Hatters turn it on in super second-half show
CAMBRIDGE UNITED 0
LUTON TOWN 3
Coulson OG 62
Att: 5,606 (1,690)
The Hatters moved back up to second place in Sky Bet League Two with a clinical second-half performance to beat Cambridge United at the Cambs Glass Stadium this afternoon.
After surviving a tough first half against the team sitting bottom at kick-off, Nathan Jones’ side scored three times after half-time in an away game for the second time this season – after doing the same at Plymouth on the opening day – to win 3-0.
After Cambridge defender Josh Coulson turned Glen Rea’s header into his own net just after the hour, Jack Marriott scored a cracking second on 64 minutes before Danny Hylton iced the cake six minutes into time added on.
Jones has made two changes to the team that took on Leeds in midweek, with Jordan Cook and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu coming into midfield in place of Jake Gray and Jonathan Smith.
The Hatters started on the front foot and came within millimetres of opening the scoring in the third minute when Cook’s volley crashed back off the United post after keeper Will Norris could only punch Stephen O’Donnell’s cross half-clear.
In a frantic opening period, however, Cambridge captain Luke Berry twice came close to giving his side the lead, denied both times by goalkeeper Christian Walton after being set up by Piero Mingoia.
Just after quarter-hour mark, the Hatters’ passing game almost reaped reward when Jack Marriott spread the ball wide on the right to O’Donnell, whose low cut-back to the edge of the box was dummied by Mpanzu for Marriott to crack a first time shot that Norris tipped over.
Four minutes later, it was Mpanzu’s chance to slice open the Cambridge defence, latching onto a one-two with Hylton, but slipping his low shot just the wrong side of the post.
It was a terrific spell of incisive attacking play by the Town, but the hosts were still a threat at the other end and after Medy Elito had brought another save out of Walton, Jones made an early substitution.
Scott Cuthbert was summoned from the bench to replace Olly Lee, with Glen Rea moving up from centre-half to the midfield holding role, and the captain slotting into the heart of defence alongside Johnny Mullins, being handed the armband as he did so.
The skipper immediately made his presence known, winning a couple of early headers, while Cameron McGeehan – booed by the home fans but having his name sung vociferously by the near 1,700 away following – went on a run from his own half and let fly with a left-foot shot that went just over as he reached the box.
O’Donnell went into the book for what appeared to be a pull-back on Berry after the U’s skipper had initially appealed for handball against the Town right-back, so an open first half finished 1-1 in terms of yellow cards, but goalless.
Cambridge started the second half the brighter, and after a 48th-minute appeal for handball against Mullins was rightly waved away by referee David Webb, Elito stabbed a close-range effort across the six-yard box after being played in by Mingoia, and Cuthbert shepherded it out of play by the far post.
Walton had raced off his line to put the U’s attacker under pressure, and the Town stopper was commanding his area soon after to cleanly claim a corner, seconds after punching another one clear, then another header from Berry, getting on the end of a free-kick after Rea had been booked for a foul on Mingoia.
The Town made the breakthrough, against the run of play, just after hour. Cook sent a free-kick in from the right and the unmarked Rea’s header back across goal was turned into his own net by Josh Coulson.
Two minutes later it was two – and what a stunner it was. Marriott cut in from the right wing, made his way across the edge of the box and bent an absolute beauty into the top corner to double the Town’s advantage.
Suddenly looking much more certain in the game, the Hatters started to turn on the style, and in the 76th minute, Mpanzu produced a brilliant bit of skill by the right corner flag to nutmeg Adams while getting up from the ground, then finding Hylton in the box to tee up O’Donnell for a shot that flew narrowly wide.
Hylton, in the midst of a running battle with home centre-half Leon Legge, was penalised for a foul on his opponent on the edge of the Town box in the 83rd minute, but Berry’s free-kick was too high to trouble Walton.
The tireless Hylton was eventually booked for the fourth time this season for a foul out wide, but Town were now in control, with Cambridge limited to a long-range effort from Mingoia that flew over the bar.
The Town came closest to extending their lead when, in the 88th minute, Cook waltzed his way into the box but was denied close in by Norris, before Hylton and McGeehan rained follow-up efforts on the home goal.
Six minutes into time added on, Hylton, set up by Jonathan Smith, got the goal his performance deserved, tucking the substitute’s cross low into the corner of the net to seal the Hatters’ biggest ever winning margin at the Abbey Stadium.
TOWN: Walton; O'Donnell, Potts, Mullins, Rea, Lee (Cuthbert 28), Mpanzu (Smith 86), Cook, McGeehan, Hylton, Marriott (Vassell 90+3). Subs: Gray, McQuoid, King, Justin.
Yellow: O’Donnell, Rea, Hylton
CAMBRIDGE: Norris, Taylor, Adams (Gosling 80), Dunne, Legge, Mingoia, Berry, Williamson (Pigott 65), Coulson, Clark (Ikpeazu 65), Elito. Subs: Gregory (GK), Long, Dallison, Newton.