The Hatters moved up to tenth in the Sky Bet League One table by twice coming from behind to beat Shrewsbury Town in a five-goal thriller at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.
Jorge Grant, with his first goal for the club, Jack Stacey and Elliot Lee were on target in a spirited second-half showing that made it two wins in as many home games this week for Nathan Jones’ side.
The Welshman had stuck with the same starting XI that beat Southend on Tuesday night, with James Shea on goal behind a back four of Stacey, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley and Dan Potts.
Glen Rea captained the side from the engine room, where he was joined by Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Grant and Andrew Shinnie, with Danny Hylton and Lee up front.
The Hatters started brightly enough, Lee curling a free-kick narrowly over the bar after being fouled himself 20 yards from goal, before Rea tried his luck after a period of patient possession on 13 minutes, but the captain was always stretching and left-footed shot drifted wide of far post.
It was Shrewsbury who broke the deadlock midway through the half when Shaun Whalley was tripped in the box by Stacey, and the former Hatter picked himself up and sent Shea the wrong way from 12 yards.
Another ex-Town player, Lee Angol, was next to have a go in the 24th minute but Shea was equal to the Shrews’ lone striker’s 20-yard effort after Whalley teed him up with a driving run inside from the right flank.
The Hatters built up a head of steam on the half-hour mark, Shinnie firing into the side-netting after some neat interplay between Mpanzu and Grant, who then sent a 25-yarder skidding just wide, with the aid of a deflection.
Mpanzu was next to try his luck, after a short corner from Grant – and a one-two with referee Carl Boyeson, who got in the midfielder’s way – but his left-footed shot from just outside the area was always curling away from visiting keeper Joel Coleman’s outstretched left arm and behind.
Jones responded to a limp first half performance by taking off Hylton, suffering a niggle to his hamstring, and introducing former Shrewsbury striker James Collins. Within six minutes of the restart his side were level.
Lee looked to twist and turn his way into the Shrewsbury area, just left of centre, only to be fouled by Anthony Grant. The former Luton loanee’s namesake, our current loan star Jorge, stepped up and curled a beauty over the wall and into the top corner for his first Hatters goal.
The Hatters’ tails were up, Mpanzu flying down the right with a surging run that got the crowd going even more, before another flowing move down the right involving Lee and Stacey saw the former go close just before the hour, although his angled shot from 15 yards always on the rise.
Grant had the opportunity to double his tally on 63 minutes when Josh Laurent fouled Shinnie after great work by Mpanzu to win the ball back 30 yards from goal, but Grant couldn’t repeat the trick and this one flew high over the bar into the Kenny End.
Shrewsbury regained the lead in freak circumstances on 66 minutes when Shea put the ball down in his area, thinking referee Boyeson had blown for offside. As everyone paused and waited for the ball to be sent upfield, Angol took it and placed it into the empty net.
The goal stood, but the Hatters’ character would shine through with Shea getting down low to his left to turn a 70th-minute shot from Anthony Grant behind before, a couple of minutes later, Lee and Mpanzu combined brilliantly to set Stacey up for the equaliser, the right-back racing into the box to latch onto a fine throughball to beat Coleman inside his near post.
Mpanzu was running things in midfield, another surge through the middle enabling him to release Collins on the right, but the substitute’s inviting cross was just too far ahead of Lee sliding in at the far post.
The striker didn’t have to wait long, however, when another free-kick opportunity presented itself just outside the area in the 76th minute, and – with the aid of a deflection – his 20-yard shot made its way into the Kenny End net for 3-2.
It could have been four on 83 minutes when Lee worked tirelessly to win the ball on the right touchline before playing it inside for Mpanzu, yet another driving run taking him to the byline where he was tripped by Luke Waterfall.
Collins, who’d had an impressive second half, took the ball but unfortunately couldn’t register against the club with whom he won two promotions, Coleman diving to his right to beat his penalty away.
There was still time for Shrewsbury to threaten, Shea making a superb reaction save to get down low at his near post to keep out substitute Fejiri Okenabirhie with three minutes left, and the Hatters saw the game out with relative comfort after that.
TOWN: Shea, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley, Potts, Rea (c), Mpanzu, Grant (Justin 78), Shinnie, Hylton (Collins 46), Lee. Subs: Cornick, Jervis, Gambin, Jones, Stech.
Goals: Grant 51, Stacey 72, Lee 76
SHREWSBURY: Coleman, Haynes, Sadler (c), Whalley, Docherty, Angol, Bolton, Gilliead (Norburn 78), Waterfall, Laurent, Grant (Okenabirhie 78). Subs: Beckles, John-Lewis, Arnold (GK), Loft, Barnett.
Goals: Whalley 23 pen, Angol 67
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Att: 8,518 (379 away)