Report: Luton Town 3-1 Dagenham & RedbridgeTown 3
Cullen 43, 45, 69
Mark Cullen scored the perfect hat-trick as the Hatters made it six League 2 wins on the spin at the expense of John Still’s former club Dagenham & Redbridge to leap into third place in the table.
After the visitors had gone close on several occasions through Jamie Cureton, the Town striker Cullen scored twice in three minutes before half-time to put the Town in charge; the first a header, the second a right-foot shot.
And Cullen, who scored 10 goals last season, took his tally this term to eight on 69 minutes with a fine left-foot strike to complete his treble.
Dagenham pulled a consolation back three minutes from time but it mattered little as the Hatters also extended their unbeaten run to eight games, in which they have taken 22 points from a possible 24.
The Town started unchanged for the first time this season after Saturday’s 2-1 win at Hartlepool, with Ricky Miller given his home debut in attack.
It was Miller who had the first chance in what was a first 40 minutes of the match dominated by the visitors, whose supporters had given former boss Still a fine reception before the game.
Miller curled a free-kick narrowly over the bar but after Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and Andy Drury went close, the Daggers took control and the Jamie Cureton, at 39 and chasing 300 career goals, was at the heart of it.
Cureton swept a first-time shot inches wide of the target from a Matt Partridge cross on 12 minutes and 10 minutes later the striker came even closer with a fantastic shot on the bounce from the edge of the box that flew narrowly over Mark Tyler’s crossbar.
As the Town went in search of a goal themselves, ex-Dagger Luke Wilkinson nodded straight at visiting goalkeeper Mark Cousins on 24 minutes, but moments later Scott Doe, a player signed by Still, saw his close range flick cleared off the line by Jonathan Smith.
Chances continued to come, and the Town had Tyler to thank on 28 minutes when he stopped a deflected shot from Ashley Chambers.
Six minutes later and that man Cureton came close once more, Tyler again coming to the Hatters’ rescue when he dived to his left to keep out the veteran striker’s well-hit drive from the edge of the box – which was again hit first-time.
But as half-time approached the Hatters upped the ante. Cullen nodded over on 35 minutes before Smith worked an opportunity in the box only to send a tame shot into the gloves of Cousins.
However the first 45 minutes would end particularly well for the Town as they went in two goals to the good thanks to Cullen.
Drury was the architect on 43 minutes as the Hatters took the lead, the midfielder holding off several defenders before hooking over a cross to the alert Cullen who nodded home from inside the six-yard box.
And before the visitors could recover the Hatters and Cullen doubled their tally on the stroke of half-time. Smith's pass found Cullen onside and after bypassing the onrushing keeper Cousins he stroked home his seventh goal of the season into the empty net.
It was the frontman’s fourth goal in three games and put the Hatters into the driving seat at the break.
Dagenham returned to the field early for the second half and the visitors had the first chance after the restart, right-back Damien Batt testing Tyler with a rasping drive.
Michael Harriman almost handed Cureton the chance to reduce the deficit on 53 minutes only for Tyler to close down the striker, and two minutes later Still made his first change of the night, introducing Paul Benson for Miller.
Two minutes later a lovely Town move almost led to 3-0 as Drury and Smith combined to release Ruddock in the box but after dancing past one challenge the former West Ham man blasted a shot over the crossbar into the Kenilworth Road end.
The Hatters were playing some terrific football and Cullen completed his hat-trick in superb style on 69 minutes. Substitute Benson did well to win the ball back 50 yards from goal enabling Ruddock to run and cut the back ball from the byeline from the left to find Cullen who drilled an unerring first-time left-foot finish in off the underside of the crossbar.
Tyler kept out a close range header from Cureton before Smith was denied a stunning fourth goal when his venomously shot from the edge of the box thundered back off the post and away.
Smith’s midfield partner Nathan Doyle came close to making it 4-0 with six minutes left, the former Bradford man denied by a breathtaking full-length stop from Cousins.
Hat-trick hero Cullen was substituted with three minutes to go a standing ovation but within seconds of Charlie Walker’s introduction, Dagenham pulled a goal back when Doidge headed home powerfully from a left-wing cross.
As time ticked down, Cureton had the last chance of the game, a firm effort cleared off the line by Harriman and that was that as the Town moved up into third place for the first time this season.
TOWN: Tyler; Harriman, Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Doyle, Smith, Drury; Ruddock Mpanzu, Miller (sub Benson 55), Cullen (sub Walker 87). Subs not used: Justham, Guttridge, Stevenson, Wall, Lacey.
Attendance: 7,746, including 166 shouting for Dagenham.