McGeehan and Marriott on target as Town return to form
LUTON TOWN 3
McGeehan 36, 81 (pen)
DONCASTER ROVERS 1
Att: 7.917 (554 away)
The Town returned to form with a bang on an action-packed afternoon in which Cameron McGeehan scored twice and Jack Marriott the other as Nathan Jones’ side came from behind to beat Doncaster 3-1.
minute opener. And nor did it finish well, with striker Danny Hylton sent off for a second yellow card in injury-time.stIt was a game that didn’t start well, with captain Scott Cuthbert stretchered off and taken to hospital after sustaining a neck injury in the build-up to Rovers’ 21
But after a seven-minute hold-up while the Town skipper was treated on the pitch, and then given a standing ovation from both visiting and home fans as he was carried off, McGeehan netted his fifth and sixth goals of the season to return to the top of the scoring charts, while Marriott coolly slid in his third.
Jones made five changes to the team that went down 2-0 at Crawley, with James Justin coming in at right-back for his first Football League start after an impressive debut in the EFL Cup win over Aston Villa in August.
Cuthbert returned to the starting XI at centre-half, while Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu came into midfield and Hylton and Marriott were back in tandem up front after starting the Crawley game on the bench.
The Hatters survived a scare with just 45 seconds on the clock when John Marquis ghosted in at the far post unmarked to meet Frazer Richardson’s right-wing cross, but his header – luckily for the Town – found only the side-netting.
A minute later, Marquis’ strike partner Andy Williams reacted quickest after Cuthbert’s clearance was charged down, but on this occasion the crossbar came to the rescue from the ex-Yeovil striker’s powerful header.
Marquis managed to put the ball the ball in the net on four minutes, but an offside flag had long been raised and the Hatters could breathe a sigh of relief at the score still being goalless.
Jones’ men grew into the game and first-year pro Justin whipped in a great cross that was begging to be met by a centre-forward’s head. Unfortunately Hylton, still wearing a mask to protect his fractured cheekbone, was outside the box having sprayed the ball wide to Justin in the first place.
Rovers were looking dangerous every time they attacked and from a left-wing corner centre-half Joe Wright was the next to head goalwards, but off target.
That wasn’t the case on 21 minutes when Rovers put another ball into the Town box and, after Williams had matched the Hatters’ centre-halves physically, the ball broke to Coppinger who slammed it across Christian Walton and inside the far post.
There was a worrying seven-minute hold-up as Cuthbert was treated, and eventually stretchered off, after being injured while making a challenge to try and prevent the strike.
Alan Sheehan, who had started the previous two games after his delayed start to the campaign, slotted in on the left side of the heart of the defence with Johnny Mullins moving to the right.
Justin was seeing as much of the ball as anyone down the right, and McGeehan thundered into a challenge on Cedric Evina in an attempt to get the adrenaline flowing again after the hold-up.
minute, however, as Coppinger set Williams away on the left but Olly Lee had tracked back diligently to avert the danger from his cut-back, as Marquis waited to pounce.rdIt was Rovers who broke away and looked threatening again in the 33
The Town were level on 36 minutes at the end of their first spell of sustained pressure. Mpanzu had won the initial corner by driving into the box, and Rovers never full cleared the danger. Lee and Cook kept possession down the right and fed Marriott, whose shot from outside the box was blocked.
The crowd appealed for handball against Andy Butler, but Hylton played on and spread the ball wide again to Lee, who shipped in a wonderful low cross that McGeehan finished from close range for his fifth goal of the season.
Cook was injured in the build-up and became the second Town player forced off inside the opening half, with Jake Gray coming on in midfield.
Five minutes later the Town had the upper hand and Lee was once again the architect, slipping a fine ball through the centre of the pitch which Hylton flicked into Marriott’s path, and the striker finished coolly through goalkeeper Marko Marosi’s legs.
Lee was having a terrific half at both ends of the pitch, once more sliding in to deny Coppinger a shooting opportunity after Williams had broken again, this time down the right.
The Hatters started the second half in the ascendancy and McGeehan was proving a driving force, winning the ball in his own left-back position and linking with Marriott on the left, although the latter’s attempted switch to the right was too strong for Justin.
Six minutes after the break Marosi was almost caught off guard by Mpanzu’s deflected shot from the edge of the box that looped up, and had to be fielded just under his crossbar by the visiting keeper.
McGeehan then went on a mazy run into the area and his right-footed shot was deflected just wide of the upright
Just before the hour, Walton – who had been a spectator for the most part since Doncaster’s goal – had to gather Tommy Rowe’s 20-yard curling free-kick after Sheehan had been penalised for a foul from behind on Marquis.
But the Irish defender was soon breaking quickly up the left, crossing low for Hylton to cushion a lay-off into Marriott’s path, but the striker’s volley bounced comfortably into Marosi’s hands.
Hylton then teed up former Oxford team-mate Mullins for a full-blooded attempt as Rovers’ defence put their bodies on the line to prevent the Town increasing their lead.
As Doncaster went in search of an equaliser, the Town defence were putting their own bodies on the line – as they had been all afternoon – to keep them at bay, Potts and Sheehan clashing heads as the former rose highest to head a dangerous Evina cross clear.
With ten minutes to go, Sheehan’s curling free-kick was palmed away by Marosi, but Rovers couldn’t clear the danger and ref Andy Haines pointed straight to the spot when Mpanzu tricked his way past Wright, only to be tripped just inside the area. McGeehan did the rest, emphatically, from 12 yards.
Five minutes into time added on, Walton reacted well to keep out Matty Blair’s shot, then Hylton – already facing a one-match ban after picking up his fifth yellow of the season in the first half – was shown his second of the afternoon, apparently for his reaction after sliding into an advertising board in front of the visiting fans.
Two minutes later, Walton was at his best again to keep out a volley from Marquis and then, at 5.10pm on an afternoon when the Town boys spilled blood for the cause – perhaps best summed up by Sheehan having to leave the pitch three times to change his shirt and have his head bandaged up – referee Haines blew up for the final time.
The Town had flown back up into the automatic promotion places, but thoughts were with captain Cuthbert – one of a host of Hatters heroes who’d given everything for three points.
HATTERS: Walton, Justin, Cuthbert (Sheehan 28), Mullins, Potts, Lee, Mpanzu, Cook (Gray 38), McGeehan (Gilliead 90), Hylton, Marriott. Subs: O’Donnell, Smith, Vassell, King (GK).
Red: Hylton (for second yellow)
DONCASTER: Marosi, Richardson (Baudry 64), Butler, Wright, Evina (Calder 65), Houghton, Blair, Rowe (Middleton 78), Coppinger, Marquis, Williams. Subs: Etheridge, Middleton, Beestin, Mandeville, Garratt.
Yellows: Evina, Wright