The Hatters’ final League Two assignment of the month saw them show great character to come from behind and draw against Swindon at Edgeley Park.
In the event, it felt like a case of one point gained – with County’s late leveller from Antoni Sarcevic arriving after skipper Paddy Madden had become the third Hatter this season to be sent off.
The Hatters took to the field on a cloudy afternoon, showing three changes from the League Cup starting line-up in SK3 against Leicester four days earlier. Will Collar was recalled to play for the first time since suffering concussion at Stevenage in early August, while Madden and Sarcevic also returned – replacing Connor Evans, Connor Jennings (both of whom were named among the substitutes) and the injured Ryan Rydel.
The visiting ‘Robins’, unbeaten in league matches since their opening-day defeat at Harrogate, dominated in possession during the early stages – although County fashioned the afternoon’s first chance, with just under 10 minutes on the clock, when Ollie Crankshaw cut in from the left before dragging his shot wide the near upright.
Myles Hippolyte then sent over a delivery from the same flank that Tom Clayton deflected into the arms of goalkeeper Sol Brynn, and Callum Camps fired beyond the left post from outside the area, as the Hatters grew into the game.
Swindon had to wait until the 20th minute before registering a first shot of note, as Saidou Khan drilled beyond the right post from beyond the County ‘D’. And Mark Kitching did well to dispossess joint-leading scorer Jacob Wakeling, after the 20-year-old striker had broken into the six-yard box.
As each side sought to gain the upper hand, both took to trying their luck from distance, as an effort from Collar was comfortably caught by Brynn, and Ronan Darcy’s shot flew wide of the left post.
Just after the half-hour, the Hatters had two better opportunities to get their noses in front. A Sarcevic free-kick was headed down by Joe Lewis for Hippolyte to half-volley over from the edge of the six-yard box – before Collar’s cross from the right found Crankshaw, who dived to head towards goal, only to be denied by Brynn’s parry beyond the far post.
The end-to-end fare continued, as Tyrese Shade’s low shot fizzed narrowly wide of the left upright; a County break culminated in a Madden effort from close range that was blocked by his captaining counterpart Angus MacDonald; and another Khan shot flashed by the Hatters’ right post.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Swindon 0.
As the sun broke through the clouds upon the resumption, Ryan Croasdale replaced Collar – but the visitors, as they had done in the first half, made the brighter start. And within four minutes of the re-start, they went ahead – courtesy of a low shot from 25 yards by Fraser Blake-Tracy that found its way through a crowded box and into the bottom-right corner of the net.
The Robins had truly taken flight, as Shade found himself in space on the right and sent over a delivery across the goalmouth that Lewis turned beyond the far post. But a triple substitution just after the hour looked to lift County, as one of the newly-arrived trio, Evans, fired a shot at Brynn within a minute of his introduction.
Swindon’s first two substitutes, for their part, combined well with a quarter of an hour remaining, as Tomi Adeloye teed up Remeao Hutton, whose point-blank shot was parried by Vit Jaros. But any sense of reprieve for County disappeared four minutes later when Madden received a straight red card following a foul on Khan in front of the dugouts.
The drama continued, albeit in a rather better way so far as the Hatters were concerned, with an equaliser half a dozen minutes from time, as Ash Palmer nodded on for Sarcevic to hook home an angled volley from beyond the left post.
Mark Kitching, cutting in from the left, drilled a shot just past the far upright, and substitute Kyle Wootton saw a shot gathered up by Brynn, but the Hatters had ultimately to settle for a share of the spoils that leaves them in 19th place going into September.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Sarcevic, 84), Swindon 1 (Blake-Tracy, 49).
Team (3-4-1-2): Jaros; Lewis, Palmer, Kitching; Brown (R. Johnson, 82), Collar (Croasdale, 46), Camps (Evans, 62), Hippolyte (Jennings, 62); Sarcevic; Crankshaw (Wootton, 62), Madden (Capt.).
Unused Subs: Hinchliffe, Horsfall.
Booked: Brown, Jennings.
Sent Off: Madden.
Man of the Match: Lewis.
Attendance: 8,233 (701 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.