Luton Town 1
Northampton Town 0
Substitute Luke Guttridge scored a 90th-minute winner as the Hatters made it seven successive victories to reach the top of the League 2 table.
The former Northampton midfielder was the coolest man in the penalty area when receiving Michael Harriman’s perfect pass to slot home and send a sell-out Kenilworth Road crowd into ecstasy.
It may have been harsh on the Cobblers but the Hatters did not care as they overcame a resolute visiting side with a goal that turned out to be the last chance of a game low on clear-cut chances.
The Town started showing one change to the side that beat Dagenham on Tuesday with Alex Lawless replacing Ricky Miller.
Northampton, who came into the game off the back of three straight defeats, started on the front foot.
However, after failing to test Mark Tyler, the Hatters eased themselves into the game: Mark Cullen – fresh from scoring his first senior hat-trick in the week – nodded over from Lawless’ header across goal on 15 minutes, before Andy Drury cut inside from the right and curled a left-foot shot just wide.
Tyler was tested, though, on 25 minutes when Cobblers’ midfielder John-Joe O’Toole headed straight at the Town keeper from inside the six-yard box – it was the closest either side came to scoring in the opening half.
The first period ended with John Still replacing an injured Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu with Paul Benson, and, at the start of the second half, the boss introduced Jim Stevenson for Nathan Doyle.
After the restart Northampton spurned a great chance to take the lead on 57 minutes, and the Town had Tyler to thank for a fantastic block to keep out Ashley Nicholls’ low strike after the forward was found unmarked in the penalty area.
On the hour Guttridge was introduced for Lawless and within two minutes of being on the pitch the midfielder had the Town’s best chance – a sharp low-shot which arrowed to the bottom corner that Cobblers keeper Jordan Archer did well to keep out with a strong hand.
As the game meandered into its final quarter, the Town upped the ante in search of a winner as things on the pitch threatened to boil over – referee Sheldrake harshly booking Benson, before carding a couple Cobblers.
As time ticked down and hope of a winner seemingly out of reach, Drury saw a thunderous free-kick from the edge of the box hit his own man – Luke Wilkinson – and, as the closing stages approached, it seemed the game would end goalless.
But then step forward Guttridge. The midfielder’s stop-start campaign following his metatarsal injury last season has been tough, but eight months of frustration was released when he stuck the ball home to give the Town the lead in the final minute. Drury poked the ball to Harriman and his deft pass found Guttridge in space and he picked his spot low into the bottom corner to bring the house down.
Northampton had no time to respond despite four added minutes, and once the game was over the Town could celebrate another win in the knowledge the last-gasp goal had sent them top of League 2.
Town: Tyler, Harriman, Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Doyle (sub Stevenson 46), Smith, Drury; Lawless (sub Guttridge 60), Ruddock Mpanzu (sub Benson 45), Cullen. Subs not used: Lacey, Wall, Walker, Justham.
Attendance: 10,040, including 1,018 Northampton.