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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
10:43 18th April 2012

TOWN 3-0 EBBSFLEET UNITED - REPORT & ANA

Town 3
Fleetwood 45, 46, McAllister 90 Ebbsfleet United 0 The Town put themselves right back in the hunt for a play-off place as they comfortably saw off Ebbsfleet United at Kenilworth Road. Paul Buckle's men knew that nothing less than a win would suffice against Fleet and the Hatters duly obliged as two goals from Stuart Fleetwood and an injury-time strike from Craig McAllister sealed a fine victory that in truth could have been wider on a night the Town dominated. Buckle made just one change to the side that drew 0-0 at Alfreton on Saturday. It was a swap in midfield - Adam Watkins replaced Godfrey Poku. The new boss' troops started brightly. Having dealt with two Ebbsfleet set pieces in the opening three minutes, Robbie Willmott's cross was pawed away by visiting goalkeeper Tom McNeil in a left-wing raid on five minutes. Three minutes later - as the Hatters began to step up a gear - a fine move almost had them in front. Willmott beat his man down the left and played the ball into Fleetwood who then found Jake Howells with first-time pass. From tight on the byeline the left-back hung up a perfect cross for Andre Gray but his powerful header was turned over spectacularly by McNeil. The Town then began to lay siege on the visitors' goal. On 15 minutes Watkins fired a left-foot shot over the crossbar and then, a minute later, Alex Lawless had the ball in the Ebbsfleet net only to see the effort ruled out for offside after he was quickest to the loose after McNeil had parried Gray's fierce drive. McNeil was increasingly frustrating the Hatters as the Fleet stopper then kept out a powerful effort from Gray with a flying stop on 17 minutes before getting his body behind a cross-cum-shot from Curtis Osano a minute later. Ebbsfleet, who arrived at Kenilworth Road with nothing but pride to play for having secure their status in the Blue Square Bet Premier, almost went ahead, however, on 20 minutes when Liam Enver-Marum's effort was kept out by the fingers of Mark Tyler after the visiting striker had turned in the penalty area. Back came the Town though: Fleetwood shot wide on 27 minutes but then Enver-Marum spurned another decent chance for the visitors on the half-hour when he wriggled into the box down the left and saw a shot at Tyler's near post kept out by the Town number one. Frustration was creeping into the Hatters' game but they were still bossing possession and on 40 minutes Fleetwood came close to breaking the deadlock when he raced clear having been tugged back by Ross Smith. Play went on but, after the striker had beaten McNeil to the ball he was denied by a goal-line clearance by Smith who was then booked by referee Merchant for his earlier tug. To their credit the Town were not crumbling under the frustration of not being ahead, especially after Fleetwood couldn't turn home after Willmott and Howells had done well to engineer the chance on 43 minutes. It was constant pressure from Buckle's boys and Ebbsfleet were again let-off the hook when Willmott curled an effort wide on 45 minutes before McNeil came to their rescue yet again in the first minute of stoppage time when he blocked Fleetwood's close range effort. However, in the final minute of four added on at the end of the first half finally, the pressure told as the Town took the lead. Ebbsfleet failed to clear their lines allowing Lawless to cross from the right. The ball was met by Gray, chesting it down but unable to get a shot away. However the ball fell kindly to Fleetwood who took one touch before belting it past McNeil who still managed to get a glove to it. The lead at the best possible time and Fleetwood's 14th goal of the campaign. The Hatters knew a second goal after the break was imperative and it took them just 40 seconds after the restart to get it. Gray was the instigator, beating his man inside the area to drill a low shot that McNeil was equal to, but, after seizing on the loose ball Fleetwood composed himself before curling a fine finish into the back of the net for his fourth goal in three matches. By now the Town were sensing blood with Fleetwood on a mission to become the first Luton player to net a league hat-trick since August 2010. He attempted a long ranger on 51 minutes that was deflected behind before Gray volleyed wide four minutes later. The Hatters were playing some eye-catching stuff as the olés rang around Kenilworth Road. Ebbsfleet had barely had a sniff such was the Town's dominance and Janos Kovacs came close to making it 3-0 on 69 minutes when