Hatters victorious on the road again to keep up winning run
Two goals from substitute Jack Marriott and a string of fine saves from goalkeeper Mark Tyler helped the Hatters to their fourth straight League 2 victory.
The Town led thanks to Jonathan Smith’s fourth goal of the season in the 17th minute but the hosts levelled through Billy Paynter’s header a minute before half-time.
Marriott, who came on as first-half substitute for Craig Mackail-Smith restored the Hatters’ lead on 53 minutes but a number of superb saves from Tyler preserved the Town’s advantage – keeping out home striker Rakish Bingham three times in the second period.
Striker Marriott scored his second four minutes after his first to make it 3-1, before Olly Lee crowned a fine week for the Hatters on the road with a stunning first goal for the club in the final minute.
It all began with the Hatters showing one change to the side that beat Morecambe on Tuesday night with Luke Guttridge replacing Paddy McCourt in midfield.
But it was the hosts, who lost 3-0 at home to Bristol Rovers in their last match, that began on top.
In fact the Pools could have been a couple of goals to the good inside a helter-skelter first five minutes. Bingham found space behind the Town defence to drive a shot just wide on three minutes before the same player tested Tyler with a shot from just outside the penalty area a minute later.
As the home pressure continued, Rhys Oates sent a low shot wide of the target on 10 minutes before the hosts’ winger came close to two minutes later only to be denied by a superb tackle by Smith.
But it was Smith that had the Hatters in front on 17 minutes. Against the run of play the Town constructed a tidy move down the right that led to Scott Cuthbert’s cross spilled by home keeper Adam Bartlett. Smith was alive to the loose ball to smash home his fourth goal of the season – all of which have come away from Kenilworth Road.
Back came the home side, with Cuthbert doing well to block a Bingham shot on 22 minutes as Pools sensed a quick-fire reply.
It was end-to-end stuff and the Town almost doubled their lead two minutes later when another eye-catching passing move led to Lee testing Bartlett with a low left-foot shot.
There was concern for the Hatters on 28 minutes, however, when Craig Mackail-Smith went down injured, and the former Brighton frontman was replaced by Marriott.
Immediately after that change the Town were indebted to Tyler once more for a fabulous reaction save to somehow tip away another goal-bound effort from Bingham.
As the home support began to voice their frustration with their side’s endeavour, the Town went in search of a second goal but saw Luke Wilkinson’s header from a Guttridge corner flash wide before Marriott couldn’t quite get purchase on a shot on 39 minutes.
However the hosts were much happier a minute before the break when they levelled. Oates was the architect with a deep curling left-wing cross and Paynter was on the end of it to nod past Tyler at the back post.
Pools ended the first half with a flourish but the Town held firm and seven minutes after the restart the Hatters were back in front again. Wilkinson’s booming header upfield was misjudged by the Hartlepool defence and seized on by Marriott who raced through and poked a neat low finish home with a deft touch.
Back came the hosts, and two minutes after the goal the Hatters had Tyler to thank for a brilliant stop to prevent Bingham from finding an equaliser.
And that save proved crucial as on 57 minutes when Marriott scored again to make it 3-1. Josh McQuoid and Guttridge were the creators, the latter passing across goal for the alert Marriott to tuck home a side-foot finish inside the six yard box for his second inside four minutes and the Town’s third.
That goal gave the Hatters some breathing space but the hosts were still looking dangerous when putting the Town under pressure. Indeed, Tyler pulled off yet another fine save to keep it 3-1 on 66 minutes when blocking another effort from the luckless Bingham.
As Pools continued to dominate, Tyler produced another excellent block from the frustrated Bingham who had raced beyond the Town defence on 76 minutes.
With the Hatters under the cosh, John Still introduced Nathan Doyle for McQuoid to shore things up with 10 minutes to go.
As ticked down the Town punished Pools in the final minute with a stunning effort from Lee in injury time. The midfielder let fly with a swerving shot from 22 yards that bent into the top corner to seal a victory – their fourth win on the spin and their fifth in six League 2 matches.
Not a bad week, eh? See you at Gillingham.
Town: Tyler; Cuthbert, Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Smith, Lee, Guttridge; McGeehan, McQuoid (sub Doyle 80), Mackail-Smith (sub Marriott 28).
Subs not used: Potts, Lawless, Hall, Green, Justham.
Attendance: 3,876, including 406 backing the Hatters.