League Two: Luton Town 2 Barnet 0
League Two: Luton Town 2 Barnet 0
The entertainment factor finally returned to Kenilworth Road this afternoon as Luton Town made it three wins in all competitions with an impressive 2-0 victory over Barnet.
After recent displays in which the hosts had laboured in front of goal, with a dearth of attempts leaving supporters wanting more, this time Hatters went about their business with a new-found adventure.
Town’s intentions to almost shoot on sight at times led to a renewed optimism for the home fans, with Jonathan Smith in particular unlucky not to find himself on the scoresheet, although it wasn’t for the lack of trying.
In the end, just two goals were needed from the recalled Danny Green and Cameron McGeehan’s eighth of the campaign, although it could and probably should have been more as Luton won at home for the first time since September 26.
Luton boss John Still made a surprising four changes to the side prior to kick off, with Mark Tyler, as expected coming back into the team for Elliot Justham.
However, Green was in for his first start since September 12, with Paul Benson also beginning for the first time since August 22, while McGeehan was back as Justham, Sean Long, Jack Marriott and Luke Guttridge dropped to the bench.
Both Long and Paddy McCourt were also named among the substitutes despite being on international duty for the Ireland U21s and Northern Ireland on Friday evening.
Unlike other games on home soil this season, Luton started well, deploying a 4-4-2 formation, with Josh McQuoid partnering Benson upfront.
Town created a marvellous chance inside the opening five minutes, with Green setting Benson free on the wing and his cross met by McQuoid, who could only put his free header disappointingly at Jamie Stephens.
The visitors keeper then had to improvise to block from McQuoid after failing to deal with a ball over the top, but managed to intervene with his legs.
The poor decision making appeared to be catching as Mark Tyler tried to beat John Akinde to a long punt forward, only to miss his intended target and then just about dispossess him in the area.
He had an easier stop, from Andy Yiadom’s tame shot, while McQuoid did wonderfully to take Benson’s lofted pass and drive into the box, where he appeared to be felled, but nothing was given.
Luton then had the lead on 25 minutes with a wonderful goal as McQuoid picked up possession and burst forward.
He powered past a posse of defenders to tee up Green who lashed his shot into the roof of the net from the edge of the box.
With their dander up, McGeehan took aim from range twice, one easy for Stephens, while the deflected second required a reactionary tip behind.
Smith almost had the opportunity for a second, as his control just took him away from goal, while McQuoid went close too, his header from Lawless’ cross requiring a sharp stop by Stephens.
After the break, the question was whether Luton could continue their impressive first half display, without doubt their best 45 at Kenilworth Road this season, something they have struggled to do this term.
Early indications were no as Josh Clarke’s slide-rule cross was perfect for Akinde, who side-footed badly wide from a matter of yards.
Barnet looked to be more then capable of finding a way back into the game, showing a refreshing attacking intent not often on display by visiting teams to Bedfordshire.
However, Hatters managed to weather the storm after a few iffy moments at the back and should have made it 2-0 on the hour mark when a long throw reached the back post but Smith couldn’t keep his volley down.
Another venture forward saw Scott Griffiths play in McQuoid who beat Yiadom only to curl off target.
However, Luton then got a second with another break as McQuoid, who was excellent all afternoon, with a display of huge promise as a central striker, timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap and pull the ball back for Smith.
The midfielder loked like he was clearly felled in the act of shooting, but with referee Darren England not looking like he would be pointing to the spot, McGeehan mopped up the rebound, sweeping past Stephens to become the club’s outright leading goalscorer in the process.
Rather than sitting on their lead either, as Luton have been guilty of in past matches, Hatters went hunting for a third, McGeehan hammering over and Smith’s angled drive deflected behind.
The hosts had further chances as they were quick to break through sub Marriott and McQuoid to break, one move seeing Smith attempt an ambitious curler, that was well wide.
The Luton midfielder was certainly willing for his fifth of the season, as he came even close late on, his acrobatic volley flying just the wrong side of the post.
It mattered not though as Barnet failed to mount a meaningful response as Luton saw out the final moments with no drama this time, climbing to 10th in the table, just a point away from the play-offs now.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Alex Lawless, Scott Griffiths, Scott Cuthbert (C), Luke Wilkinson, Jonathan Smith, Olly Lee, Danny Green (Mark O’Brien 82), Cameron McGeehan, Josh McQuoid (Paddy McCourt 90), Paul Benson (Jack Marriott 78).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Dan Potts, Sean Long, Lee Guttridge.
Bees: Jamie Stephen, Elliot Johnson, Bondz N’Gala, Andy Yiadom (C), Curtis Weston, John Akinde (Aaron McLean 70), Luke Gambin (Shaun Batt 49), Tom Champion (Sam Muggleton 69), Michael Gash, Josh Clarke.
Subs not used: Gavin Hoyte, Sam Togwell, Nicky Bailey, Raven Constable.
Attendance: 8,497 (612 Barnet).
Booked: Lawless 55, Green 79.
Referee: Darren England.
Hatters MOM: Josh McQuoid. Superb display in his preferred position as a central striker.