his downward header from a Lawless cross was pushed out by McNeil. Four minutes later Lawless curled an ambitious left-foot effort wide of the target before Fleetwood was denied his hat-trick with 14 minutes left when his curling goal-bound effort was headed brilliantly off the line by Johnny Herd. Gray should have made it three two minutes later when he thumped over the crossbar with the goal gaping after the ball had dropped to him on a plate from a corner before he was substituted to a round of applause, and in the knowledge that he was named the sponsors' man-of-the-match. And it was his replacement that had the last word. McAllister, without a goal all season with Newport and since joining the Town, charged down a poor kick from McNeil to round the keeper and slot home his first goal for the club. The relief was there for all to see. The players ran over to congratulate him. "It's a miracle" the Hatters fans joked. But there was nothing funny about this performance. The Town turned on the style. Three points and three goals is a good night's work in anyone's book. And it could have been more. It's sets up a massive game on Saturday when play-off rivals Kidderminster Harriers visit Kenilworth Road. Make sure you're there. COYH. For minute-by-minute analysis see below. Result from Kenilworth Road Luton Town 3 (Fleetwood 45, 46, McAllister 90) Ebbsfleet United 0 FULL-TIME All over here, three points for the Town and three goals. Report, photos, goals and reaction to come. COYH! 90 mins  GOAL! TOWN 3-0 Ebbsfleet (McAllister) 90 mins Into the last minute final change. Poku on for Willmott. Three added minutes. 86 mins - And then almost 3-0 at the other end, Fleetwood, forced wide, goes close, his shot trickles just wide. 85 mins - Almost 2-1, Shakes denied by a great block from Pilkington. 83 mins McAllister on for Gray. 80 mins - 10 minutes left here. 78 mins - And it should be three this time as Gray, with the goal gaping, whacks a shot over the bar from five yards following a knock-down in the corner. 76 mins - Oh, almost 3-0 and almost a hat-trick for Fleetwood as is curling shot from 15 yards is headed off the line by Johnny Herd. 75 mins Change for the Town. Adam Watkins replaced by Shane Blackett. Howells moves into centre-mid. 73 mins - Back come the Town, Lawless seizing on an awry pass from the visitors to curl a left-foot shot just high and wide. 70 mins - Ebbsfleet giving it more of a go now with 20 minutes left. 69 mins - Still all the Town here, Kovacs getting up to meet Lawless' cross to plant a header goalwards that McNeil claws away well diving to his left. 62 mins - Ebbsfleet have subbed their sub. Lanre Azeez - on for Ram Marwa in the first half - is off and replaced by Calum Willock. 61 mins - There are 5,526 inside Kenilworth Road which includes 59 from Ebbsfleet. 60 mins - Hour gone in, only one team in it at the moment. Town playing some eye-catching possession football as they probe for a third goal. 55 mins - Gray, who hit the post on Saturday, is also after a goal. He does really well to flick the ball over a Fleet defender before thumping an effort from the left-hand side of the pitch, about 20 yards out, wide. 51 mins - Fleetwood aiming for a treble. The Town haven't had a hat-trick hero this season. He tries his luck from the edge of the area but it takes a nick off of a Fleet defender behind for a corner. 49 mins - Hatters sensing blood now, Willmott bursting down the left, passes to Fleetwood, now on a hat-trick, curls a left-foot shot a yard or two wide. 46 mins  GOAL! TOWN 2-0 Ebbsfleet (Fleetwood) - A goal moments before the break is followed by a goal 40 second after the interval puts the Town in command. Gray does well into the box to turn his man and rifle a shot at goal that McNeil does well to save but the ball breaks to STUART FLEETWOOD who finds the back of the net with a fine finish for his 15th goal of the season. 46 mins Annnnnnd we're off again for the second half as Ebbsfleet restart us. Town now shooting towards the Kenilworth Road end. HALF-TIME And that's half-time the Town ahead. Check back in 15 minutes for the second half. 45 mins + 4  GOAL! TOWN 1-0 Ebbsfleet (Fleetwood) - There's no better time to score a goal than before half-time and in the 49th minute of the first half the Town deservedly have the lead. Lawless receives the ball down the right and clips in a fine cross that Gray chests down. He can't get a second touch but STUART FLEETWOOD can, two in fact, as he takes a touch away from his man before thumping a shot beyond McNeil, who still gets a hand on in it. 1-0 Get in! 45 mins + 3 - 48 minutes in and the Town have been awarded their first free-kick. 45 mins + 1 - Fleet keeper McNeil's certainly been a busy boy tonight. Again he frustrates the Town, this time keeping out Fleetwood's well-hit half-volley on his left foot having taken Keane's super defence-splitting pass. From the rebound Howells lash way, way over. 45 mins - Another minute, another chance, this time for Willmott, from the left-hand edge of the 18-yard box, curls just over. We've got four added minutes. 