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Page last updated at 07:21 GMT, Wednesday, 11 May 2011 08:21 UK

Luton 2-1 Wrexham (agg 5-1)

Zdenek Kroca celebrates his goal
Kroca celebrates his goal for Luton at Kenilworth Road

Luton are one win away from a return to the Football League after beating Wrexham to reach the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off final.

Wrexham, 3-0 down from the first leg, struck on eight minutes as Andy Mangan turned in Adrian Cieslewicz's cross.

But when Dan Gleeson handballed in the area, Gareth Taylor's weak penalty was saved by Luton goalkeeper Mark Tyler.

Zdenek Kroca's header caught Wrexham keeper Chris Maxwell off his line, before Jason Walker added the second.

Luton will now play either AFC Wimbledon, who have a 2-0 first-leg lead, or Fleetwood Town in the play-off final at Manchester City's Eastlands Stadium on 21 May.

Hatters manager Gary Brabin told BBC Three Counties Radio: "We definitely expected that first half from Wrexham, they're a good side, they're in this position on merit.

"We knew they were a wounded animal who had nothing to lose and they've thrown everything at us.

"I thought topped with a little bit of nervousness on our part it probably made it an uncomfortable first 25 minutes.

"But I thought once half-time came we were happy, we had a little chat and ironed out a few problems and I thought that was more like us in the second half."

A crowd of 9,078 saw the Hatters clinch victory as the club attempts to recover from a series of setbacks.

Luton, who spent the 10 years until 1992 in football's top flight, were relegated from the League two years ago after being docked a total of 40 points following administrations and financial problems.

TV presenter Nick Owen, who fronted a consortium which took over at Kenilworth Road in 2008, savoured the recovery.

"It's a very good division. If you look at the top half, it's full of teams who used to be in the Football League, such as Mansfield, Wrexham, York City, Kidderminster, Cambridge United and Darlington," the Luton chairman told BBC 5 live.

Owen, who travelled straight to the game from presenting the BBC's Midlands Today programme, admitted non-league life was tough.

"Obviously the television money doesn't exist in the same way as it does in the Football League and away crowds are disappointing. Some clubs only bring about 20 or 30 people," he said.

"Tonight, Wrexham must have brought the best part of 1,000 people and there was more than 9,000 altogether in the ground, which makes all the difference.

"Having been in the Football League for so long it's not easy to get used to the fact you are not in it. We are desperate to get back, but have one big game to go."

We felt it was mean-spirited and vindictive

Nick Owen on Luton's points deductions

Luton fans have accused the football authorities of double standards after the club was docked 10 points and then a further 30 points over financial issues, whereas other clubs such as QPR have only been given fines.

"In the space of about six months we were docked 40 points and it's very difficult to come back from that," said Owen.

"When you look at the way other teams have been treated, and I don't know enough about their details really to comment, it does seem that we were very harshly treated.

"We felt it was mean-spirited and vindictive. Everyone I know in football says the way we were treated was absolutely outrageous.

"We have put it to one side and don't want to go on whinging about it. We've suffered that but we will move on."

Former Luton manager David Pleat said it was a "wonderful" achievement to reach the play-off final.

"Luton have maintained their crowds, the supporters have felt harshly treated over the years because of the points deduction, and the subsequent punishments other clubs have received for similar actions," said Pleat.

"It will be the most wonderful day at Eastlands. If they can beat Wimbledon and get back in the League, it will be a major milestone for the club.

"They had a bad period, they had some awful policy making and administrations. They got their punishment and now they are on the way back."


Luton: Tyler, Gleeson, Kroca, George Pilkington, Asafu-Adjaye, Gnakpa, Keane, Lawless, Howells, Willmott, Jason Walker.
Subs: Kevin Pilkington, Graham, Newton, Barnes-Homer, Owusu.

Wrexham: Maxwell, Obeng, Creighton, Sinclair, Ashton, Keates, Fowler, Harris, Taylor, Mangan, Cieslewicz.
Subs: Mayebi, Andrews, Tolley, Knight-Percival, Anoruo.

Att: 9,078

Referee: Carl Berry (Surrey).



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see also
Saunders praises players' efforts
11 May 11 |  Wrexham
Saunders rues penalty miss
10 May 11 |  Wrexham
Wrexham 0-3 Luton
05 May 11 |  Non League


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