Fleetwood Town 0
McAllister 9, Gray 70
Goals from Craig McAllister and Andre Gray secured the Town's place in the Play-Offs with a fantastic victory at champions Fleetwood.
Needing a point to be sure of extending their season Paul Buckle's side took the game to the Cod Army can came away with a deserved victory - their first away from home since New Year's Day.
McAllister's deflected cross got the ball rolling as early as the ninth minute and, after a few scares as Fleetwood searched for an equaliser, Gray's goal 20 minutes from time sealed the points and with it booked a semi-final meeting with Wrexham.
Buckle made two changes to the side that drew 0-0 at Gateshead in the week. There were starts for McAllister and John Paul Kissock who replaced Stuart Fleetwood and Robbie Willmott, both of whom dropped to the bench.
The inclusion of McAllister for Fleetwood may have raised a few eyebrows but, nine minutes into the game - after the Town had soaked up some early pressure from the champions - it was the former Crawley man who was celebrating putting the Hatters ahead. Adam Watkins broke up play to allow McAllister to dash into the penalty area. With only Gray for company he clipped a cross into the box but in doing so the pass took a deflection off home defender Nathan Pond. The ball spun over goalkeeper Scott Davies and nestled delightfully into the net. Advantage Town.
The vital early goal for the Town had dampened an already surprisingly subdued atmosphere but Buckle's men were doing well to quell the attacking threat of Micky Mellon's side, working hard all over the pitch to deny the hosts times and space, especially in midfield.
It took the hosts until the 17th minute to come close to testing the Hatters defence when hotshot Jamie Vardy forced a shot over the crossbar from an acute angle.
Two minutes later Mark Tyler, the Town's hero in midweek at Gateshead, made his first save of the afternoon when diving to his right to keep out Andy Mangan's low shot from the edge of the box.
But in truth it was the Hatters who were impressing and Gray almost engineered a second for Buckle's boys on 21 minutes when turning former Town man Alan Goodall down the right to burst into the box and force Davies into a save with McAllister lurking for a tap-in on the six-yard box.
The Hatters' work-rate was hugely impressive, and it was determination on 32 minutes that led to Gray almost picking out McAllister at the back-post this time however, the goalscorer was unable to turn the ball home on the stretch.
Then, five minutes later, the Town almost doubled their lead. Gray did well to win a corner that Kissock floated in from the right. Davies was first to it, but, in an attempt to punch clear,his clearance travelled towards goal and the hosts were indebted to midfielder Peter Cavanagh to keep the score at 1-0 as he headed clear off of the line.
Back came Fleetwood, three minutes later, Goodall galloping forward from left-back to deliver a dangerous cross that Vardy came close to meeting on the rise.
As the break approached it was imperative that the Town kept their advantage before the half-time oranges and Gray thought he had a case for a penalty when he went down under a challenge from Goodall but the referee waved away the striker's claims.
You knew after such a flat first half that Fleetwood would up the ante after the restart and following McAllister's effort that stung Davies' gloves 40 seconds after the resumption, the champions lay siege on the Town's penalty area..
But to their credit the Hatters held firm, defending superbly, and the visitors then had a decent chance for 2-0 when an impeccably executed move between Watkins and Jake Howells led to Gray blazing high, wide and handsome from the edge of the area.
Buckle made his first change on 52 minutes, Greg Taylor replacing Lawless, who had taken a knock. The verdict post-match was a dead leg.
Fleetwood were bombarding the Town and the visitors had Tyler to thank for an absolutely brilliant point-blank save on 58 minutes from Mangan.
But slowly but surely the Hatters got the measure of the hosts' threat and Buckle made his second change of the afternoon on 62 minutes when Willmott replaced McAllister who received a healthy round of applause from the Town contingent as he went off.
Two minutes later Kissock, now moved inside to cater for Taylor's inclusion on the left-side of midfield, sent a shot wide of the target but the Town were now in full control and they made their dominance count on 70 minutes by doubling their advantage. Pond was the miscreant again, gifting the ball to Willmott in the right-wing position. He flew down the flank and placed the ball on plate for Gray six yards out and he swept home his fifth of the season before celebrating with the visiting hordes.
The Town were playing some top,top stuff and they almost made it three on 79 minutes when Gray sped clear of the home defence and fed Howells but his pass looking for Willmott was cut-out by Steve McNulty, the home skipper.
It was all the Hatters as the olés rang out from the away end and it was almost 3-0 on 87 minutes when Willmott tested the reflexes of Davies with a fizzer from 20 yards.
A minute later, as the Town pushed further forward, Curtis Osano left three Fleetwood defenders trailing in his wake before Davies prevented the right-back from scoring his first goal for the club with a smart save with his legs.
