League Two: Oxford United 2 Luton Town 3
Striker Joe Pigott answered his critics in superb style with a brace as Luton Town came from behind to win a game for the first time in near enough two years at promotion-chasing Oxford this afternoon.
The on-loan Charlton forward had received some stick during the 1-0 triumph over Dagenham on Tuesday night, but repaid manager Nathan Jones’ faith in him in spades.
Once Luton had fallen behind in the opening two minutes, Pigott pounced after a defensive blunder from keeper Benji Buchel to tap home late in the first half and then with displayed all the reasons why Jones described him as a ‘wonderful technical finisher’ when United had made it 2-2.
Taking a high ball out of the sky, Pigott took a touch before bending a delightful effort beyond Buchel, putting Town in front once more, as Luton then confidently sawout the remaining half an hour to triumph after conceding first for the first time since April 21, 2014.
Victory was no more than the visitors deserved too as despite U’s moving ahead early on, they held their nerve commendably and were the more dominant team for long periods.
Hatters made two changes to the side as Alex Lawless came in for his 200th appearance, while Pigott partnered Josh McQuoid upfront, with Jack Marriott dropping to the bench and Jonathan Smith missing out completely.
Luton were breached within the opening five minutes as after winning possession back, Olly Lee dithered and saw his pass charged down with Keemar Roofe’s lovely pass bisecting Town’s centre halves to set Danny Hylton free, who easily beat the advancing Elliot Justham.
Hatters weren’t without their moments in the opening 10 minutes though, with Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, in his advanced role once more, to the fore, while they looked a threat too, Pigott heading back for Lee whose volley was blocked by a covering defender.
Luton created their best chance on 30 minutes with another foray down the right, which was their best moments were coming from, particularly through the combination of Green and O’Donnell.
This time, Green won the ball back and sent O’Donnell scampering away, as the full back looked up to find Ruddock Mpanzu, who had time on his side, but opted to sidefoot first time and could only drag wide.
After their opener, bar a few long range attempts, Oxford didn’t appear anywhere near as dangerous, although Chris Maguire’s free kick was only narrowly wide of Justham’s goal.
Town were back on level terms moments before the interval though after a calamity in the home defence, when keeper Buchel took a heavy touch when clearing a regulation backpass and then under little pressure lost his balance.
McQuoid was quick to pick up the loose ball, look up and then find Pigott who coolly netted his first goal in Luton colours.
Pigott, with his gander up, hooked over, but life then got even better for the visitors moments later, as on the stroke of half time, O’Donnell rampaged forward and although his ball to Lee was cut out, possession was recycled to Green.
With Lee staying forward, the winger picked out his team-mate who volleyed superbly past Buchel to make it 2-1 at the break.
Any thoughts of Hatters finally ending their long run for a come from behind win were shelved momentarily just five minutes into the second period when Che Dunkley rose highest to meet a free kick and head beyond Justham, who appeared slow to react.
However, as the game became an open and thoroughly entertaining contest, Oxford fluffed a fine chance to make it 3-2, with George Waring taking too long to set up Roofe, the ball crossing the goal-line.
Back came Town though, Ruddock Mpanzu dancing around two on the byline and Green having two shots charged down, while Lee was over from range too.
However, Hatters weren’t on level terms for long as Pigott displayed wonderful composure to beat Buchel for his second of the afternoon after 58 minutes.
Kenny was narrowly away from an instant leveller, his right-footer arrowing over, as Oxford started to gain some territorial ascendancy, Johnny Mullins off target at the back post, with Justham making smart stops from Sercombe plus Maguire.
Just when Town looked to have weathered the pressure, they were on the back foot again, home sub James Roberts shooting from 18 yards and Justham making an excellent stop, turning the ball on to his post and away.
Although Liam Sercombe zinged one over late on, Hatters could have gone on to add to their scoreline, as Ruddock Mpanzu was denied by Buchel, while subs Cameron McGeehan and Zane Banton both came on to add some valuable legs to proceedings.
The result couldn’t quite reignite Luton’s play-off chances though, as they remained six points adrift of AFC Wimbledon, who left it late to beat Crawley Town, with only four games remaining now, the first at Carlisle United on Tuesday night.
Oxford: Benji Buchel, Kemar Roofe, Johnny Mullins, George Waring (Jordan Bowery 61), Liam Sercombe, Danny Hylton, Jonjoe Kenny, John Lundstram, Chris Maguire (James Roberts 75), Che Dunkley, Jordan Evans.
Subs not used: Sam Slocombe, Jake Wright, Josh Ruffels, Jonny Giles, Josh Ashby.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Stephen O’Donnell, Dan Potts, Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Alex Lawless, Olly Lee (Cameron McGeehan 70), Danny Green (Zane Banton 82), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Josh McQuoid (Jake Howells 90), Joe Pigott.
Subs not used: Craig King, Frankie Musonda, Paul Benson, Jack Marriott.
Attendance: 8,838 (816 Luton).
Booked: Hylton 33, Kenny 75.
Referee: Trevor Kettle.
Hatters MOM: Joe Pigott. Ice cold in front of goal to bag a brace and led the line well all afternoon.