Town record first League win of the campaign at the Abbey
The Hatters picked up their first League 2 win of the season with victory at 10-man Cambridge.
Luke Guttridge swept the Town ahead with a stunning lofted finish from 30 yards in the 21st minute, but the lead only lasted seven minutes when Leon Legge headed the hosts level.
The home side had missed a number of decent first half chances but the Hatters were handed a route into the game on 64 minutes when United midfielder Harrison Dunk was sent-off for a second bookable offence.
Straight from the free-kick that led to the dismissal the Hatters took the lead when Luke Wilkinson nodded home Danny Green’s free-kick.
With their man advantage, the Town held the home side at bay and Green added a third goal with six minutes left to seal their first win in League 2 at the sixth attempt.
The Town began showing three changes to the side that beat Orient in the JPT in the week. Cameron McGeehan’s suspension by the Northern Ireland Football Association stood, so the midfielder was unable to feature against his former side. Guttridge kept his place in central midfield as a result.
It was the home side that came closest first, with Barry Corr heading wide a good chance from Mickey Demetriou’s cross – and that combination would prove to be a thorn in the Town’s side throughout the opening period.
Slowly the Hatters began to find their passing rhythm as they won a string of corners, but the home side should have taken the lead on 19 minutes when Dunk’s left-wing cross was nodded over from 10 yards by the unmarked Liam Hughes.
However, two minutes later, that miss came back to haunt the hosts as Guttridge put the Hatters ahead. Home goalkeeper Chris Dunn came out to the edge of the box and the Town midfielder spotted the home stopper in no man’s land to loft over a sublime finish into the top corner from 25 yards.
Buoyed by taking the lead, the Town now sensed a second and Olly Lee tested Dunn with a low shot from 20 yards that the home keeper kept out diving to his left.
It was Mark Tyler’s turn to make a good save on 26 minutes when the Town stopper did brilliantly to plunge down to his left to prevent a back-post Corr header from creeping into the bottom corner.
But two minutes later the home side were celebrating an equaliser when a long free-kick hung up into the penalty area was met by Legge who rose above everyone in the box to plant a firm header past Tyler.
Now it was United’s turn to push the Hatters back, and Corr saw a shot deflected shot bounce wide a minute later before captain Mark Roberts headed wide at the back post from the resultant corner.
Goalscorer Guttridge was doing his best to revive the Town’s passing game and he almost created a chance for Craig Mackail-Smith, only for the home defence to clear the danger.
As the break approached, the hosts’ pressure continued, only for the Town defence to hold firm. Scott Griffiths did well with one header in particular to flick the ball away from the head of Corr a minute before the interval.
After the break the Hatters upped the ante and after Josh McQuoid was fouled on the edge of the box, Green’s free-kick was deflected behind and, a minute later, on 54, Olly Lee clipped an audacious effort narrowly over the crossbar.
Back came Cambridge, and the Town needed a fine intervention from Griffiths again to snuff out the danger when the left-back got across a Ryan Donaldson cross to deflect the ball behind for a corner.
However, the Town got their noses in front for the second time with 25 minutes to play. United winger Dunk was shown a second yellow card for a needless handball down the Town’s right, and from the resultant free-kick swung in by Green, Wilkinson climbed highest to power a header past Dunn.
With a one goal and one man advantage the Town came close to making it 3-1 on 74 minutes when Green and Mackail-Smith combined to set-up Guttridge for a header that bounced just wide, and three minutes later Lee tried another spectacular drive, this time from 25 yards that Dunn has to turn over the crossbar acrobatically.
As Cambridge’s threat diminished, the Town took control and added a third goal with six minutes left. Josh McQuoid and Mackail-Smith were the architects, playing a one-two with one another to eventually square to Green who composed himself in the penalty area to stroke home his second goal of the week.
As the minutes ticked down the Hatters were comfortable knowing it would take a miracle for the hosts to nab a point and the Town almost snatched a late fourth when Lee volleyed over injury time.
And that was that. A league victory at last. The word from the staff and players afterwards was about kicking on. The ball is rolling now. See you at Notts County next Saturday.
TOWN: Tyler; O'Donnell, Griffiths, Cuthbert, Wilkinson; Smith, Lee; Guttridge; Green, McQuoid; Mackail-Smith.
Subs not used: McNulty, Hall, Ruddock, Okuonghae, Williams, O'Brien, Justham.
Attenance: 6,298, including a magnificent 1,425