And that proved the last action. Kidderminster lost 3-0 at home to Mansfield - it mattered not. The Town are in the Play-Offs and on this evidence Buckle's boys will take some stopping.
A fifth consecutive clean sheet, a win at the Champions and six games unbeaten under the new boss.
If that record stays the same who knows.
But it's Wrexham who await over two legs, starting on Thursday at Kenilworth Road.
Remember all you have to do is believe...
For minute-by-minute analysis see below.
Result from Highbury
Fleetwood Town 0
Luton Town 2 (McAllister 9, Gray 70)
POSTSCRIPT: Town face Wrexham in the play-offs. First leg at Kenilworth Road on THURSDAY. Ticket details to follow.
FULL-TIME All over here, the Town are in the play-offs! Reaction, photographs and full match report to follow.
90 mins - We're not into the last minute. What a fantastic display has been. 4,446 the attendance by the way. No figure in the away yet.
88 mins - Ohhhhh, almost 3-0 and super, super stuff from Osano, weaving past the challenges of three home defender before being denied by the legs of Davies.
87 mins - Time ticking here. Still Town press, this time Willmott testing palms of Davies.
86 mins Goalscorer Gray off, on comes Stuart Fleetwood. Gets a hug off Buckle. Nice.
81 mins - Back at the other end, great tackle from Pilkington denies Vardy a sight of goal as he bursts into the box.
79 mins - Super play and it's almost 3-0 Town. Gray surges clear and has Howells for company. He is well placed for a shot but decides to attempt a clever pass through to Willmott but before he can tap home McNulty clears.
73 mins - That's Gray's fifth goal of the season.
70 mins GOAL! Fleetwood 0-2 TOWN (Gray) - Super, super stuff. Pond is the guilty man again as he gifts Willmott the ball down the right. He hares down the wing and puts a cross in the box that ANDRE GRAY sweeps home.
64 mins - Shot off target for the Town, this time from Kissock after taking a pass from Taylor.
62 mins Second Hatters change, Robbie Willmott on for goalscorer McAllister.
60 mins - Hour gone, still Town ahead.
58 mins - Tyler to the rescue, Mangan shot from two yards stopped by the keeper. Brilliant.
53 mins - All Fleetwood at the minute. Vardy almost pinches half-a-yard of space before the Hatters close ranks.
52 mins Early change in this first half, Greg Taylor replacing Alex Lawless who looks as though he has a knock.
51 mins - Almost a chance for 2-0 as the Hatters work it really well, Kissock to Howells to Watkins to Gray on the edge of the box but the striker blazes high and wide. Decent chance.
49 mins - Fleetwood upping it now, Town defend well, but the ball breaks to right-back Beeley who hits a decent strike a few yards wide, Tyler watching it all the way.
47 mins - Back come the hosts, force a corner, from which Vardy has a shot charged down bravely by Howells.
46 mins - 40 seconds into the second half, shot from McAllister for the Town from 20-ish yards, held by Davies.
46 mins Annnnnnnd we're off for the second half, a big, big 45 minutes lies ahead. No changes at the break COYH.
HALF-TIME And that is the break - the Hatters deservedly in front too. The goal a tad fortunate - I'm giving it to McAllister all day by the way - but who cares. The Town lead. Check back in 15 minutes for the second half. COYH.
45 mins - Pen? Gray does well to tip-toe into the box but it looks as though he's kicked in the ankle. Nowt given. One added minute...
40 mins - Fleetwood break well this time, Goodall gallopping up from left-back to cross dangerously into the box but Vardy can't connect when meeting it with pace.
37 mins - ...and from it the Hatters almost go 2-0 up as Kissock's right-wing corner is punched goalwards by the home keeper Davies which needs to be cleared off of the line by Peter Cavanagh.
36 mins - Now the Town's first corner...
35 mins - 10 minutes to the break.
33 mins - It's finally arrived...the first corner of the afternoon. Which goes Fleetwood's way.
32 mins - Sniff of goal for the Hatters, as Gray clips in a cross from the right looking for McAllister but the goalscorer can't guide the ball home at the back stick.
30 mins - Half-an-hour here and the Town still lead and are impressing with and without the ball, pressing high up the pitch.
25 mins - Still Hatters comfortably ahead here. More goals in this for Buckle's boys this afternoon. *insert kiss of death*
21 mins - Town playing some good stuff when they have it and Gray's unlucky not to create a second as he turns ex Hatters Alan Goodall to burst into the box but can only find the gloves of Davies with a cross-cum-shot that McAllister is almost near to getting a toe to.
