Hylton double helps Town come from behind to win
LUTON TOWN 2
Hylton 70, 76
CRAWLEY TOWN 1
Att: 7,316 (225 away)
Danny Hylton added two more goals to make it the most prolific campaign of his career as the Hatters ground out an important three points this afternoon by once again fighting back from a goal down to beat Crawley 2-1.
Hylton’s first goal took him level with his previous best tally of 16 for Oxford two seasons ago, and his second made it 17 for the season and completely wiped out the lead Crawley had taken on the hour through their own 17-goal top scorer James Collins.
With Carlisle losing 4-1 at home to Blackpool, it means the victory – earned on an at times frustrating and ugly afternoon – takes the Town to within three points of the Cumbrians, who currently occupy the third automatic promotion spot.
And there was more good news soon after the final whistle when physio Simon Parsell received a call from Luton & Dunstable Hospital to say that midfielder Jordan Cook, who had been carried off on a stretcher after an eight-minute hold-up in the first half, was being released with just soft tissue damage to his neck after being struck in a challenge with Crawley’s Conor Henderson.
Jones made just one enforced change from Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy quarter-final win over Yeovil, with Scott Cuthbert returning to the heart of defence alongside Alan Sheehan as Johnny Mullins sat out the last of his four-game league suspension.
Matt Macey retained his place in goal after making his debut on loan from Arsenal against the Glovers, while Stephen O’Donnell also kept his shirt at right-back after impressing in the 5-2 win over.
The first chance of sorts fell Crawley’s way in the fifth minute when O’Donnell attempted to clear James Collins’ low cross, but the ball smashed into Glen Rea and ricocheted safely into Macey’s grateful arms.
The Town’s first opening came in the seventh minute, when Rea found O’Donnell on the right and the Scot’s early cross was volleyed goalward by Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, only for Red Devils keeper Glenn Morris to push it away by the foot of the post.
Crawley captain Jimmy Smith volleyed wide of the Hatters’ near post after receiving a quick throw from Lewis Young on the right, but O’Donnell was soon creating another good chance for the Hatters, only Danny Hylton couldn’t quite control his clipped cross when unmarked eight yards out.
Crawley’s Smith sent another shot inches past Macey’s left-hand post on 22 minutes as the visitors took the game to the Town, but Isaac Vassell – as you’d expect from a man who had scored five in his last four games – was always looking to get in behind.
He had one shot blocked, allowing Morris to collect comfortably, before Hylton’s extravagant dummy on Sheehan’s pass put him through on 28 minutes, only for the Crawley keeper to race out and narrow the angle as the ex-Truro striker looked to get his effort away.
A surging 33rd-minute run by Mpanzu – one of several in the opening half – down the left produced an excellent link-up with Cook and Senior, who whipped in a great ball looking for Vassell, but the Cornishman couldn’t climb high enough to meet it and get a header on goal.
A minute later came a worrying looking injury for Cook after being caught by Crawley midfielder Conor Henderson. The ex-Walsall man was stretchered off with his neck in a brace after an eight-minute hold-up and striker Ollie Palmer came on for his home debut.
With the fourth official having signalled eight minutes of time to be added on, three minutes into it Crawley went as close as either team to opening the scoring when Jimmy Smith met a deep cross from Jordan Roberts on the left with a firm header, but it slipped safely just wide of the far post.
The Hatters started the second half on the front foot and when Hylton and Josh Lelan challenged for a ball to the right of the Crawley area, referee Chris Sarginson gave the Town a free-kick and showed the visiting defender a yellow card. Sheehan whipped in a terrific inswinger, but Crawley managed to survive.
Jonathan Smith then crossed for Vassell to nod down into Hylton’s path, but the top scorer’s shot from outside the penalty area was blocked almost at source, then Vassell saw an effort cleared off the line after
Crawley took the lead on the hour when Collins lashed in from the edge of the Town box, past two retreating defenders, after Macey had raced off his line to make a good save from Jimmy Smith in the initial attack.
The Town went in search of an equaliser and Jonathan Smith saw a header loop over the angle of post and bar, then – seconds after Luke Gambin had come on for Vassell – Palmer crashed a 68th-minute textbook volley from 20 yards that Morris flew across his line to push away.
By the 70th minute the Hatters were on terms, and it was Hylton who got the final touch after an almighty scramble virtually on the line as Crawley keeper Morris struggled to deal with another fine free-kick from Sheehan on the right.
Three minutes later Morris was scrambling across his goal-line again to keep out a deflected shot from Rea, but by the 76th minute the Town had their noses in front, Mpanzu doing brilliantly to get to the left byline and stand up a great cross for the unmarked Hylton to volley home.
Macey pulled off a spectacular save to keep out a 25-yard drive from Roberts in the 79th minute, then sub Rhys Murphy sent one just wide as the men from Sussex sought a way back.
But the Hatters were comfortable, safely negotiating the final ten minutes with only a low shot from another Crawley sub, Josh Payne, that went safely past Macey’s right post – and three important points were in the bag.
TOWN: Macey, O’Donnell, Cuthbert ©, Sheehan, Senior, Rea, Smith, Mpanzu, Cook (Palmer 42), Hylton (Marriott 90+6), Vassell (Gambin 67). Subs: Gray, D’Ath, Justin, Moore.
Yellows: Palmer, Rea
CRAWLEY: Morris, Connolly, Boldewijn (Bawling 84), Jimmy Smith, Roberts, Collins, Young, Djalo (Murphy 79), Lelan, Cox, Henderson (Payne 84). Subs: Mersin (GK), Blackman, Clifford.