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Luton Town 3 Gillingham 2: Jayden Clarke and Tom Nichols on target in Carabao Cup Second Round match at Kenilworth Road

Gillingham threatened a second-half comeback against Luton Town in the Carabao Cup after appearing to be dead and buried after the first 45 minutes.

There was to be no fairytale at Kenilworth Road but the Gills made Luton worried when Jayden Clarke pulled a goal back following Jacob Brown’s early opener and Alfie Doughty’s 30-yard stunner for the Premier League side. Cauley Woodrow’s third for The Hatters calmed home nerves for a while before Tom Nichols made it 3-2 with an 88th minute header.

Jayden Clarke drives forward with the ball Picture: @Julian_KPI
Jayden Clarke drives forward with the ball Picture: @Julian_KPI

Manager Neil Harris made six changes to his side from the weekend league defeat against Colchester United. Nothing was expected of his team in this game and so he chose to mix things up, giving opportunities to others.

Goalkeeper Glenn Morris was among those to start, along with Conor Masterson - his first of the season - Max Clark, Robbie McKenzie, Clarke and Macauley Bonne. It was a five-man defence for the Gills against their top-flight opponents.

This was the first home game of the season for Luton, delaying their start at Kenilworth Road for as long as possible to allow for the modernisation of their ground to meet Premier League standards.

The Hatters were back in the big time but Rob Edwards’ side had endured a tough start, losing to Brighton (4-1) and Chelsea (3-0) in the opening weeks. They made eight changes to the side who lost at Stamford Bridge.

Gillingham were looking to quickly forget their own weekend loss, a winning run ending with a 3-0 home defeat to Colchester United.

Macauley Bonne started for the Gills at Luton Picture: @Julian_KPI
Macauley Bonne started for the Gills at Luton Picture: @Julian_KPI

The home side took less than two minutes to get infront.

Alfie Doughty had a shot blocked before Luton made their early dominance count. Luke Berry played the ball to Brown and he fired beyond Morris’ reach into the bottom corner.

Brown put another effort wide shortly after the goal but the Gills eventually settled after the early onslaught, with Jayden Clarke lively on the left. He almost picked Bonne out with a cross and blasted a shot of his own over the bar.

The second goal came on 28 minutes from a free-kick 30 yards out, laid off to Doughty, who then picked his spot with an excellent finish. If the first goal had been a set-back, the second was a real blow.

Gillingham tried to get back into it for the remainder of the half but found chances hard to come by as Luton looked well in charge.

Harris’ men came out for the second half confident enough and started to put the Luton goal under pressure.

Dieng had a shot blocked and the follow-up from Max Clark lacked the power to worry keeper Krul but it wasn’t long before the Luton keeper was beaten.

It was game-on again with 55 minutes gone. Clarke chased a flick-on from Bonne and got past defender Mads Anderson before stroking the ball past Krul.

Luton were rattled and Nadesan came close to an equaliser soon after, beating defender Amari’i Bell before a shot appeared to have gone between Krul’s legs, only for a slight deflection to save the hosts. From the corner Bonne blazed a shot over.

Hopes of a fightback were looking unlikely again when Woodrow picked out the top corner from inside the box on 66 minutes to restore Luton’s two-goal advantage.

Gillingham made for a tense finish as Nichols headed in Cheye Alexander’s cross with two minutes of normal time remaining.

Scott Malone had a shot saved in stoppage-time and Jonny Williams went close from distance but there was to be no dream finish for the Gills.

Max Clark plays it forward for the Gills Picture: @Julian_KPI
Max Clark plays it forward for the Gills Picture: @Julian_KPI

Luton: Krul, Lockyer (Burke 46mins), Doughty, Andersen, Bell, Giles (Barkley 60mins), Mpanzu, Berry (Kabore 60mins), Woodrow, Ogbene (Nakamba 69mins), Brown (Adebayo 81mins). Subs not used: Shea, Morris, Chong, Johnson.

Gillingham: Morris, Alexander, Clark (Malone 72mins), Ehmer, Ogie, Masterson, McKenzie, Clarke (Sithole 87mins), Dieng (S Williams 72mins), Bonne (J Williams 72mins), Nadesan (Nichols 72mins). Subs not used: Turner, Orji, Chambers, Gbode.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson

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