Luton Town 2
Wilkinson 10, Wall 83
Substitute Alex Wall hit an 83rd-minute winner as the Hatters made it four win from five matches to continue their ascent of the League 2 table.
The Town started well and led through Luke Wilkinson’s second goal in as many games before home midfielder Tom Pett levelled shortly after the half-hour mark.
The second half took time to get going and after Pett missed a glorious chance to put Boro in front, Wall won it for the Town just second after his introduction for Mark Cullen with a fine curling left-foot shot.
Showing two changes to the side that beat Oxford, with former Boro man Andy Drury and striker Paul Benson restored to the side, the Hatters started well and Wilkinson almost replicated his early exploits of last weekend when nodding wide inside the first 60 seconds.
The Town thought they had a case of a penalty on five minutes when former skipper Ronnie Henry sent Drury tumbling in the penalty area but referee Tony Harrington wasn’t interested.
As the Hatters continued to press for an early goal, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu spurned a glorious chance on eight minutes but after taking Scott Griffiths’ pass the midfielder shot across goal and wide when given the freedom of the home penalty area.
However, the Town were rewarded for their fast start as they took the lead when Wilkinson rose highest to nod Drury’s free-kick past Chris Day in the 10th minute to send almost 2,000 Hatters fans in the away into raptures.
Three minutes later, with Stevenage shell-shocked, the Town almost doubled their lead when Jonathan Smith shot straight at Day.
But Day made an even better save on 16 minutes to keep the score 1-0 when he flung himself in front of Wilkinson’s goal-bound shot. The stop was made even better given Benson’s deflected flick right in front of the home stopper.
That save would prove to be crucial and Day’s stop galvanised the home side. In contrast, Mark Tyler had been a virtual spectator as he watched the Town keep the home side at bay.
However, there was nothing the Town goalkeeper could do when, after a sustained period of pressure, Stevenage equalised. Chris Whelpdale was the creator, crossing from the right flank to find Pett and he guided a terrific touch into the top corner from 10 yards. It was the first goal the Town had conceded in 414 minutes.
The equaliser gave the home side confidence, Darius Charles headed over following a right-wing corner on 35 minutes as Boro sought the lead for the first time.
Wilkinson, effective in both boxes for the Town, came to the rescue in his defensive duties as half-time approached, this time sliding to clear the danger following Whelpdale’s run and shot.
After the break, the Town came close to restoring their lead when Benson headed straight at Day following Drury’s left-wing cross on 52 minutes.
Boro, though, should have scored themselves seven minutes later when goalscorer Pett somehow failed to find the target when left unmarked inside the six yard box following Whelpdale’s header across goal.
The second half was becoming a scrappy, niggly affair, as two Town men – Benson and Smith – found themselves in referee Harrington’s book in a 90-second spell.
John Still replaced Smith and Benson for Jim Stevenson and Charlie Walker, the latter making his Town debut and within two minutes of his introduction he saw a snap-shot in the six-yard charged down.
Walker and the Hatters hordes thought the substitute had made it 2-1 with 10 minutes to when his header at the back post bounced agonisingly close to the line before being hacked clear by the Stevenage defence.
But the Town needn’t have worried as they took the lead for the second time with seven minutes left. Still had introduced Wall for Cullen and within 30 second of his introduction the striker had the 1,900 Hatters fans in delirium as he took Ruddock Mpaznu’s pass, cut inside on his left foot and guided a superb curling shot beyond the reach of Day.
In front, with the Town fans baying for more, Walker headed wide before Stevenage pushed for a late, late leveller. That never came and the Hatters could celebrate their fourth win in five matches to push them into seventh place in the table and just five points off the top.
Town: Tyler; Lacey, Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Doyle, Smith (sub Stevenson 65), Ruddock Mpanzu, Drury; Cullen (sub Wall 83) Benson (sub Walker 70). Subs: Howells, Guttridge, Robinson, Justham.