Third successive victory for resurgent Town
The Hatters produced a fine away display to make it three wins on the spin with victory at Morecambe on Tuesday night.
Luke Wilkinson’s header put the Town in front before hosts levelled through Tom Barkhuizen.
However, the Hatters – who lost here 3-0 last season – restored their advantage just two minutes after the Shrimps’ leveller when Cameron McGeehan struck.
In the second half the Town defence held firm and their endeavours were rewarded when former Shrimp Jonathan Smith made the game safe for the Hatters with three minutes to go.
It was a valuable and deserved three points for the Town who move up to 11th in League 2 with a fourth win in five league games.
It all began with John Still making one change to the side that beat Wimbledon at the weekend with Scott Cuthbert replacing Stephen O’Donnell at right-back.
And the Town began well and could have been ahead inside the first minute when Craig Mackail-Smith’s shot was held by home goalkeeper Barry Roche.
As the Hatters continued to impress early on, Roche was called into action to stop McGeehan’s strike on 11 minutes.
But, two minutes, later the Hatters were in front. Josh McQuoid ran at the home defence and laid the ball off to Olly Lee whose firm low drive from the edge of the box was deflected over by home defender Alex Kenyon. However, the home side weren’t so lucky, when from the resultant corner bent in from McCourt, Wilkinson thundered home a thumping header at the back post. It was the defender’s fourth goal of the season.
In front, the Town were almost pegged back on 18 minutes but Mark Tyler kept out Kenyon’s header with a brilliant finger-tip save.
However, seven minutes later the hosts did level when a pass from the left rolled across goal and was tapped in by the unmarked Barkhuizen at the back post.
But the home side’s joy was short lived as the Hatters restored their lead just two minutes later. McCourt was the architect, weaving goalwards past three Morecambe men to drive a shot goalwards. His low shot was parried by Roche but the rebound fell straight into the path of the on-rushing McGeehan who fired home his fourth goal of the campaign from six yards.
McCourt sent a curling free-kick into the Morecambe wall shortly before the break, but the Town had Tyler to thank once more on the stroke of half-time to deny the lively Barkhuizen’s low shot from 12 yards.
The home side brought on their leading goalscorer from last season, Kevin Ellison, at half-time in a bid to get back in the game but the Town almost made it 3-1 two minutes after the restart when McQuoid’s cut-back across goal found Mackail-Smith but off balance the striker blazed a shot high and wide.
After that missed chance the Town were under the cosh in the face of a strong spell of Morecambe pressure. Tyler stopped a swerving shot from distance from Barkhuizen on 62 minutes before the Hatters keeper then bravely held onto the ball in a goalmouth melee. The hosts’ Andrew Fleming then shot wide from the edge of box on 63 minutes.
To their credit the Hatters were defending well but there were hearts in Town mouths on 77 minutes when Ellison lashed home a fine goal at the back post – only for the striker to see his goal chalked off for offside.
But the Hatters continued to see off the home side’s threat and, as time ticked down, the Town made the game safe with a crucial third goal with three minutes to go. Smith battled his way through three challenges to drive into the box. The midfielder managed to get a shot away, but saw it deflect back off the goalkeeper, then back off Smith, off the post and then, eventually, Smith was able to tap home from a yard out for his third goal of the season.
There was little time for the hosts to come back and the Town almost snatched a fourth in the final minute when McQuoid sped clear and shot wide, but it mattered not – the Hatters were worthy winners to make it three wins on the spin.
See you at Hartlepool? You bet.
TOWN: Tyler; Cuthbert (sub Lawless 85), Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Lee, Smith; McGeehan, McQuoid, McCourt (sub Doyle 78); Mackail-Smith (sub Marriott 90). Subs not used: Justham, Potts, Green, Guttridge.
ATTENDANCE: 1,388, including a superb 295 backing the Hatters.