League Two: Luton Town 1 Dagenham & Redbridge 0
A wonderful strike from Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu saw Luton Town not only score in the first half at home, but put an end to their three game losing run at Kenilworth Road this evening.
With 38 minutes on the clock, the midfielder, who starred once again in a more advanced role than recently, collected the ball in the area and rifled an unstoppable shot past Daggers keeper Mark Cousins, with the ball crashing off the underside of the bar and spinning over the line.
It meant that former Town boss John Still, who had wonderful reception, both before, during and after the match, endured a losing return to Kenilworth Road, with his side all bit mathematically relegated back to the Conference now.
Hatters made just the one change for the game as Danny Green returned in place of Cameron McGeehan who dropped to the bench.
The hosts started clearly the brighter against their struggling opponents, Jack Marriott nipping away from Dominic Hyam, but as he pulled the trigger, Clevid Dikamona was there to produce a superb sliding block.
Josh McQuoid then tried to go it alone after bursting into the box, but he side-footed straight at Mark Cousins, with the keeper also alert to deny Stephen O’Donnell’s low left-footer as McQuoid appeared to be fouled trying to turn the rebound in.
It took Daggers a good 20 minutes to remotely test Elliot Justham, easily holding Ashley Hemming’s effort.
However, Luton finally had the first half goal that the majority of the 6,997 inside Kenilworth Road craved as O’Donnell’s break saw Green find Ruddock Mpanzu who did the rest in spectacular style.
The strike ended a hefty run of 478 minutes since Luton had last scored a first half goal, that from the boot of Paul Benson against Northampton Town on December 12.
Daggers brought on leading scorer Jamie Cureton at the break and he should have levelled immediately, as when Justham fumbled Christian Doidge’s back post header, the experienced striker fired goalwards, only denied by Glen Rea’s crucial block.
Hatters almost doubled their lead too as Jonathan Smith’s glancing header from Green’s corner was repelled by a combination of Cousins and his covering defenders.
As the game more on, the visitors started to finally to offer more of a goal threat, Matty Cash putting a free header over the top.
On-loan striker Joe Pigott then came off the bench after an hour and had two chances to open his account, over the top on both occasions, while he did the same with a third much to the frustration of the home supporters.
Daggers were then inches away from leaving with a scarcely deserved point as sub Oliver Hawkins’ first touch saw him beat Justham, but hit the underside of the bar, with the ball staying out this time, Sheehan making a courageous block from Cash’s follow up.
Hatters wasted a fine chance to kill the game off once and for all, with Zane Banton, who had another lively cameo, releasing Ruddock Mpanzu to cut back for Pigott, but once again, he was off target.
McQuoid and Joss Labadie flashed wide in the closing seconds, but Luton had done enough to go into two tough away games at Oxford and Carlisle United with some renewed optimism.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Stephen O’Donnell, Dan Potts, Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Jonathan Smith (Alex Lawless 68), Olly Lee, Danny Green (Zane Banton 82) Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Josh McQuoid, Jack Marriott (Joe Pigott 51).
Subs not used: Craig King, Cameron McGeehan, Frankie Musonda, Paul Benson.
Daggers: Mark Cousins, Joss Labadie (C), Clevid Dikamona, Christian Doidge (Oliver Hawkins 81), Matt Richards (Ashley Chambers 81), Oliver Muldoon (Jamie Cureton 46), Ashley Hemmings, Matty Cash, Dominic Hyam, Justin Hoyte, Joe Widdowson.
Subs not used: Andre Boucaud, Matt McClure, Luke Pennell, Lewis Moore.
Attendance: 6,997 (65 Daggers)
Booked: Labadie 63, Lee 68.
Referee: Charles Breakspear.
Hatters MOM: Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu. Scored a cracker and his enthusiasm all evening was infectious.