Rob Edwards believes Luton should have been awarded a late penalty at Kenilworth Road as they were made to settle for a goalless draw against League One Bolton in the FA Cup third round.
Alfie Doughty went down in the closing moments under a challenge from defender Will Forrester, seconds after he had been denied a likely winner when his shot came back off a post.
Edwards fielded a near full-strength side but it was not enough to find a way past the team currently second in the third tier.
Substitutes Andros Townsend and Jordan Clark both saw second-half efforts deflected wide as Luton laboured in vain to avoid a replay.
Chances for Ian Evatt’s side were at a premium, Josh Sheehan briefly worrying stand-in goalkeeper Tim Krul in the first half with a rasping drive that cleared the crossbar, but by and large this was a result earned via a determined, organised defensive effort.
Yet Edwards felt his team had been unfairly denied the chance to win the tie from the penalty spot after referee Andrew Madley was advised by VAR that Forrester had not committed an infringement in challenging Doughty for the ball.
“The big decision was a penalty on Alfie Doughty,” he said. “I never moan about decisions going against us but I’m not sure what VAR was thinking there with that one.
“I think Andrew Madley should have been told to go to the screen. I think that was a big mistake.
“Credit to Bolton. They’ve got a result and we go and do it again.”
The result means a replay which in turn will force a rearrangement of Luton’s upcoming Premier League visit to Burnley, now brought forward three days to January 12.
Edwards had hoped to take his players away on a warm-weather training camp after the game at Turf Moor, but that will now have to wait until after the rematch against Bolton.
“I’m disappointed that we’ve not managed to get the job done today,” he said. “The reality is we haven’t, and we have to go again.
“We’re on a different schedule now, we were going to be off (Monday), have a bit more time to plan for Burnley, but now we play them away on Friday night. That’s just the reality and we’ve got to deal with it.
“I respect the (FA Cup) hugely, it’s one I love and have grown up watching. I want us to progress in it. I respect Bolton Wanderers and everything (Ian Evatt) has done there.
“I genuinely feel whatever team I would have picked would be strong and be capable of winning the game.”
Bolton boss Evatt reflected that the decision not to award Luton a late penalty was fair.
“The referee made the decision and there were two experienced officials in the VAR hub who looked at it as well and both of them thought it wasn’t a penalty, so it wasn’t a penalty,” he said.