19 mins - Followed by the first real save of the afternoon for Mark Tyler as gets down to his right to keep out Andy Mangan's daisycutter from 22 yards.
17 mins - First real threat from Vardy, the man with 30 odd goals to his name. He turns Howells inside out in the box but he can't force a shot on target.
16 mins - Paul Buckle applauds his team as they go close with a chance at the other end, Gray taking a clever pass from Kissock but his touch his heavy and the ball rolls out of play. Unlucky.
14 mins - Town defending well at the minute, solid, giving nothing away. Making good use of the ball when they have it in possession too.
13 mins - JPK off the pitch changing his shirt at the minute, had a nose bleed.
9 mins GOAL! Fleetwood 0-1 TOWN (Fleetwood) - Well, the Hatters have soaked up the early pressure and have taken the lead to ease the nerves. Watkins breaks up play and CRAIG McALLISTER finds the ball at his feet in the box. He's only got Andre Gray for company and looks up and goes for the cross but it takes a huge deflection off centre-back Nathan Pond and loops up and over Scott Davies. 1-0 Town, the perfect start.
7 mins - First shot on goal here comes from Fleetwood but it's nothing to worry about as Lee Fowler's effort from goes high, wide and handsome.
5 mins - Bit quiet here so far, Fleetwood bossing possession early doors though.
3 mins - Town lining up 4-4-2 then with Osano, Pilkington - the captain, Kovacs and Howells making up a back four, Lawless, Kissock, Keane and Watkins across midfield with Gray and McAllister up top.
2 mins - So, a point will do here. Simples.
1 min Annnnnnnnnd we're off as the Town get us off and underway. COYH!
12:55 HERE THEY COME
Town forming a guard of honour for the champions.
12:45 COME ON!
The players finish their warm up and head towards the away end and give the Town support a round of applause. COYH.
12:40 BIG GATE EXPECTED
Almost a sell out in the home areas here. Should be looking like a 5,000+ crowd this afternoon.
Lovely view from the press box in the newly built stand here. Coffee served to us and free programmes.
12:25 THE TEAMS
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, McNulty, Pond, Goodall, Mangan, Seddon, Cavanagh, Fowler, Rose, Vardy. Subs: Milligan, Charnock, Allen, Rowe, Stevenson.
Town: Tyler, Osano, Pilkington, Kovacs, Howells, Lawless, Keane, Watkins, Kissock, McAllister, Gray. Subs: Taylor, Willmott, Blackett, Fleetwood, Kidd.
12:20 TWO CHANGES
Craig McAllister and John Paul Kissock start.
12:15 EARLY PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS
Andrew Barringer: 1-0 Luton, Simon Pitts 2-2, Lauren Archell: 1-1, James Bannister: 2-1 Luton, Mark Wood: 2-1 Fleetwood, Andy Burgess: 2-2 draw.
11:50 WEATHER WATCH
Arrived in Fleetwood. Players inspecting the pitch. A lot of cloud around and pretty windy too.
Good morning everyone. To those on their way to Fleetwood, to those up and preparing to watch on television or listen on the radio and to those still in bed dreaming of the Town extending their season in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
A point. One solitary point. A draw. Just one draw. 0-0, 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4. That's what we'll take now. That's all the Town need to confirm their spot in the top five which will give them a crack at the Play-Offs for the third season running. It's a scenario which seemed only a distant possibility three weeks ago.
But the maths are the simple bit. The hard bit is going out there and acheiving it. It wouldn't be the Luton Town way if a top five berth wasn't achieved with drama. So the fact the Hatters have to go to champions Fleetwood Town (who will lift the title this afternoon) to earn their place makes it all the more nail-biting.
Defeat for the Town would not necessarily be the end of it, however. Paul Buckle's men will need a helping hand from Mansfield at Kiddeminster where Harriers need to win to give themselves a chance. A point or victory for the Stags and the Hatters' result will be immaterial.
It's been a long, hard, frustrating slog of a season. 45 matches and it's down to this. There were many that though today's game could turn out to be the title decider. As it is, it is still a decider of sorts.
Should the Hatters negotiate their toughest test of the season and be smiling come 2.45pm today then they have a one-in-four chance of joining Fleetwood in the Football League next season.
There's a lot of ifs, buts and maybes. It could be said that has been the story of the Town's season.
The Pleasure Beach at Blackpool, the home to the country's tallest rollercoaster, lies just the down the road from Fleetwood. The Luton Town story has had more twists and turns and always will.
The course of this particular ride that began in August is yet to be decided but win, lose or draw you just never know...
All you have to do is believe.
Well, whatever happens today, your official website will have everything covered: every step of the way.
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