Plymouth 0-1 Town (Drury 22)
Andy Drury’s first goal of the season gave the Hatters an excellent away win against promotion rivals Plymouth Argyle.
The midfielder’s accurate curling shot mid-way through the first half gave the Town a well-deserved win on the road – their first away from Kenilworth Road since a 2-1 win at Hartlepool in October.
It was no more than a well-organised Hatters side deserved against an Argyle side who failed to seriously test Mark Tyler throughout the 90 minutes.
The Town made one change to the side that drew 0-0 with Shrewsbury nine days ago, as Shaun Whalley replaced Luke Rooney on the right-side of midfield. On the opposite flank Jake Howells made his 300th appearance in Luton colours.
In the opening exchanges the Hatters settled well, playing some patient football – something which would be a major characteristic of the Town’s display throughout the game.
However it was Plymouth who threatened first: Lewis Alessandra’s ninth-minute shot was blocked by Michael Harriman, before Reuben Reid then dragged a low effort wide of Tyler’s goal.
But the Town continued to play attacking football, utilising Whalley’s pace down the right and it was from that flank that Harriman’s cross was inches away from finding the head of Jayden Stockley – the striker denied a chance at goal by excellent defending by Kelvin Mellor, the Argyle right-back.
On 18 minutes another fine move from the Town saw Drury quickly send Whalley racing upfield. His decision to thread a pass through to Howells was a good one but, on his landmark day, the 23-year-old’s left-foot shot was blocked by home goalkeeper Luke McCormick. Moments later Luke Wilkinson then chanced his arm from 30 yards with a shot that bounced harmlessly wide.
There were hearts in mouths for the Hatters and their 802 loyal followers on 20 minutes when Reid rose above the Town defence to plant a header past McNulty but the officials had spotted an infringement and the goal was ruled out.
Two minutes later, however, the ball was in the net and it was the Town that got it. The Hatters may have been a tad fortuitous to win a right-wing corner, but the short routine led to Nathan Doyle blasting a low shot at goal from the edge of the area. His shot was deflected into the path of Drury and he took no time at all to pass the ball first-time into the bottom corner of the net past the dive of McCormick. It was the midfielder’s first goal of the season – and his first in Town colours for five years.
Tyler was called upon to make his first real save of the afternoon on 25 minutes when he turned around home debutant Olly Lee’s free-kick around the post.
On 28 minutes the Town had a goal of theirs then chalked off when Stockley’s tidy finish was ruled out following a marginal offside decision, and a minute later Tyler had to be alert to keep his eye on home captain Curtis Nelson’s header inside the penalty area.
But the Hatters continued to play some eye-catching passing and another counter-attack on 35 minutes saw Whalley run at the home defence only to see his low cross aimed for Howells cleared.
Argyle upped the ante, however, as the break approached. Reid cut inside from the left before blasting a shot well wide on 38 minutes before Wilkinson mopped up the danger on 41 minutes as the home side broke in numbers at pace.
The Town, though, ended the half with two more half-chances. Howells and Stockley combined on 43 minutes that led to Jonathan Smith’s low shot from the edge of the box held by McCormick, before Whalley failed to capitalise on a good position following a killer pass from Drury.
Plymouth made a change at the break but the Town weren’t far away from doubling the lead on 50 minutes when Drury’s cross seemed destined to find the head of Stockley – only for Nelson to head clear at the final moment.
Two minutes later Argyle then came close, substitute Tyler Harvey fizzing a shot from the edge of the box high and wide.
Argyle were dominating possession but were failing to get in behind the Town as the home side struggled to test Tyler. But after a period in which the Hatters held the hosts at arms’ length, Howells came once again to scoring when a well-hit left-foot angled drive from 20 yards was held well by McCormick with Stockley ready to pounce on any spillage.
As time ticked down the home side continued to frustrate their own supporters with a number of missed-placed passes. The Town, on the other hand, were happy to keep things ticking over: keeping it simple when in possession.
With six minutes left Plymouth woke from their slumber, winning a series of corners after Wilkinson had twice done well to clear the danger in the six-yard box – but the Town held on in the closing stages to record a fine away victory – their first since mid-October and their first at Home Park since 2006.
The win lifts the Town into fourth place in League 2 - and now lie five points off the top with a game in hand.
TOWN: Tyler; Harriman, Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Smith, Doyle, Drury; Whalley, Howells, Stockley. Subs not used: Justham, Lacey, Wall, Robinson, Cullen, Walker, Connolly.
Attendance: 8,420, including 802 supporting the Hatters – fantastic.