Report: Luton 1-3 Millwall

HARRY Smith struck twice in the last 10 minutes as Millwall defeated Luton 3-1 to secure a home draw in the next stage of the EFL Trophy.

Smith scored his first after Craig King had parried Calum Butcher’s shot, before he headed home David Worrall’s free-kick.

Isaac Vassell went close twice to putting Luton ahead in the first half, while Frankie Musonda sent a header looping over Tom King but wide.

Smith, making his Football League debut, headed straight at King, before Aiden O’Brien spun to shoot in the box but the goalkeeper tipped the ball over the bar.

Millwall's King came to hias side's rescue five minutes into the second half, coming off his line to narrow the angle and block after Jake Gray had put Vassell away in the inside-right channel.

Worrall headed over before King comfortably saved O’Brien’s low drive, and then the striker shot over when he could have crossed.

Luton went in front when Shaun Hutchinson attempted to cut out Craig Mackail-Smith’s low cross only to divert it past King.

Substitute Fred Onyedinma went through one-on-one with King seconds after coming on for O’Brien, but the goalkeeper made a superb save with his foot.

Onyedinma finished Gregg Wylde’s low cross to the back of the net to level with just under 20 minutes left, before King saved from Joe Martin and Onyedinma again.

And Smith’s late brace ensured there would be no need for a penalty shootout.

Neil Harris made nine changes to the side that overcame Southend in the FA Cup first round, giving first senior starts to Smith, Paul Rooney and Kyron Farrell.

Luton boss Nathan Jones changed his entire starting XI, and it was his side that were the more threatening in the first half, with Vassell a menacing presence on the right side of their attack.

Their system, a narrow midfield but no left-sided attacking player, put the onus on Jack Senior to run from deep and cross. He did that particularly well twice before the break, but Josh McQuoid and then Vassell couldn’t get their headers on target.

Millwall struggled to find any kind of attacking rhythm. Wylde was given another chance to make an impact on the left side of midfield, but he couldn’t find the space to make any kind of incisive contribution or link up with Martin in the opening 45 minutes.

Shaun Cummings and Worrall did try to develop an understanding on the right. Smith had been instructed to take up a position in the back post to attack crosses, but he couldn’t get enough power behind his first-half header. Later in the half an attempt to lob King from distance went well wide.

After half an hour Vaseell forced King into making a low save, while O’Brien showed a neat touch to swivel and fire a left-footed half-volley towards goal that Luton stopper King diverted over.

Millwall's goalkeeper showed his quality when he blocked Vassell’s close-range effort, but he could do little when Hutchinson unluckily found the back of his own net.

Harris brought on Onyedinma to give Millwall’s attack more pace, and the move almost paid off within seconds. It was a mistake that allowed Onyedinma a run on goal. It was difficult to blame him for shooting with just King to beat, but Smith would have been left with a tap-in had Onyedinma squared the ball to his strike partner.

Minutes later the scenario was reversed with Onyedinma bursting into the box as Wylde, finally getting some space to attack behind Stephen O’Donnell, sprinted towards the box. His cross was neat and Onyedinma, under pressure from Senior, tapped home his fourth goal of the season.

With penalties looming and the sense neither side especially fancyied it there was a flurry of chances. King saved superbly to tip Martin’s 35-yard shot over before palming away Onyedinma’s poked effort. King will perhaps be disappointed he didn’t push away Butcher’s shot further with nine minutes to go, but Smith, who had showed some frustration at his lack of opportunities, pounced to make it 2-1 from three yards out.

That seemed to break Luton’s spirit, and they left Smith free to head Worrall’s free-kick past King as Millwall made it three wins from their three group games.

Image source: ©Millwall FC

John Kelly

(@jkelly1882)