44 mins - It's all go here, back come Ebbsfleet with that man Enver-Marum, this time drags a shot just wide. 43 mins - Almost a chance for 1-0. Willmott and Howells combine, which sees the latter slip Fleetwood into the six-yard box with a lovely ball but he can't turn the ball home. 40 mins - Massive chance for the Town as Fleetwood races through, he gets ahead of Ross Smith who tugs the striker back. Fleetwood lobs the ball over the keeper but can't turn the ball home as Smith gets back to clear. The referee books Smith... 37 mins - Frustration for the Town at the minute but they still look the most likely to break the deadlock here. 33 mins - Almost a sniff at the other end for the Town as Howells bursts in to the area. He attempts to play a one-two with Lawless but when receiving the ball back it gets stuck under his feet which enables Ebbsfleet to hack it clear. 30 mins - Great chance back up at the other end for the visitors as Enver-Marum wriggles into the area past several Town men to fire a shot towards the near post that Tyler needs to turn behind well with his hand. 27 mins - Another half a chance for the Town as they come forward with Fleetwood but the striker fires a shot a good five yard wide. 22 mins - Almost a sniff for the Hatters once more as Lawless is found well by Watkins but he flicks it on for Gray the striker is offside. 20 mins - Back come Ebbsfleet though and Tyler does well to turn away Liam Enver-Marum's effort from the edge of the six yard box after the striker had broken free. Almost 1-0 but a top save by the fingers of the keeper. 18 mins - Well and truly all the Hatters here. Gray doing well again down the right, using his pace to good effect, eventually sees Osano blast a cross-cum-shot at goal that McNeil again gets in the way of. 17 mins - Another minute, another chance for the Town this time, Fleetwood doing well to flick a pass into the path of Gray who, from an acute angle, fires a powerful effort at goal that McNeil does brilliantly to turn over. 16 mins - The Hatters are now looking dangerous going forward. A fine move involving Howells and Willmott tees up Gray to hit one from the edge of the area. He blasts a shot at goal that is parried by McNeil into the path of Lawless who tucks the ball home but the midfield is offside. No goal. 15 mins - Town beginning to flex their muscles, Watkins, in for Poku, drives forward from midfield, gets the ball on his left foot and fires a shot just over the crossbar. Decent effort. 13 mins - That man was Ram Marwa and he's had to be stretchered off. Ebbsfleet planning to make a change. On comes Lanre Azeez. 12 mins - Ebbsfleet man down, on the halfway line, play stopped here. 8 mins - Best move of the match so far and the Hatters are oh-so close to going 1-0 up. Willmott beats his man down the left and plays the ball inside to Fleetwood. The striker spots Howells bursting forward from left-back to pop a perfect cross to Gray 10 yards out that is powerfully headed at goal but turned over spectacularly by McNeil. Good move, good save. 5 mins - Quiet start to proceedings. The Town have dealt well with two Ebbsfleet set pieces at the back, whilst going forward a left-wing cross from Willmott almost catches home stopper Tom McNeil who flaps at the winger's swirling cross. 2 mins - So the Hatters are lining up 4-4-2 with a back four of Osano, Pilkington, Kovacs and Howells, a midfield of Lawless, Keane, Watkins and Willmott with Gray and Fleetwood up top. 1 min Annnnnnnnnd we're off here for an absolutely crucial game in hand for the Town tonight as the Hatters kick-off shooting towards the Oak Road end in this first half. COYH. 19:40 HERE THEY COME Two sides out, Town in orange, Ebbsfleet in, err, purple. Standby for handshakes, huddles and the coin toss. Enjoy the updates. #COYH #lutonfollow. 19:30 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS Andrew Barringer: 3-1 Luton, Mark Wood: 3-0 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 2-0 Luton, Lauren Archell: 2-0, Bill Cole: 3-1 Luton. 19:25 BLUE SKIES A chilly evening but a nice one with blue skies over Kenilworth Road 20 minutes before kick-off. 19:15 SUITED & BOOTED Paul Buckle emerges from the tunnel in a suit and tie. He's been a tracksuit manager in his first two games in charge. 