Hatters edge seven-goal thriller
The Town held onto secure another fantastic victory as they were made to sweat for all three points at the Lamb.
Trailing to an early goal from Duane Courtney the Hatters hit back to score four times. Stunning strikes from Jonathan Smith and Andy Parry had the Town 2-1 up at the break before a Paul Benson double early in the second period put John Still’s side 4-1 up.
However, following the Town is never easy, and they allowed the hosts to get a sniff of a point with two goals in the final 14 minutes but did enough in the close stages to win again and stretch their unbeaten run to eight games.
Showing one change to the side that beat Hyde last Saturday, with Shaun Whalley preferred to Alex Lawless, the Town were put under early pressure by the hosts’ long throws from either flank.
And it was a throw-in from the left that led to the Lambs taking the lead in the 13th minute. Tony Capaldi’s left-wing throw was half-cleared by the Town and picked up by Lateef Elford-Alliyu on the right. He sped into the penalty and squared for Courtney who made no mistake, stroking home past Mark Tyler – making his 200th appearance for the Town – from eight yards.
The Town were taking time to find their rhythm going forward as the home defence restricted them to striker from distance.
It was end-to-end stuff. Whenever the Town, chasing an equaliser, saw a move break down, the hosts – with the pacey Elford-Alliyu – always looked dangerous.
Indeed the Hatters were living dangerously and they were given a reprieve on 23 minutes when Alex Lacey’s wayward pass was seized by Andy Todd. His pass found Richard Peniket in space but he shot straight at Tyler.
And that proved to be the major turning point as on 31 minutes the Hatters were level in sensational fashion. With nothing on, Smith looked up 20 yards from goal and thundered an unstoppable goalwards that screamed past Cameron Belford in the Lambs’ goal.
It was Smith’s second goal in Town colours on what was his 50th appearance for the club and, all of a sudden, the midfielder’s goal had the Hatters’ tails up.
Then, 10 minutes after finding the equaliser, the Hatters were in front with another goal of real quality. Ths time the Town kept the ball patiently and Smith found Parry squad. Again, with little else on, the summer signing from Southport looked up and blasted a low shot beyond Belford into the bottom corner.
Having lost their one-goal lead, Tamworth made a double substitution at the break but 47 seconds after the restart the Hatters extended their lead with another fine goal. Whalley was the creator – sending a deep, indefensible free-kick swinging into the penalty area which was met by the head of Benson, craning his neck to head high into the roof of the net past Belford.
Tamworth were rocked by that and Gray almost struck a fourth goal moments later with a shot on the turn that brushed the side-netting to which the Town support momentarily celebrated.
However, on 56 minutes the Hatters hordes were celebrating when Benson notched his second. Gray was the provider, wrestling his marker off the ball to race goalwards. He spotted his strike partner alone in the area and the 34-year-old made no mistake from six yards to roll a first-time finish past Belford.
As the Town continued to press forward Smith was denied an even better goal on 62 minutes when his venomous shot from 25 yards was well-saved by Belford.
However, a minute later the Hatters’ three-goal advantage was cut to two when Elford-Alliyu was fouled in the penalty area and the striker dusted himself down to send Tyler the wrong way from the spot.
Tamworth were sensing that they could get something from the game as they put the Town defence under intense pressure. Tyler caught Lloyd Kerry’s header on 70 minutes before Steve McNulty did well to block Elford-Alliyu’s shot on 74 minutes.
However, it was squeaky backside time for the Town as Tamworth got another goal back to make it 4-3 on 76 minutes when Courtney scored his second when his low over-head kick nestled in the back of the net after the Hatters failed to clear a left-wing corner.
It was all the hosts as they poured forward in search of an equaliser but the Town spurned a great chance to make it 5-3 on 10 minutes when Whalley’s left-wing cross unintentionally struck Benson and the ball trickled agonisingly wide of the post.
A fifth would have sealed it but it kept the hosts’ hopes of earning a point alive and the Lambs came close to doing so on 83 minutes when substitute Nick Chadwick thumped a shot over the crossbar from 10 yards.
Chadwick glanced a header wide on 85 minutes as the Lambs desperately pushed for a late, late, equaliser but, as the rain poured and the time ticked away, the Town held on in another thriller.
Town: Tyler; Henry, Griffiths, McNulty, Lacey; Parry, Smith, Guttridge (sub Lawless 72); Whalley, Gray (sub Charles 87), Benson.
Subs not used: Cullen, Robinson, Justham.
Attendance: 2,066, including a magnificent 1,199 from the Town.