League Two: Luton Town 2 Southend United 0
First-half goals from Alex Lawless and Mark Cullen saw Luton triumph over promotion rivals Southend United this afternoon, with their fourth successive League Two win.
One of the most pleasing aspects for the hosts too was that although never at their high tempo best, they always kept a disappointing Shrimpers at arms length to emerge comfortable winners.
Hatters boss John Still made two changes from their last League Two clash against Stevenage on Saturday as on-loan QPR defender Michael Harriman was handed his debut, while a fit-again Lawless started his first game of the campaign.
There was precious little quality on display from either side in the opening 10 minutes, with the only chance of note, Conor Clifford’s drive flying wide.
Keeper Mark Tyler was called into action moments later, gathering Will Atkinson’s volley at the second attempt, but it was all fairly mundane stuff.
After offering nothing going forward themselves, Hatters were then in front with their first effort on target after 17 minutes as Scott Griffiths rolled the ball down the line for Lawless.
The Welshman picked up possession, cut into the box and unleashed a lovely curling shot beyond Daniel Bentley and into the net for his first of the season.
Southend came close from a corner when Kevan Hurst’s corner drifted across goal and appeared to rebound off post before going away, while Clifford sent a free kick wide of the mark.
Tyler had to react well to shovel Clifford’s cross over the bar, before Luton made it 2-0 after an awful error from the visitors’ defence.
Bentley played a short pass to Cian Bolger and his clearance was pounced on by Drury, who teed up Cullen to slot past the advancing Bentley.
The visitors brought on Barry Corr after the break, plus the highly-rated Jack Payne at the break and the Southend midfielder looked to cause problems immediately, with some trickery on the ball.
However, with Southend committing men forward, that ensured there were spaces for Luton to slot into their counter-attacking style.
After being well shackled by Jerome Binnom-Williams in the first 45, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu then burst into life, slamming a cross across goal and Scott Griffiths’ follow up was charged down.
With the increased freedom, Hatters carved out a lovely one touch move as Nathan Doyle chipped in for Jonathan Smith only for the midfielder to shank his volley wide.
With Payne at the hub of their moves, the Shrimpers were a totally different proposition early on, Leonard driving off target when well placed.
Town still kept looking to kill the game off is possible as Lawless diverted Cullen’s cross into the stands, while Drury’s free kick didn’t come down in time.
Drury then floated in another set-piece as Wilkinson continued to prove so dangerous in the air, thumping a header wide.
The visitors then lost their discipline on the pitch and off it, as after bookings for Adam Thompson and Barry Corr, assistant boss Dave Penney shoulder charged Ruddock Mpanzu, as he went to take a throw and was sent to the stands.
The Luton midfielder and Drury were cautioned for their parts in the melee, with Lawless close to a third, belting over the bar.
Town were comfortable in seeing the game out though with Wilkinson once again to the fore. The defender, who was named League Two player of the month this week, is fast becoming Hatters’ signing of the summer and showed just why, blunting anything that came his way.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman (Alex Lacey 90), Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Andy Drury, Alex Lawless, Mark Cullen.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Wall, Luke Guttridge, Jim Stevenson, Charlie Walker, Paul Benson.
Shrimpers: Daniel Bentley, John White (C), Adam Thompson, Myles Weston, Will Atkinson (Jack Payne 46), Kevan Hurst, Cian Bolger (Ryan Leonard 43), Conor Clifford, Shaquile Coulthirst (Barry Corr 46), Gary Deegan, Jerome Binnom-Williams.
Subs not used: David Worrall, Michael Timlin, Lee Barnard, Paul Smith.
Booked: Atkinson 26, Thompson 65, Corr 67, Ruddock Mpanzu 71, Drury 71, Clifford 90.
Attendance: 9,238 (1,033 Southend).
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.
Hatters MOM: Luke Wilkinson. Player of the month gets better and better.
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