The Hatters end the season in style with a fine victory over Exeter at Kenilworth Road
A ten-minute three-goal sucker-punch gave the Hatters a flourishing finish as their season culminated in a 4-1 victory against Exeter at Kenilworth Road.
Jack Marriott netted twice to end the campaign with 16 goals, following up a first-half header with a pin-point left-foot drive to seal the resounding win.
Cameron McGeehan opened the scoring with a deflected free-kick, while Joe Pigott’s excellent long-range strike gave the Hatters three goals in the first half for the first time since January 2015.
Ex-Hatter Jayden Stockley threatened a comeback for the visitors just inside the second half, but Marriott’s second ensured it was all smiles to end the year.
Nathan Jones made three changes from the Northampton defeat, bringing in Jake Howells for his first start since March 1, while Alex Lawless and Marriott also began the game.
And it was a bright start for the Town, twice coming close through Marriott and McGeehan with just minutes on the clock.
There were nervy moments for the hosts too when Elliot Justham fumbled on the edge of the area, allowing Stockley to prod past him only for Alan Sheehan to clear off the line.
Aside from that, the Hatters were in control. Alex Nicholls threatened some shooting opportunities, while Pigott also boasted chances of his own to open the game.
Pigott was often the beneficiary of some delicious crosses from Howells, and it was he who was instrumental in the Town’s opener after 25 minutes.
Hauled down by Jordan Tillson on the edge of the area, Howells allowed the better-suited right-footer from McGeehan to take, earning a nick off an Exeter defender and fly into the corner.
The Hatters kept pushing, Stephen O’Donnell galloping forward impressively, as he has for most of the latter part of the season, cutting inside and forcing a smart stop from James Hamon.
But then the Hatters did have their second. After missing a golden chance earlier on, Pigott was there this time to head goalwards, forcing a brilliant block on the line from an Exeter defender. But it wasn’t enough to stop the lurking Marriott from nodding in to claim his 15th goal of the campaign.
And the ten-minute supremacy was completed with another goal just two minutes later. Marriott was set scampering through the middle, and while he was beaten to the ball by the keeper, the rebound pinged his way to Pigott. He took a touch, set himself, and curled the ball from at least 30 yards past the stranded Hamon to give the Hatters a three-goal lead at half-time.
It was the third time the Hatters had scored three at home in the league this season, although the other two unfortunately ended in defeats.
And Stockley threatened to put in some jitters once more when he got on the end of a deflected cross, diving in to head past Justham just minutes into the half.
The Hatters kept pushing however, with Howells and Dan Potts linking up to good effect down the left as the former operated a new position in the inside centre of a diamond.
Howells found Marriott, in turn stinging the palms of the ‘keeper, but he wasn’t to be denied just after the hour mark. The youngster was gifted space to run, an opportunity he needed no second invitation for, driving on before firing left-footed into the bottom corner.
And Marriott should have had his first hat-trick in Luton colours. Pelly Ruddock fed McGeehan, and is neat flick set the striker through on goal, beating the shot-stopper, but unfortunately not the post as the scored stayed at 4-1.
Nathan Jones gave two new Hatters debuts in Tyreeq Bakinson and James Justin, while Frankie Musonda also came on, performing solidly after Exeter’s own substitute Brad Taylor headed straight at Justham.
A yard either side and the visitors would have had a second goal, but Marriott himself was determined to get his third when firing high and wide.
He wasn’t to be without his selfless moments, however, through on goal once again, this time feeding Pigott who looked certain to get a second of his own, only for the striker to lose his balance and scuff the shot wide. Certainly not one he would want to see again.
No matter for the Town though, scoring four goals for the only time in the league this season, sending the Hatters fans home happy following a lap of appreciation at the full-time whistle.
Hatters: Justham, O’Donnell (sub Justin 83), Sheehan, Rea, Potts, Howells (sub Musonda 89), Lawless, McGeehan, Ruddock (sub Bakinson 76), Pigott, Marriott
Subs not used: King, Smith, McQuoid, Banton.
Attendance: 8,427, with 310 following Exeter. Thank you for your excellent support this season.