Match report: Lads held by Luton Town

Sunderland 1-1 Luton Town

Sunderland were forced to settle for a point against Luton Town on Saturday afternoon, as both sides ended the afternoon with ten men.

The Lads were under the cosh in the opening exchanges, but they struck back and opened the scoring on 16 minutes, as Chris Maguire bagged his seventh goal of the campaign.

Jon McLaughlin added a glut of saves to his showreel during the course of the contest, but the Scotland international was powerless to prevent James’ Collin’s second-half spot kick.

Moments after equalising, Luton were reduced to ten men when Danny Hylton elbowed Tom Flanagan, and Jack Ross’ side went in search of a decisive second.

Aiden McGeady thundered against the crossbar and Charlie Wyke headed the rebound off target, with Benji Kimpioka also thrown on following his midweek heroics.

But it wasn’t to be, with Maguire sent off late on as the Hatters ensured it was as you were at the top of Sky Bet League One.  

Ross made one change from the side that drew at Charlton Athletic, as Maguire replaced top scorer Josh Maja in the starting XI.

The 20-year-old striker missed out due to illness, but his replacement entered the game in a rich vein of form, having scored one and assisted two in the Lads’ midweek Checkatrade Trophy win.

Buoyed on by more than 3,000 away fans, Luton started strongly and launched an aerial assault that put the Black Cats under immediate pressure.

But the first real opening fell to those in red and white, as Luke O’Nien whipped in a cross and Wyke almost connected.

The Hatters continued to threaten, though, and McLaughlin was called into action twice before the 10-minute mark, first to deny James Justin and then to claw Andrew Shinnie’s effort out of the top corner.  

A momentum shift followed as Ross’ men stepped things up a gear, and with 16 minutes on the clock, they shattered the deadlock.

One-way traffic down the right opened the door and O’Nien’s overlapping run created the space Lynden Goch, with the American’s attempt deflecting into the path of Maguire, who took one touch before finding the corner.

Luton almost found an instant reply, but once again they came up against a brick wall, as McLaughlin somehow managed to scamper across the box to prevent Justin from equalising.

Both sides cancelled each other out in the remainder of the first 45, but the visitors went close following the restart, as Justin’s corner pinged the crossbar.

And the following set piece required fearless defending from the Lads, as Max Power threw himself towards the ball to clear, knowing full well he would be clattered in the process.

With 67 minutes played, Luton were awarded a penalty and Collins, who struck the post seconds before the spot kick was awarded, obliged from 12 yards.

But Hatters were reduced to ten men moments later, as Hylton received his marching orders after a blatant elbow on Flanagan.

The Lads went within a whisker of levelling when McGeady’s thunderbolt rattled the woodwork, and they should have scored on the follow-up as Wyke headed over from close range.

Luton remained a threat on the break despite their numerical disadvantage, with Matty Pearson stinging the palms of McLaughlin before Kimpioka headed straight at James Shea.

The game ended on a sour note, though, as Maguire was sent off in added time, and the game ended level.

Sunderland: McLaughlin, O’Nien, Flanagan, Baldwin, James (Oviedo 87), McGeouch, Power, Maguire, McGeady, Gooch (Kimpioka 79), Wyke.
Substitutes: Ruiter, Matthews, Ozturk, Dunne, Mumba.

Luton Town: Shea, Justin, McCormack, Bradley, Pearson, Stacey, Hylton, Lee (Berry 79), Shinnie, Ruddock, Collins.
Subs not used: Potts, Thorne, Lualua, Jones, Isted, Sheehan.

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