Lawless 17, Cullen 34
First half goals from Alex Lawless and Mark Cullen set the Town on their way to their fifth win in six matches as Southend were put to the sword at Kenilworth Road.
Lawless, making his first start of the season, put the Hatters in front with a wonderful curling effort after 17 minutes and Cullen doubled the lead 17 minutes later, taking Andy Drury’s pass after a mistake from home goalkeeper Daniel Bentley.
And that, after 34 minutes, was pretty much that as the Town, after weathering an early second half spell of pressure from the Shrimpers, held onto yet another comfortable victory to push them up to fourth place in League 2.
Showing six changes to the side that exited the JPT on Tuesday against Crawley, John Still gave a debut to QPR loanee Michael Harriman at right-back, whilst Lawless was given his first start of the season.
After a relatively low key begging the Hatters burst into life after the 15-minute mark and after Drury and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu had combined well on 16 minutes, a minute later the Town were ahead in fine style. Scott Griffiths’ low pass upfield found Lawless. The midfielder then cut inside onto his right foot inside the penalty area and curled home a glorious shot into the top corner past Southend stopper Bentley’s despairing dive.
Lawless almost sniffed out a quickfire second moments later when in the Southend six-yard box, before Player of the Month Luke Wilkinson did well at the other end with a superb defensive clearance to deny the visitors an equaliser.
Mark Tyler had to be alert on 32 minutes when Kevan Hurst’s right-wing cross-cum-shot almost caught the keeper unware but two minutes later his opposite number gifted the Town a second goal. Bentley presented Drury with the ball following a kick from his six-yard box and after Drury poked the ball in Cullen’s direction the striker took one touch before slotting home his fourth goal of the season.
Chances after that goal dried up, and it wasn’t until after the break that the 9,000-strong crowd saw the best of the visitors. Shrimpers boss Phil Brown made a double change at the interval, introducing Barry Corr and Jack Payne, and the duo had the desired effect as the Town were pushed back in the opening 15 minutes of the second period.
Tyler got down bravely to snuff out Payne’s poke at goal just 30 seconds after the restart before the Town defence closed down the same man after a mazy run into the box two minutes later.
All of a sudden the game was now stretched, and the Town came within a whisker of making it 3-0 when Ruddock Mpanzu’s run and pass across goal was half-cleared to Griffiths who saw his first-time shot blocked.
Corr dragged a shot wide for Southend on 51 minutes before Jonathan Smith shot wide for the Town 30 seconds later as half-chances continued to fall to both teams.
Drury curled over a shot on the hour before Wilkinson sent a bullet header flashing just wide from a Drury free-kick six minutes later.
Southend’s threat had deteriorated as the half elapsed and the sting was taken out of the game on 68 minutes when a stoppage in play saw the visitors’ assistant manager David Penny sent to the stands for an off-the-ball altercation with Ruddock Mpanzu.
As time ticked down chances remained few and far between for both sides with the Town comfortably holding onto their two-goal lead. Lawless shot over on 78 minutes whilst Griffiths skewed another drive wide two minutes later.
Six added minutes were indicated but it matter not, the points were in the bag and the Hatters continue to march on.
Town: Tyler; Harriman (sub Lacey 90), Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Doyle, Smith, Lawless, Ruddock Mpanzu; Drury; Cullen. Subs not used: Benson, Wall, Guttridge, Stevenson, Walker, Justham.
Attendance: 9,238, including 1,033 from Southend.