Four-midable Hatters' destiny in their own hands
YEOVIL TOWN 0
LUTON TOWN 4
Hylton (pen) 8, 32
Att: 4,194 (698 Hatters)
The Hatters moved back up to fourth in Sky Bet League Two and within a point of the automatic promotion places with a magnificent 4-0 win at manager Nathan Jones’ old club Yeovil Town this afternoon.
Leading scorer Danny Hylton took his tally for the season to 22 with a deadly double to put the Town in control by half-time at Huish Park.
Then Glen Rea, with a 55th-minute header, and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu – with his first strike of the season – helped boost the division’s second-best goal difference after the break and make a distant memory of the last-gasp Checkatrade Trophy semi-final defeat to Oxford in midweek.
Jones made three changes to the team that took on the League One U’s on Wednesday night, with captain Scott Cuthbert, Stephen O'Donnell and midfielder Jonathan Smith all returning to the starting line-up.
The Hatters got off to a dream start when Hylton netted from the penalty spot on eight minutes, after strike partner Isaac Vassell had been brought down by Glovers centre-half Bevis Mugabi as he went on one of his trademark surges into the hosts’ box.
Hylton chipped into the roof of the net with the supreme confidence of a man knowing it would be his seventh goal in as many games since seeing his last spot-kick saved at Grimsby a month ago.
Eight minutes later the Town came close to doubling the advantage when Rea met Jordan Cook’s corner on the volley, but Liam Shephard cleared off the line before Rea’s follow-up shot was deflected behind for another corner.
Rea, playing at the heart of defence, was causing all sorts of problems at the other end of the pitch in an opening period that the Town showed utter dominance, latching onto a deep free-kick from Alan Sheehan and teeing up centre-half partner Cuthbert, but the skipper’s shot flew over the bar.
Yeovil gained a bit of a foothold in the game around the half-hour mark when, after Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro had seen an overhead-kick drift harmlessly wide, Francois Zoko brought Matt Macey into action for the first time with a smart save low by the far post.
But from the resulting Yeovil corner came the Town’s second, on a lightning quick counter-attack that saw Vassell win a header on halfway after Cook headed the corner clear and O’Donnell – up from right-back in the wide left position – cushion a beautiful pass into Hylton’s path.
Collecting the ball 40 yards out, the ex-Oxford man did the rest to make it eight in his last seven games, side-stepping the onrushing Yeovil keeper Artur Krysiak by the time he got to the edge of the box and slotting home unerringly past two defenders racing back towards their own goal-line in a vain attempt to keep it out.
The Town saw the opening half out comfortably, Sheehan threatening with a 20-yard free-kick after Mpanzu had been brought down by Kevin Dawson, but the Yeovil wall did its job and it remained 2-0 at the break.
The hosts came out more positively for the second half and within the opening five minutes they’d had three sights of Macey’s goal; Akpa Akpro seeing a low shot deflected into the side netting by Cuthbert, then a powerful header go just wide before Zoko’s low shot was saved well by the Arsenal loanee.
But by the 55th minute it was game over, when – after Hylton had been fouled for the umpteenth time by Mugabi – Sheehan floated a deep free-kick into the Yeovil box and Rea hung in the air to send a perfect header back across Krysiak into the far corner.
Two minutes later Sheehan tried his luck himself from another free-kick given for a foul on Hylton, this time by former Hatter Alex Lacey. The left-back had spotted Krysiak off his line and attempted to chip him from fully 45 yards, his effort landing on the roof of the Somerset side’s net.
Jones made a change on 66 minutes, bringing left-back Dan Potts on for his first action since suffering a recurrence of a knee injury on New Year’s Eve, moving Sheehan to centre-half and Rea into midfield with Gray the man making way.
It was a replacement by his former team-mate Darren Way, the Yeovil boss, who almost produced the game’s next goal however, Tottenham loanee Shayon Harrison firing goalward after Glovers skipper Ryan Dickson cut the ball back from the left byline, but Macey was equal to it.
Within seconds Mugabi was looking to get on the end of another left-wing cross, but by the 71st minute it was the Hatters who were posing a threat again.
Ollie Palmer, on as a sub for the ever-threatening Vassell, headed another precise delivery from Sheehan over the bar before the Irishman carried the ball forward and created a chance for Hylton to fire at goal for his hat-trick, only to drag his right-footed effort well wide.
It was to be the 28-year-old’s last involvement, with Jack Marriott coming on to replace him as Hylton received a terrific ovation from the 698 Hatters fans who had made the trip to Huish Park.
The top scorer couldn’t get his second treble of the season, but we went from one extreme to the other goalscoring wise, with Mpanzu putting the icing on the cake by firing in his first of the campaign with five minutes to go.
Smith crossed it to his fellow midfielder on the left side of the Glovers area, and the 23-year-old cut back inside his man, onto his right foot and cracked a beauty low inside Krysiak’s near post to register for the first time since hitting the winner against Dagenham last April.
Palmer was keen to get in on the act, attempting a lob over the Krysiak, who gathered comfortably as he retreated to his line. Then Macey had to make another good stop from Yeovil substitute Brandon Goodship from the last action of a very satisfying afternoon for Jones and his side.
With Portsmouth losing at home to lowly Crewe and third-placed Carlisle going down at Plymouth, the Hatters’ promotion destiny is now in their own hands, with a game in hand on Keith Curle’s side and one of the dozen remaining matches coming with the trip to Cumbria on Tuesday week.
It could be one hell of a ride – both to Brunton Park and beyond.
But first comes a home date next Saturday with sixth-placed Stevenage in what has become a mouth-watering local derby.
TOWN: Macey, O'Donnell, Cuthbert (c), Rea, Sheehan, Mpanzu, Smith, Gray (Potts 66), Cook, Vassell (Palmer 69), Hylton (Marriott 77). Subs: Mullins, D'Ath, Justin, Moore (GK)
YEOVIL: Krysiak, Shephard, Mugabi, Lacey, Dickson (c), Lawless, Dawson, Dolan (Goodship 82), Whitfield (Harrison 62), Zoko, Akpa Akpro (Eaves 66). Subs: Maddison (GK), Butcher, Sowunmi, James.
Yellows: Dawson, Lawless
REFEREE: Kevin Johnson