (Franks, 88), Wyke.

Subs Not Used: Woodman, Richards, Nearney, Green.

Booking: Hawkins.

Goal: Austin (91)

Luton Town (4-3-3): Tyler, Smith, McNulty (C), Drury, Griffiths, Cullen (Benson, 71), Ruddock-Mpanzu (Stevenson, 79), Miller (Guttridge, 90), Harriman, Doyle, Wilkinson.

Subs Not Used: Lacey, Wall, Justham, Walker.

Goal: Cullen (40), Stevenson (80)

Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire)

Attendance: 4,225 (525 Luton Town)