THE Hatters are in the hat for the second round draw and Newport County AFC are left to concentrate on the league – but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story of a cracking FA Cup tie at Kenilworth Road.

The world’s oldest cup competition has taken a bit of a battering in recent years and the attendance for this match – more than 6,000 down on Luton’s last home game in League Two – was further proof that it doesn’t have the appeal of days gone by.

But the 3,656 supporters who did come through the turnstiles, including the 334 County fans, will have thoroughly enjoyed a brilliant contest in wet and wild conditions.

The Exiles will be gutted to fall at the first hurdle but this was no meek surrender like last week’s final ten minutes at Hartlepool.

Justin Edinburgh’s men went down fighting and pushed a very good Luton side all the way.

Trailing 1-0 to a stunning strike from Luke Guttridge on 40 minutes and 2-1 when Paul Benson headed in on the line just before the hour, the visitors showed fantastic spirit to draw level not once but twice.

First Yan Klukowski pulled off a brilliant half volley from just inside the area that flew past Mark Tyler in the home goal six minutes after the restart.

Then former Hatters striker Aaron O’Connor headed in from Curtis Obeng’s cross on 64 minutes to momentarily silence the home fans who baited him all afternoon.

At 2-2 it was anyone’s game and it looked as if the Exiles could use the momentum and secure a spot in the second round for a second year running.

But the club – new or old – has never won at Kenilworth Road and late goals from substitute Ricky Miller and former Wales under-21 player Jake Howells sealed Luton’s 20th home victory over County in 28 games.

The defending for three of Luton’s four goals was certainly suspect.

Lee Minshull’s poor headed clearance was punished by Benson after Joe Day had saved brilliantly from Mark Cullen for the second.

For the third Miller got away from his marker Andrew Hughes at a corner to slot home from inside the box.

And Ismail Yakubu and Darren Jones won’t want to see a replay of the fourth as Howells skipped through some tired challenges to fire past a helpless Day four minutes from time.

Edinburgh was also angry with the performance of referee Christopher Sarginson and insisted that the official had missed fouls on Minshull and Hughes for the first and third goals.

But as the focus shifts back to the league campaign the manager will prefer to concentrate on the positives and there were plenty of them.

Klukowski’s super strike should be a massive boost for his confidence and if he can add regular goals from midfield, or right wing-back where he started on Saturday, it will add a whole new dimension to the side.

But the big plus was a second goal in two games for O’Connor who looks to be working his way back to the kind of form that saw him light up the Conference two years ago.

It’s still early days in his recovery from a horrible injury and it is a big ask for the 31-year-old to roll back the years but the signs are good at the moment.

The signs are good for John Still’s Luton side as well right now.

They look a good bet to seal back to back promotions this season but on this display they won’t relish the return of O’Connor and Co to Bedfordshire on December 20.

And with eight days to prepare for the visit of Exeter City to Rodney Parade next Sunday, County will be confident of extending their run of just one defeat in their last 13 league games.

Luton: Tyler; McNulty, Wilkinson, Lacey; Harriman, Doyle, Smith, Guttridge, Howells; Cullen (Miller, 70), Benson

Subs not used: Franks, Griffiths, Rooney, Justham, Whalley, Walker

Booked: Harriman

County: Day; Klukowski, Yakubu, Jones, Hughes, Obeng; Flynn, Byrne (Loveridge, 81), Minshull (Jackson, 66); O’Connor, Zebroski

Subs not used: Pidgeley, Feely, Porter, Tancock, Collins

Booked: Minshull, Zebroski

Referee: Christopher Sarginson

Attendance: 3,656 (343 County)