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20 April 2013

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Hatters end season on a high

The Town recovered from going a goal down inside two minutes to end the season with a comfortable victory at Southport.

Home midfielder Sean Clancy glanced the Sandgrounders ahead just 75 seconds but the Hatters did well to hit back with Matt Robinson's first senior goal which restored parity on the half-hour before Andre Gray put the Hatters in front on 34 minutes.

The hosts spurned two great chances to level either side of half-time but the Town made the victory safe when Gray bagged his second and 20th of the season eight minutes from time.

Showing six changes to the side that beat Ebbsfleet on Thursday, the Hatters got off to the worst possible start when they conceded less than two minutes in. Chris Almond had time and space down down the right to deliver a cross to Clancy who headed home at the backpost past an exposed Mark Tyler.

Rocked by such an early goal the Town responded well. Gray forced home goalkeeper Zac Hibbert on nine minutes after close control worked a yard of space. From the resultant corner Dave Martin's cross struck the arm of Alan Moogan but referee Barratt waved away the Hatters' penalty shouts. That led to another corner from which Gray saw a low, curling shot cleared off the line by former Hatter Godfrey Poku.

Gray was proving to be a right pest to the Sandgrounders' defence and he was unlucky just after the quarter-hour when he raced into the box beating the left-back down the right, but having done the hard work he failed to pick out an unmarked Alex Lawless six yard out for what would have been a tap-in.

On 24 minutes Gray warmed the gloves of Hibbert after fine work between Solomon Taiwo and Jon Shaw but the Town didn't have long to wait to find a deserved leveller when, six minutes later on the half-hour, Robinson grabbed the equaliser. Intricate play from Lawless found his fellow midfielder rushing through on goal and, as Hibbert advanced to narrow the angle, Robinson clipped a shot home into the corner of his first senior goal.

Buoyed by that goal the Hatters then completed the turnaround four minutes later when Gray put them in front. A half-cleared corner was helped back into the box by the head of Robinson and Gray volleyed home on the turn from six yards for his 19th goal of the season.

The Town were enjoying the better of the ball but the hosts should have got back on level terms on 41 minutes when the unmarked Steven Tames headed well wide of the target from inside the six yard box.

As the half drew to a close the Hatters went in search of a third. Goalkeeper, Hibbert – making his first league appearance of the season for the hosts – looked nervy as the Town pressed. Robinson scuffed wide, Scott Griffiths saw a hopeful, long-range fumbled behind before Robinson saw a header tipped over the crossbar.

Southport spurned a great opportunity to equalise just three minutes after the break when Andy Owens blazed over after the Town failed to clear lines.

Gray raced clear moments later, almost half the length of the pitch, to win a corner but on 57 minutes the hosts missed another glaring opportunity under no pressure when Owens somehow sliced over the bar from six yards when unmarked.

The Hatters made a double change on the hour as John Still replaced Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Martin for Jake Howells and Simon Ainge.

And the Town should have made it 3-1 on 69 minutes when Gray did brilliantly away down the left. His cross was perfect for Lawless at the back post, but, with the goal gaping, the skipper for the day drove a shot well wide with Shaw unable to reach it to turn the ball home.

A fine passing move on 74 minutes involving Lawless and Shaw almost engineered a chance for Gray before Taiwo's long-range effort was stopped by Hibbert with 15 minutes left.

Thursday's two-goal hero Alex Wall was introduced on 77 minutes for Taiwo and a minute later he swept a low left-foot shot just wide.

But the Town did score their third of the afternoon to give themselves some breathing space on 82 minutes. Lawless' corner was half-cleared back to the midfielder and his cross was prodded home by Gray for his second of the afternoon and 20th of the season.

The Hatters pushed for a fourth with Shaw volleying an effort wide before Jonathan Smith saw a firm shot blocked by namesake James.

As time ticked down Gray was denied a hat-trick with the final chance when Hibbert smothered the striker's shot and that proved to be the final action of the Town's season.

The victory, allied with other results, meant the Hatters ended the campaign in seventh place in the Blue Square Bet Premier.

See you in August and have a good summer


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