McGeehan super strike gives Town another away win
Cameron McGeehan’s first-half wonder-strike helped the Hatters grind out an impressive victory over high-flying Wycombe Wanderers at Adams Park.
McGeehan struck on the volley from 25 yards for his 10th league goal of the season after the Town were much the weaker side for large periods of the first half.
But the second half provided a much better performance from the Hatters, giving Nathan Jones a second successive away win and clean sheet.
The Town were resolute in the closing stages, hanging onto a narrow victory to move up to 14th in Sky Bet League 2.
Nathan Jones made one change from Tuesday’s draw with Yeovil, drafting in Jack Marriott for Pelly Ruddock, with Joe Pigott leading the line supported by Marriot and Craig Mackail-Smith.
The Town had early injury concerns for both central defenders, with Scott Cuthbert going down after just 30 seconds while Alan Sheehan picked up a knock also, both facing pressure from Gozie Ugwu.
The early unsettlement caused the Hatters problems as Wycombe dominated the first 20 minutes, causing numerous half-chances on Elliot Justham’s goal.
The best of those fell to ex-Hatter Michael Harriman, through on goal after catching Sheehan in possession to drag his left-footed shot well wide despite having just Justham to beat.
That chance followed a well-work corner routine from the hosts, as Joe Jacobson pinged a corner to Jason McCarthy to strike from the edge of the box, but his volley flashed wide.
It took until the half hour mark for the Hatters to string some passes together, and a 20-yard free-kick threatened debutant Ryan Allsop in goal, but Cuthbert’s knock-down found empty space and the chance was cleared.
Moments later, and the Town had their first effort on goal as Mackail-Smith wriggled free on the back of Pigott’s work to unleash from distance, harmlessly high and wide.
It was undoubtedly a better end to the half from Nathan Jones’ side, and despite being under the pump for most of the 45 minutes, they found themselves ahead from McGeehan’s super strike.
The ball sat up for the Town top-scorer, and from the moment he struck the volley from 25 yards, you knew the keeper would be struggling as the ball nestled in the far corner from the looping shot.
The Town tails were almost certainly up as the half closed out, with Marriott getting in down the right, finding Stephen O’Donnell to put in a dangerous close just missing a Hatters head to tuck home.
Pigott joined Alex Lawless in the book after both caught Jacobson late, and the visitors came close to doubling their lead when Sheehan’s 20-yard set-piece nestled in Allsop’s gloves in a frantic end to the first period.
Wycombe also claimed for a penalty in the dying stages, when Harriman claimed his cross flicked a Town hand, but the appeals were waved away and the referee brought the half to a close.
The Hatters started the second half in much the attacking mentality, and McGeehan came close to doubling his own and the Hatters’ tally when loitering at the back post.
He took advantage of Lawless’ strong work, with the midfielder cutting back in to deliver a pinpoint close which McGeehan was inches away from knocking into the net.
The noise in the away end was electric now and the players responded, with Mackail-Smith running potently down the left to be clattered in the face by Sido Jombati, earning a yellow card in the process.
From the resulting free-kick Sheehan couldn’t quite prod home, while Pigott protested for a penalty in a desperate five minutes to begin the second half.
Olly Lee was the latest to enter the referee’s notebook, catching Jombati late as Wycombe delivered their first spell of pressure since the half-hour mark.
Yet Justham remained untroubled in the Hatters goal although Marriott received a booking of his own for diving in, although Ugwu escaped the same punishment for an equally cynical challenge against Sheehan.
The hosts thought they’d equalised on the hour mark when Jacobson’s cross was met Paris Cowan-Hall to nod in, yet the referee’s whistle saved the Hatters for a foul on Justham.
And straight up the other end the Hatters were aggrieved. Lawless scampered free to run through on goal, but it looked as though he was tripped by the last man on the edge of the area. The referee disagreed, however, much to the disapproval of the vocal travelling support behind that goal.
The Hatters had another chance to double when Lawless set Pigott scampering down the left, crossing in for Marriott to seemingly tap in except for the brilliant defending from Jacobson in the area.
It proved to be Pigott’s last action, replaced by Paul Benson 27 minutes from time as the game continued to provide its thrill-a-minute action.
Justham was troubled for arguably the first time in the half as substitute Garry Thompson peeled off Cuthbert but couldn’t quite steer Matt Bloomfield’s raking cross into the far corner.
Back came the Town, Mackail-Smith this time having the chance, showing Aaron Pierre a clean pair of heels following Benson’s flick-on, watching his shot trickle across the goal-line and away to safety.
Marriott was the next to test Allsop among a cracking second-half, meeting Jake Howells’ delicious cross with a first-time volley that the ‘keeper did well to deal as the game developed to the final 20 minutes.
You needed to take a breath to take this game in, and Ruddock’s appearance off the bench gave everyone except Mackail-Smith, who continued to run his socks off while all around him tired.
Chasing the game, Wycombe were unable to muster any real chances, the Hatters defence proving resolute as Jombati’s header found Justham with ease, before Benson, Mackail-Smith and Ruddock linked up.
Benson’s initial flick found Mackail-Smith who in turn excellently slipped through Ruddock on goal, and the tackle on him gave Benson a chance from the tightest of angles from which he rattled the frame of the goal.
The Hatters were exemplary in the closing stages. The addition of six added minutes caused grumbles in the away end, but the hold-up play of Lawless and Benson in particular forced a standing ovation from the following faithful.
Ruddock continued to push in his usual manner, driving at the home defence, and the full-time whistle prompted fist and chest-pumping from Jones – triumphant for the second time at the Hatters helm.
Hatters: Justham, O’Donnell, Howells, Cuthbert, Sheehan, Lawless, McGeehan (sub McCourt 80), Lee, Marriott (sub Ruddock 74) Mackail-Smith, Pigott (sub Benson 63).
Subs not used: Tyler, Smith, Okuonghae, Banton.
Attendance: 4,597 including a fantastic 1,038 backing the Hatters.