Marriott winner gives the Hatters a third straight win
Jack Marrott’s goal 14 minutes from time handed the Hatters a third victory on the spin.
The striker slotted home his 11th goal of the season from an acute angle following Paddy McCourt’s pass to finally break Morecambe’s resistance.
Marriott went close in the first half with a shot that bounced inches wide of the post but the forward made no mistake to secure the Hatters their first back-to-back home wins since September.
It all began with Nathan Jones making three changes to the side that beat York on Saturday. Craig Mackail-Smith, Paddy McCourt and Jonathan Smith both started, replacing Alex Lawless, Joe Pigott and Danny Green who all dropped to the bench.
Playing through McCourt, the Town began patiently but couldn’t find the killer pass to test the Morecamebe back-line.
In fact the visitors had the first serious chance of the game eight minutes before half-time when the evergreen Kevin Ellison, 37, turned Scott Cuthbert and tested 38-year-old Mark Tyler with a firm effort from 12 yards.
The Hatters had to wait until the 42nd minute to fashion their best chance of the half when Marriott, latching onto Cameron McGeehan’s pass, hit a low shot across goal that flew inches the wrong side of the post.
After the restart the Town upped the ante again, forcing Morecambe back, with McCourt the orchestrator once more. The midfielder created a superb opportunity for Mackail-Smith on 50 minutes with a stunning pass – only for the striker to be thwarted by the giant frame of Barry Roche in Shrimps goals.
Three minutes later McCourt saw a shot deflected behind for a corner before Marriott saw another shot blocked moments later.
While the Town continued to dominate, the threat at the other end was minimal: Tyler got down to keep out Paul Mullin’s 25-yard free-kick on 66 minutes, but the Hatters kept up the momentum and Stephen O’Donnell’s stinging drive was turned around the post by Roche.
McCourt almost conjured up another piece of magic, only to see his vision seen at the last moment by the Morecambe defence on 74 minutes – but two minutes later the Hatters had the lead at last.
It was McCourt’s run that led to it: his trickery paved a pass into the path for Marriott who kept his composure despite offside claims from the visitors to tuck home a low finish from a really tight angle. It was his third goal in his last four games.
Now it was the visitors’ turn to attack and the Hatters needed Tyler to be alert on 80 minutes to spring to his left to prevent Chris Doyle’s header from creeping into the corner.
Back came the Town as they sought to put the game to bed. Mackail-Smith’s cross – on a plate for someone – was cleared behind for a corner before the striker then failed to find the target when running through with seven minutes to play.
It was almost game-set-match for the Hatters with four minutes left when McCourt poked a shot into Roche’s gloves but, as time ticked down, the Town needed a fine defensive clearance from Alan Sheehan to avert the danger from a right-wing cross.
In the three added minutes there was one final chance for the visitors to snatch a last-gasp equaliser – only for defender Ryan Edwards to head over from 10 yards.
And the Hatters were able to see out the remaining moments to claim another victory – their fifth at home this season – to move to within six points of the Play-Offs.
See you at Leyton Orient.
Town: Tyler; O’Donnell, Howells, Cuthbert, Sheehan; Lee, Smith, McGeehan, McCourt (sub Ruddock 90); Marriott, Mackail-Smith.
Hatters subs not used: Lawless, Benson, Green, Okuonghae, Pigott, Justham.
Attendance: 7,153, including 56 shouting for the Shrimps.