19:00 THE TEAMS Boss Paul Buckle makes one change to the side that drew 0-0 with Ebbsfleet on Saturday with Adam Watkins coming into the centre of midfield in the place of Godfrey Poku. Ebbsfleet can only name four substitutes with one of those assistant manager Paul McCarthy. Town: Tyler, Osano, Pilkington, Kovacs, Howells, Willmott, Keane, Watkins, Lawless, Gray, Fleetwood. Subs: Gleeson, McAllister, Blackett, Kissock, Poku. Ebbsfleet: McNeil, Stone, Herd, West, Marwa, Shakes, Howe, Enver-Marum, Smith, Barrett, Bellamy. Subs: Willock, Azeez, McCarthy, Adams. 18:55 ONE CHANGE Adam Watkins is in for Godfrey Poku 18:25 ON THIS DAY The Town's record on this day played 18, won seven, drawn five, lost six, scored 27, conceded 25. Last time out on this day was two years ago when the Hatters were held to a goalless draw with Altrincham in the Blue Square Bet Premier. One of the most famous games on this date came back in 1982 when Brian Stein netted a hat-trick in a dramatic 3-2 win over Newcastle United at Kenilworth Road after trailing 2-0. 17:50 WEATHER WATCH It's been raining on and off today. The Kenilworth Road surface looks in fine nick. Overhead it's overcast and there's a chill in the air. 17:00 CRUNCH TIME The Buckle Factor is in full swing. Four points from his first two games in charge the new boss is already making the Hatters a force to be reckoned with. It's fair to say that if it wasn't for a post and a goal-line clearance at Alfreton on Saturday then his record would be two wins from two - but with Play-Off rivals York and Southport also drawing on Saturday  - the two points dropped were not considered as alarmingly frustrated as first thought. But, with just four games left (just where has the time gone?) time is running out for the Hatters in their bid gatecrash the top five and give themselves a crack at the Play-Offs and with it a one-in-four chance of winning promotion. Tonight, a crucial, massive, vital - all it what you will - game in hand takes place at Kenilworth Road as the Town welcome Ebbsfleet United to Bedfordshire. The Hatters lie three points off the final Play-Off spot and go into tonight knowing that a victory and defeat for York at Cambridge could see them jump back into that all-important fifth place. It's crunch time but it's the Town's own hands. Victory tonight is easier said than done. Expectancy will be on the Hatters to win and, like we know, this Club never do things the easy way. Just remember that. It's never over 'til it's over. Enjoy the game #COYH. Well, whatever happens today, and indeed for the rest of the season, your official website will have everything covered: every step of the way. If you can't make the match then we'll have all the goals and incidents as it happens live with the usual news in the run-up to kick-off with team line-ups and plenty of chat as your official website has, as ever, the usual updates keeping you bang up-to-date with all the action - and in a number of ways. There's none of those boring ball-by-ball "defensive thrown-in taken by Luton left-back" updates as we continue to and bring you an updated and detailed text commentary. This is a great way to keep in touch and has been popular to those supporters not able to get to a computer or a radio as the service is also available and is updated live on our WAP site. On Hatters Player you all have access to our live commentary. Remember, Player is available as ever which means you all have access to our live commentary. If you haven't heard it yet then where you have been? It's still brought to you by Simon "Statto" Pitts but he's got company this time! The DiverseFM team have collaborated with BBC Three Counties radio and the Club to bring you the Luton Town Show. Following the final whistle we'll have all the reaction from the men that matter this after, bringing you exclusive video content from Paul Buckle and from the dressing room. We'll have plenty of content to keep you interested as we'll have all of the post-match reaction from Gary as well as match action from Gareth Owen to follow after the final whistle. Be sure to check out www.hatterspics.co.uk - our online image library. Like a picture you see and fancy having that on a mug? Well, fancy no more - with Hatters Pics it's a reality. Remember, we want you to get in touch. Join the updates and get in touch. Email andrew.barringer@lutontown.co.uk and we'll pick the best comments to go live on the site during our live updates. Don't forget we're also on twitter and Facebook so feel free to interact with your fellow fans online. Enjoy the game. #COYH    
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