Marriott on target again as Town win on the road again
The Town made it five wins in six away games under Nathan Jones with a fine victory at promotion-chasing Plymouth.
Jack Marriott poked home his 13th goal of the season following Paddy McCourt’s excellent pass to put the Hatters ahead at the break.
And a fine defensive rearguard in the second half saw off the threat of the Pilgrims as the Town enjoyed more success on the road – and a second successive victory at Home Park across two seasons.
It began with Jones making one change to the side that lost 1-0 at home to Crawley last weekend with Glen Rea, signed on-loan from Brighton on Thursday, picked to make his debut. The 21-year-old sat in a defensive midfield position in front of the back four in place of Olly Lee, who missed out through injury.
Plymouth, who had dropped down to fourth place in table at kick-off following Bristol Rovers’ earlier victory, began on the front foot and Dan Potts needed to be alert to head away a dangerous left-wing cross from Gregg Wylde on 10 minutes.
Shortly after that the Town were forced into a change when Craig Mackail-Smith went down injured and he was replaced by Paul Benson.
Argyle continued to have the best of the ball in the opening stages. Goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell smothered a deflected shot from Craig Tanner on 18 minutes before Oscar Threlkeld blazed a shot high and wide a minute later.
However, after that flurry of chances, the Town began to get a foothold in the game. On 22 minutes the Hatters came close to leading with a host of half-chances. Jonathan Smith – the only player who started in the corresponding fixture last season – saw a shot blocked, as did Marriott. With the ball still not clear Benson saw a close range shot tipped away by Luke McCormick.
The Hatters came even closer a minute later, Marriott seizing on a low corner into the box from the right to spin and strike a low shot at goal that bounced just wide of the post.
Last weekend the Town failed to capitalise on their dominance against Crawley and you worried that for all their possession that Argyle would punish their profligacy. Not so, as on 27 minutes Marriott was on target for the 13th time this season. McCourt was the orchestrator. Accelerating away from his man the Northern Ireland international burst forward to the edge of the box and spotted Marriott’s run into the box. The striker took the sublime in his stride and did the rest, bearing down on goal before slipping a sneaky left-foot finish beyond McCormick.
Behind, back came the Pilgrims – Mitchell dealt with shots from Threlkeld and Ben Purrington from the edge of the box, before Alan Sheehan bravely blocked a blockbuster from home skipper Curtis Nelson on 39 minutes.
As the break approached, Argyle upped the pressure but they found the Town defence in their path. Mitchell pushed over a long range dipper from Graham Carey a minute before the break.
At the start of the second half the Town were forced into another change, McCourt, who went down with a knock in the latter stages of the first half, was replaced by Danny Green.
However, the Hatters should have doubled their advantage three minutes after the restart when McCormick fumbled a Green cross from the left but with the goal at his mercy Rea shot wide on the turn.
Back came Plymouth and the Town were indebted to a fine save from Mitchell to deny Wylde’s shot on 51 minutes – even if the officials decided to give a goal-kick instead. It was a necessary and superb stop at the young keeper’s near post.
For the third time, however, the Hatters needed to make their final change due to an injury when Dan Potts went down midway through the second period. He was replaced by Magnus Okuonghae in defence and Sheehan shifted to left-back.
The Town then forced a chance – their first real sight of goal in a good 20 minutes – when Marriot teed up Stephen O’Donnell just inside the penalty area only to shoot tamely wide of the target.
As time ticked into the final 15 minutes the Hatters and Marriott came close to doubling their tally. The strike broke after his team-mates had cleared an Argyle corner and just kept running. Although he had Benson for company the goalscorer went for goal with a low left-foot shot that McCormick did well to turn around the post. From the resultant corner Plymouth then broke four-on-two – only for the hosts to mess up their numerical advantage in attack and substitute Jake Jervis could only, thankfully, blaze over the crossbar.
Pilgrim pressure continued in the final 10 minutes and then into the six added minutes were added by the officials – but the Town defence held firm and another victory on the road was secured.
With no Good Friday home game it’s a nine-day wait for a game at Barnet on Easter Monday.
See you there.
Town: Mitchell; O’Donnell, Potts (sub Okuonghae 69), Cuthbert, Sheehan; Rea, Smith, McGeehan, McCourt (sub Green 46); Marriott, Mackail-Smith (sub Benson 15).
Subs not used: Lawless, Ruddock, Pigott, Justham.
Attendance: 7,793, including a superb 554 happy Hatters in the away end.