Hatters League Two: Hartlepool 1 Luton Town 2
Luton Town made it five straight victories in League Two with a hard-fought 2-1 triumph at struggling Hartlepool this afternoon.
Goals from Mark Cullen, on his 50th appearance for the club and Jim Stevenson’s first ever strike were enough for the visitors as Pools could only reply with a late Neil Austin penalty.
With Alex Lawless missing out, Town boss John Still gave the recalled Ricky Miller his full debut, with the striker starting out on the left hand side,
The hosts, with only two goals to their name in the league at home all season, came close early on as on-loan Middlesbrough forward Charlie Wyke, who boss John Still picked out as a danger man in the week, saw his fierce effort parried by Mark Tyler.
Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, utilised in the highly successful Andre Gray role from last season, almost broke on to Andy Drury’s deft pass, but the danger was cleared.
Pools didn’t look a side short on confidence as Ryan Brobbel sent a shot narrowly over and Scott Harrison’s header looped wide.
The visitors came close on 21 minutes though as Drury’s perfect free kick was met at the back post by Luke Wilkinson.
His header appeared to strike a hand, but nothing was given by referee Paul Tierney and Jonathan Smith’s follow up volley deflected behind.
Hatters then had a huge let off on the half hour mark as Wyke got in behind Wilkinson and was brought down by a sliding challenge from the centre half for what looked like a penalty.
Tierney gave it some serious thought but waved away the appeals, while Matthew Bates then raced forward and arched his back, forcing Tyler into a routine stop.
Town broke the deadlock out of nothing on 41 minutes as Ruddock Mpanzu burst forward from a quick throw and slipped in Cullen, who slotted under Flinders for his fifth of the campaign.
Pools came close to an immediate response when Brobbel’s free kick went just wide, with Tyler left in a heap after losing his footing.
After the break, the Luton stopper saved easily from Brobbel once more, before a scrappy period was enlivened by Miller’s instant long range blast that flew just past Flinder’s upright.
Hatters almost had the game sewn up as Wilkinson was once again left completely unmarked from Drury’s free kick only to see his header blocked and Flinders gobble up the loose ball.
Miller had another sighter when being found by Cullen’s lovely control and overhead pass just after the hour, but dallied and Flinders held on, with Cullen also arrowing off target shortly after.
Still opted to replace Ruddock Mpanzu with Jim Stevenson on 79 minutes and the sub played a major role in making the game safe moments later.
Fellow replacement Paul Benson was hauled down to win a free kick, Miller powered it on target and Flinders parried it straight into the path of Stevenson who tapped home.
Although the result looked secure, Luton kept on pressing, Drury’s deflected effort falling just wide.
Pools gave themselves a slim chance in injury time as Griffiths was adjudged to have fouled Brad Walker and Austin buried his effort high past Tyler.
The Luton keep came out to punch clear as Hartlepool threw caution to the wind, but there wasn’t enough time as the points headed back to Bedfordshire.
Pools: Scott Flinders (C), Michael Duckworth, Neil Austin, Scott Harrison, Dan Jones, Tommy Miller, Michael Woods (Connor Smith 63), Matthew Bates (Brad Walker 78), Lewis Hawkins (Jonathan Franks 89), Charlie Wyke, Ryan Brobbel.
Subs not used: Freddie Woodman, Jordan Richards, Josh Nearney, Kieran Green.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Jim Stevenson 79), Andy Drury, Ricky Miller (Luke Guttridge 90), Mark Cullen (Paul Benson 71).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Lacey, Alex Wall, Charlie Walker.
Booked: Jones 83, Hawkins 86.
Attendance: 4,225 (525 Luton Town)
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Hatters MOM: Jonathan Smith - gave his all to the cause.
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