Luton 4-3 FC Halifax Town

Kenilworth Road

Kenilworth Road

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FC Halifax Town surrendered a 3-1 first-half lead to lose a thrilling game 4-3 at Luton.

The Shaymen’s search for their first away win of the season looked to be over when they raced into the lead at Kenilworth Road, but the hosts produced a crushing comeback to consign Town to another case of what-might-have-been on the road.

Goals from Paul Marshall, Simon Ainge and Dan Gardner capped a scintillating attacking display by Town, but Luton hit back through Luke Guttridge, Andre Gray, Paul Benson and a wonderful winner by substitute Alex Wall seven minutes from time.

Halifax also struck the woodwork twice during a frenetic afternoon of action before Wall’s 25 yard curler finally sunk them.

John McReady made his first start for Town in place of Josh Wilson, while Marshall replaced the suspended Matt Pearson, with Jon Worthington given a place on the bench after finally recovering from his ankle operation.

The atmosphere generated by easily the biggest crowd in the Skrill Premier at kick-off emphasised just how big a club Luton are at this level, but you could hear a pin drop on three sides of Kenilworth Road three minutes in when Town took the lead.

The Shaymen started in positive fashion, with Dan Gardner embarking on a marauding run into the box from the left, the same spot where Lee Gregory found himself moments later as Mark Tyler palmed the ball away from his feet, but Marshall was perfectly placed to lash home the loose ball.

The hosts responded well though, forcing a couple of last-ditch clearances inside the Town box, before Guttridge notched his sixth of the season with a low shot that deflected past the helpless Matt Glennon off Ryan Toulson.

Cue a wave of noise, mainly relief, from the home supporters, who must have thought they’d got over the worst. Little did they know.

Less than five minutes later, Smith’s persistence earned a free-kick near the right touchline which Marshall curled beautifully into the box where Ainge met the ball with a bullet header.

Those pins were dropping again as the home supporters were subjected to a re-run of their last home outing against Lincoln, where they fell 1-0 and 2-1 behind.

But it got even better for the visitors when Gardner marauded towards a wide-open Luton defence before unleashing a superb low shot from just outside the box that flew across Tyler and nestled in the bottom corner.

If the home fans could hardly believe their eyes, then neither could the away supporters as Gardner ran half the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of them.

But the travelling Town support could soon add Luton to the list of the ones that got away on the road as the Hatters fans were then treated to a re-run of the Lincoln game, where they came back to win 3-2.

Had Town gone in ahead at the interval, it might have been a different story, but by half-time their lead had been wiped out as Halifax’s incisive attacking threat was countered with vulnerability at the back that a rampant Luton ruthlessly exposed.

John Still’s men, like the crowd, came roaring back as first, Benson was well placed to drive in Ronnie Henry’s low cross from the right to reduce the arrears before Gray produced a composed finish across Glennon from inside the box.

In between those goals, Gregory saw a shot rebound off the bar in an end-to-end contest that almost redefined the phrase.

The signs that it wasn’t going to be Town’s day then got stronger when Smith hobbled off just before the break and Gregory was forced off midway through the second-half.

His replacement Kevin Holsgrove then saw a shot hit the post as a more robust Town, now playing 3-5-2, handled Luton’s threat a lot better after half-time.

Gardner had a chance to put Town in front for the third time but Tyler reacted well to his low shot from inside the area, while Marc Roberts nodded narrowly wide from Ryan Toulson’s cross.

But Luton threw caution to the wind as Wall was introduced as their third striker, a substitution which paid handsome dividends just when it appeared Town would escape with a share of the spoils.

Wall cut inside from the left and sent the ball flying past Glennon and into the top corner to ensure Luton, like Macclesfield and Forest Green, denied Town that elusive away win in the cruellest fashion.

Luton: Tyler, Henry (Wall 74), McNulty, Smith, Griffiths, Parry, Guttridge, Lawless, Lacey, Gray, Benson. Subs not used: Howells, Justham, Whalley, Robinson.

Scorers: Guttridge (16), Benson (33), Gray (40), Wall (83)

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 4

Corners: 5

Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, Ainge, Roberts, McManus, Smith (Lowe 43), Maynard, Marshall, McReady (Williams 81), Gardner, Gregory (Holsgrove 65). Subs not used: Senior, Worthington.

Scorers: Marshall (3), Ainge (20), Gardner (27)

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 0

Attendance: 6,519

Town man of the match: Dan Gardner