Exeter City caused the cupset and booked their spot in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup after a dramatic late finish at St James Park.
Demetri Mitchell’s goal seven minutes from time was enough for the Grecians to beat Premier League Luton Town 1-0 in front of a sold-out St James Park.
Cauley Woodrow hit the post and Luke Berry saw a dipping shot well saved for Luton in the early stages, which they dominated. But the Grecians grew into the clash and nearly took the lead when James Scott fired inches wide from distance.
Kyle Taylor missed a great chance to fire City ahead on the hour but dragged wide when it seemed certain he would score when Exeter capitalised on a mistake. The Hatters though launched a late onslaught as they pushed for a winner, Carlton Morris coming close with a header cleared off the line.
Wildschut’s cross should have been dealt with. It wasn’t, and Mitchell pounced, poking home, to make it 1-0.
Mitchell was sent off soon after for a second bookable offence. And seven minutes of stoppage time were added-on. But City hung on to reach round four for the first time since 1989 and beat top flight opposition for the first time since 1981 when they beat Leicester City.
Exeter City manager Gary Caldwell made five changes from the side who were beaten 3-0 at Oxford United on Saturday, Jack Fitzwater, Vincent Harper, Taylor, Caleb Watts, and Scott all came into the starting eleven. Ryan Trevitt was out injured, while Pierce Sweeney, Harry Kite, Reece Cox, and Yanic Wildschut dropped to the bench.
For Luton Town, Rob Edwards made ten changes from the side who picked up their first point of the season against Wolves on Saturday. Only Alfie Doughty remained as the Hatters rang the changes.
It was the visitors who perhaps unsurprisingly started the brighter, creating the first chances. Tatith Chong broke spritely and just as he looked to shoot having danced into the box, Will Aimson made a vital block. Moments later Berry saw a dipping strike from distance tipped over by Vil Sinisalo, and then straight from a throw-in, the ball broke to Woodrow, but with the Exeter defence asleep, his shot on the angle rattled the outside of the post.
It took 20 minutes for the Grecians to create anything, but with their first shot, came close to opening the scoring. Scott won the ball high up the field, cut inside, and let fly from 30 yards, with the shot going inches wide. Demetri Mitchell then saw a teasing cross just evade three runners, before having a shot well saved by Tim Krul, as City were working their way into the encounter after a slow start.
Luton though continued to look dangerous. Elijah Adebayo first headed narrowly wide from a free-kick. Then after a scramble from a corner, the striker’s first time attempt was well hit, but straight at Sinisalo. Watts was forced off injured just before half-time, Cole replacing him, as Taylor was next to threaten for City, volleying from 25 yards over the crossbar. It went in nil-nil at the break, with Exeter very much in the game.
Neither manager made a change at the break, and attacking the Big Bank in the second half, came out flying. Alex Hartridge launched a long throw into the box that somehow evaded everyone, Mitchell then lashed a 25 yard effort just over.
On the hour, City had a golden chance to break the deadlock. Mitchell robbed Joe Johnson on the halfway line and drove forward. His shot across goal was kept out by Krul and broke to Taylor, but 12 yards out, on his weaker left foot, he dragged the effort wide. Caldwell then made a double change, with Wildschut and Kite replacing Harper and Scott, while Edwards made a rare quadruple substitution.
One of those who came on, Jacob Brown, should have put the Hatters ahead shortly after. Ryan Giles hung up a cross, Brown met it six yards out, but his header was kept out, albeit at the second attempt, by Sinisalo.
Edwards threw on Carlton Morris for his final substitute in a bid to win it and avoid penalties. Caldwell replaced Taylor and Fitzwater with Cox and Sweeney. And with a first touch, Morris nearly put Luton ahead. The striker rose highest from a corner, his header was cleared off the line by Kite. Brown was unmarked for a follow-up, but couldn’t hit the target, as the onslaught from the top flight outfit came.
But in the 83rd minute, there was a goal, and it was City, to the delight of the packed out St James Park who got it. Wildschut held the ball up down the right, worked the opening, and floated in a cross. It should have been dealt with, it wasn’t, and Mitchell pounced, poking the ball home in off the underside of the crossbar to send the home fans wild.
Mitchell though didn’t see out the game. He was given a second yellow card for bringing down a Luton attacker on the edge of the box. It seemed harsh, but referee James Bell showed him his marching orders.
Seven minutes of time were added-on. But Luton’s crosses weren’t falling to the Hatters, City were clearing their lines, and hanging on. And hang on they did to make round four.
Exeter City are back in action on Saturday when they host Northampton Town in League One.