LUTON TOWN 5 HENDON 1
FA Cup fourth qualifying round
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Aaron O’Connor was on target twice as Luton Town cruised into the first round proper of the FA Cup with a comfortable victory over Isthmian League Premier Division outfit Hendon at Kenilworth Road.
Gary McCann’s side had briefly threatened an upset after taking an early lead, but the Blue Square Bet Premier promotion contenders swiftly snuffed out those hopes, with man-of-the-match O’Connor capping another impressive performance with a double to crush the dreams of Hendon’s 193 loyal followers who made the trip from North London.
Luton’s victory was slightly overshadowed by an early injury to James Dance who, it later transpired, had to be taken to hospital suffering concussion after a clash of heads in the first half. Yet there was some good news on the injury front, with Charlie Henry making his first team debut as a second-half substitute after over a year out through injury.
The Greens, after a somewhat nomadic existence following their departure from Claremont Road, currently make their home at Vale Farm, the home of Wembley FC and just over two miles as the crow flies from the famous venue of the same name that will host the conclusion of this year’s tournament for the 77th time on May 5 next year. And while their FA Cup runs have never eclipsed that of 1974 where they took Newcastle United to a third round replay, Hendon have been visitors to Wembley Stadium on no less than five occasions in the old FA Amateur Cup, carrying off the trophy three times.
They were bidding to reach the first round proper for the 28th time in their history, where last year they exited at the hands of Chelmsford City and would have felt they were in with a chance of doing so when they stunned the Hatters by taking a fifth minute lead.
Luton, featuring five changes to the side that beat Grimsby Town last Friday, had been doing all the early pressing and forced two corners within the first two minutes, the second of which skipper-for-the-day Jamie Hand headed just over. However, a clumsy foul by Dean Beckwith on Elliott Charles gave Hendon a free kick.
Scott Cousins curled it into the box and the unmarked Carl McCluskey rose to head the parttimers ahead. They may well have sensed an upset was on the cards, yet it took just two minutes for Town to level things up, with O’Connor coolly slotting home a penalty after Beckwith had been tripped by James Parker inside the area.
The hosts then went ahead in the 12th minute when Curtis Osano crossed for Dance to score with a bullet header from six yards. A mid-air collision with Kevin Maclaren while scoring the goal left him lying on the ground though, bringing a premature end to his afternoon as he was stretchered off.
It could well have been 3-1 to the Hatters five minutes later had Stuart Fleetwood, loitering in an offside position, not decided to put a final touch on O’Connor’s goal-bound shot. The striker then went close from a 19th-minute free kick, forcing Greens keeper Sean Thomas into a good save low to his left.
The third Luton goal did arrive in the 25th minute when Thomas fumbled Osano’s fiercely hit low drive from just outside the box and Tommy Wright capitalised on the error to head over the sprawling keeper for his second goal in as many starts for the club.
Hendon’s task was then made harder when Casey Maclaren was forced off due to injury. Two minutes later John Paul Kissock drilled over a curling strike from an angle ten yards out, but the rest of the half provided little in the way of opportunities for either side with the Hatters firmly in control of proceedings.
Hendon came close to pulling one back inside the opening two minutes of the second period after Parker fired just wide from eight yards with an acrobatic effort.
Their hopes of mounting a comeback were effectively killed off in the 62nd minute, with Kevin Maclaren being sent for an early bath after picking up his second yellow for an ill-judged tackle on Kissock.
Two goals in two minutes broke Hendon’s resolve once and for all. First Jake Howells played a perfectly weighted through ball to Fleetwood, who beat the offside trap and rounded Thomas before scoring. Then straight from the restart a defensive lapse allowed in O’Connor for his second of the afternoon.
That was the way it stayed until the end as the Hatters secured their place in the bag for today’s lunchtime draw. A potential tie against the likes of the Sheffield clubs, Preston North End or even a return to Charlton Athletic await as the Football League sides enter the competition.
LUTON: Pilkington; Osano, Antwi, Beckwith, Howells; O'Connor, Dance (Crow 15), Hand (captain) (Henry 73), Kissock; Wright (Tavernier 57), Fleetwood
Subs Not Used - Tyler, Willmott, Carden, Samuel
REFEREE: Mr Tim Robinson (West Sussex)ATTENDANCE: 2,329