Gray double sinks Wings
Gray 17, 79
Two goals from Andre Gray helped the Hatters to fifth successive home victory in a hard-fought performance against Welling.
The Hatters’ leading goalscorer took his tally to nine goals for the season – and five in his last two home games – by scoring once in each half to keep John Still’s side on the shoulders of the leaders.
His first came on 17 minutes when he reacted to Paul Benson’s flick-on to finish superbly past Lee Butcher, the Welling goalkeeper who had done so well to deny the Hatters in the FA Cup meeting between the two sides a fortnight ago.
Benson missed a fantastic chance to put the Town in cruise control when somehow clipping a shot wide of the target having been sent through by Alex Lawless’ clever pass.
But the Hatters weren’t having it all their own way. Mark Tyler made a great save from a deflection from Alex Lacey and the visitors’ Jake Gallagher then fluffed a huge chance for an equaliser when side-footing wide with the goal at his mercy.
Jim Stevenson, one of two Town changes – Shaun Whalley also came into the side at the expense of the suspended Jonathan Smith – was denied a first goal in Luton colours by the agility of Butcher – the Wings goalkeeper throwing himself to his left to claw out the midfielder’s goal-bound header.
The Hatters were in command leading at the break but a minute after the restart the Wings were level. Joe Healy was upended in the box and referee Huxtable signalled for a penalty. Tyler stopped Ross Lafayette’s spot-kick, springing to his left, but Alex Dyer was quickest to the rebound to find the corner of the net.
All of a sudden the Wings had the wind beneath them and a crucial save by the strong arm of Tyler kept out a potential second as Lafayette fired goalwards only moments later.
However, the Town rode that storm, and Still sent on Matt Robinson and Luke Guttridge for Stevenson and Shaun Whalley respectively in a bid to get that lead back.
Frustration reined, but as time ticked down the Hatters upped the ante and the pressure finally told with 11 minutes left. Alex Lawless snuck in behind the Welling defence and drove a low pass across the face of goal. Benson made a connection but could only help it on, but the next touch was vital, as it was Gray’s – the striker sending the ball over the line from inside the six-yard box.
The Hatters pushed for a third goal in the closing stages but the only incident in four minutes of injury time was the dismissal of the visitors’ Fraser Franks for hauling down Benson with the striker running through with the keeper to beat.
A vital three points with all the Town’s promotion rivals also winning, the result also extending the unbeaten league run to an impressive 12 matches.
Town: Tyler; Henry, Griffiths, McNulty, Lacey; Parry, Stevenson (sub Guttridge 53), Lawless, Whalley (sub Robinson 63), Benson, Gray. Subs not used: Justham, Howells, Cullen.
Attendance: 6,592, including 124 from Welling