Football: Gray ends Dixon's dream

Boreham Wood 2 Luton Town 3
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The Independent Online
THE MEADOW Park ground in Boreham Wood is only a few hundred yards from Elstree film studios and across the road from a NatWest bank administrative centre, a constant reminder to the home team that in the Murdochian football era, dreams tend to go hand in hand with an open cheque book.

Unfortunately, on a chilly afternoon, even the fact that Boreham Wood's centre-back Garry Nisbet has a day job printing money for the Bank of England was unable to prevent his side suffering a narrow defeat.

Yet despite their disadvantages - three divisions stand between Luton Town and Boreham Wood of the Ryman League Premier Division - the Hertfordshire minnows could have snatched a win.

The visitors arrived knowing what to expect. Kenilworth Road is situated just a short hop from Stevenage Borough, last year's non-League FA Cup overachievers, while they themselves have been ruffling Premiership feathers this season, most notably with a win over Coventry in the third round of the Worthington Cup. But they also have a proud FA Cup tradition to defend, having reached three FA Cup semi- finals since 1985, the last of which, in 1994, against Chelsea,featured a certain Kerry Dixon, Boreham Wood's current centre-forward.

"They kept clawing themselves back into the game," the Luton manager, Lennie Lawrence, remarked. "We needed a replay like a hole in the head and they might certainly have nicked a draw."

Indeed they might, but after Phil Gray's headed opener for Luton, they were always playing catch-up. For Boreham Wood the 37-year-old Dixon combined well with Dominic Grime and Tony Samuels, the latter's frightening pace unnerving the Luton defence. On the whole the non-League team's first- half performance was bright, considering they had lost their last match 6-0 to Aldershot.

The second half was less than 10 minutes old when Gray scored his and Luton's second. Douglas skipped past the mammoth figure of Garry Nisbet and pulled back an accurate cross, which the former Sunderland player knocked high into the net from eight yards out.

Nisbet atoned a minute later, finishing coolly after a long ball confused then eluded the Luton defenders.

Boreham Wood then had 20 minutes or so in which to pull themselves back into the match before their tormentor-in-chief Gray crossed towards the head of Steve Davis. His firm header found its way into the net via the hand of the goalkeeper Martin Taylor.

The Boreham Wood substitute Mark Xavier then condemned Luton to what Lawrence called "a nervous and hairy" last 10 minutes when Dixon's flicked header fell kindly for him to finish.

Boreham Wood were perhaps a little unlucky - even their mascot for the day was a Tottenham fan - but ultimately their spirit alone did not merit a win and there was to be no fairy-tale ending for the lumbering Dixon. Luton, in contrast, look well set for another Cup run, after they were paired with the League's bottom club Hull City in the next round.

Goals: Gray 33 (0-1); Gray 53 (0-2); Nisbet 54 (1-2); S Davis 76 (1-3); Xavier 81 (2-3).

Boreham Wood (3-5-2): Taylor; Sanders, Nisbet, McCarthy; Shaw, Brown (Daly, 88), Grime, Heffer, Brady (Ireland, 67); Dixon, Samuels (Xavier, 73). Substitutes not used: Hatchett, Sewell.

Luton Town (4-4-2): K Davis; McGowan, S Davis, Johnson, Alexander; McKinnon (Spring, 90), McLaren, Nyamah (McIndoe, 62), Evers; Douglas (Doherty, 66), Gray. Substitutes not used: White, Abbey.

Bookings: Luton: McLaren.

Referee: P E Alcock (Halstead).

Man of the match: Gray (Luton).

Attendance: 1,772.