Wall brace gives Town victory
Wall 4, 77
Two goals for Alex Wall – his first for the club – saw the Hatters polish off their Kenilworth Road season with a comfortable 2-0 win over relegated Ebbsfleet United.
The former Maidenhead front man netted the opener inside four minutes for his first goal since arriving in March before completing his brace late on to seal all three points.
John Still made seven changes from the side that played Newport County 48 hours ago with JJ O'Donnell, Jake Goodman, Dan Walker, Scott Rendell, Jake Howells, Wall and Mark Tyler all included after being missing from Tuesday night's 2-2 draw.
It took just three minutes for the hosts to break the deadlock through Wall's first goal for the club. A low stooping header at the far post turned home Howells' looping header after a convincing opening spell for the Hatters.
Another swift move nearly saw Howells turn home a second inside 10 minutes when Walker's pace saw him glide away from Ryan Blake on the far hand touchline. Wall and Howells made up the ground to give Walker options in the middle before he fizzed a ball into the far post which Howells looked to latch on to and were it not for a deflection to his effort would have put the hosts two goals to the good.
Walker then had a golden opportunity to add to the scoreline when Rendell slid him in on goal on 11 minutes. The ball skipped up off the surface for an unkind bobble before Walker volleyed the ball inches wide of the far upright.
The visitors then mounted their own effort on goal as Liam Enver-Marum opened on a long stride before firing from range. His strike lacked the desired effect however as Tyler watched it skip wide.
Wall continued to run the channels well for the Hatters and his harrying paid off when Paul Lorraine saw the ball bobble out of play off his shin giving the hosts a corner. Howells whipped in a deep cross which was met by a back-tracking McNulty but his header was plucked out of the air by Preston Edwards.
Edwards' opposing number was then called into action as Liam Bellamy's looping free-kick nearly found the top corner but Tyler was across early to push the ball around the post.
On 33 minutes the Fleet keeper was again called into action when O'Donnell's ambitious cushioned volley had the goalkeeper scampering back to his line. Rendell's knock-down fell kindly to O'Donnell who looped his effort goal-wards but Edwards was on hand to grab the ball out of the sky.
Fleet's task got even harder five minutes before the interval when Stefan Payne was shown a straight red card for a horrific lunge on Howells leaving the Town number 11 needing treatment on his 22nd birthday. The tackle sparked scenes of anger amongst the Hatters squad who took extreme exception to Payne's tackle before he was quickly ushered down the tunnel by the stewards.
Tom Phipp then re-assured the Hatters faithful that this fixture was far than a formality when he found a pocket of space 25 yards from goal. Options split in front of him before he curled the ball towards the far corner which was comfortably gathered in by Tyler.
The final action of the first half nearly had another first-goal in Town colours as Rowe-Turner rose highest and unchallenged inside the Fleet area heading O'Donnell's corner wide of goal.
There were two changes at half time for Still's men as the boss introduced Scott Griffiths and Jake Woolley for Howells, maybe still feeling the effects of that tackle, and McNulty as Rendell took over the captain's armband.
The first sighting of goal in the second half fell to the visitors and it was former Town trialist Nathan Elder who slashed his effort wide from six-yards. A pinball like sequence saw Enver-Marum's shot ricochet to Elder who scuffed his volley through a barrage of players and wide.
Seconds later and Elder again came close. Phipp whipped in a delivery from the far right hand side after a short corner routine worked the angle for the midfielder. Elder peeled away to the far post and found himself leaping above his marker but he failed to keep his header down.
Wall mounted a response for the Hatters as he skipped away from a flailing challenge and drove on a menacing run down the left before smashing a cross-cum-shot into the near post area. Edwards had to be alert and after a questionable first parry gathered the ball in at the second attempt.
The final Town change was implemented by Still on 68 minutes as Simon Ainge came on to replace Robinson as Smith was pushed forward into central midfield to partner O'Donnell. Ainge slotted in at central defence meaning a re-shuffle with Rowe-Turner moved to left-back and Griffiths switching flanks to the right hand side.
Less than 15minutes remained when Wall nipped in to scoop the ball out of Edwards for his second of the evening. A long searching pass from Goodman saw Wall shrug off the challenge Lorraine and gallop in before lofting the ball over the Fleet keeper to double his tally for the Hatters.
The three points were nearly glossed off with 10 minutes to play when Wall, Walker and Rendell combined before the latter headed into the hands of Edwards from inches inside the area.
Man of the match Wall nearly had the hat-trick he desired with just one minute of normal time remaining when he hassled the ball away from Lorraine before exchanging passes with Walker and whipping his left footed drive wide of the far upright.
The full-time whistle brought the season’s football at Kenilworth Road to a close with the players sent on a lap of acknowledgement to the hoards of fans in appreciation for their unrivalled and continued support.