Kevin Nolan made three changes to the side that faced Portsmouth on Easter Monday. Michael O’Connor, who ruptured his ACL in that match, Matt Tootle and Marc Bola made way as Shola Ameobi, Josh Clackstone and Carl Dickinson came into the starting 11.
Notts had the dream start when, with only six minutes on the clock, the ball dropped for Hewitt on the edge of the area. The Welshman struck it sweetly into the bottom corner on the half-volley. The hosts, looking to secure a play-off place, wasted no time in commencing their search for an equaliser and, shortly after Dan Potts had fired the ball into the side-netting, they found one. Danny Hylton rattled the bar from 25 yards and Palmer was first on the scene to head the ball goalwards from 12 yards on the rebound. Adam Collin got a hand to the ball but was unable to keep it out. Jorge Grant sent a header off-target before seeing yellow for a foul on Potts. Hylton had been booked for the hosts moments before for a barge on Collin as the pair challenged for a high ball. Both keepers saved comfortably on 38 minutes, Stuart Moore denying Adam Campbell before Hylton’s header was easily dealt with by Collin. But the Notts stopper was left helpless in first-half injury time as Mpanzu stroked the ball into the bottom corner with a first-time effort from the edge of the area to send the hosts into the break ahead.
It should have been 3-1 seconds after the restart when Notts’ defence was caught out by a long ball over the top, releasing danger man Hylton through one-on-one with Collin. He could only send the ball wide of the target from eight yards. Dickinson’s name was booked for a foul on Lawson D’Ath and Haydn Hollis blocked Potts’ goalbound header as Notts fought to stay in the game. Their hard defensive work was nearly undone on 55 minutes when, after slipping as he cleared the ball upfield, Collin could only watch on helplessly as Palmer sent the ball wide from 50 yards. Opposition keeper Moore made an excellent fingertip save to divert Campbell’s curling effort behind and the former Newcastle man was denied again shortly afterwards when his long-range header was nodded over the bar by Hatters skipper Scott Cuthbert. Hylton, usually so clinical in front of goal, saw another golden opportunity pass him by when Collin made an excellent save to deny the striker with his feet. Former Magpie Alan Sheehan sent a free-kick straight at Collin after Hollis had been booked for a foul on Hatters sub Isaac Vassell. Clackstone couldn’t go one better at the other end, sending a 30-yard free-kick high over the bar moments before Mark Yeates replaced Rob Milsom. And the substitute nearly bagged the equaliser on 84 minutes, latching on to Forte’s flick and striking the ball towards the bottom corner. Moore got down well to push the ball behind. Hylton nearly wrapped the game up shortly afterwards, fending off a number of challenges brilliantly before firing the ball low across goal and just wide of the far post. But Notts weren’t out of it and nearly proved it when Hewitt was inches away from connecting with Forte’s dangerous cross at the near post. Campbell, who had just been booked for a foul on Mpanzu, was replaced by Tahvon Campbell with a minute of normal time remaining. A frustrating afternoon for Hylton was capped when he was shown a second yellow card for a dangerous challenge on Hollis, leaving Notts with a man advantage for the four added minutes indicated by the referee’s assistant. Mpanzu went into the book for timewasting shortly before Tahvon Campbell failed to nudge the ball home from point-blank range after latching on to a flick-on in the area. And that was to be Notts’ final opportunity as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat in Bedfordshire.
Luton: Moore, Justin, Sheehan, Cuthbert, Rea, Potts, Ruddock, D’Ath (Gray 61), Lee, Palmer (Vassell 72), Hylton.
Booked: Hylton, Ruddock.
Sent Off: Hylton.
Notts County: Collin, Dickinson, Duffy, Hollis, Clackstone, A.Campbell (T.Campbell 90), Milsom (Yeates 82), Hewitt, Grant, Stead (Forte 73), Ameobi.
Booked: Dickinson, Hollis, Grant, A.Campbell.