League Two: Stevenage 1 Luton Town 2
Supersub Alex Wall scored a brilliant late winner as Luton Town emerged 2-1 winners at Stevenage this afternoon.
The striker was thrown on after 83 minutes with the scores 1-1 and with his second touch, produced a beautiful curling finish to open his account for the season, sending Town’s 2,000 strong support into ecstasy.
It had only been last month too that Wall was heavily criticised by his manager for a ‘stupid week’ after his poor efforts in training, plus a red card in a development game, so this goal will have gone some way to his redemption.
Victory was deserved for Luton too as it was they who were the only side looking to play football, with the victory making it four wins from five, Town climbing up into the play-off places.
Hatters boss John Still made two changes for the trip to the Lamex as Paul Benson came back for his first start since the 2-0 defeat at Shrewsbury, while Andy Drury returned against his former club.
Stevenage had former Luton captain Ronnie Henry as skipper, with one time Hatters youngster Tyler Reading the reserve goalkeeper.
The visitors should have had a clear penalty on five minutes when Drury was fouled by Henry as he shaped to shoot, but although the contact was clear for all to see, referee Tony Harrington opted to give nothing.
Luton were all over their opponents in the early stages playing some glorious pass and move football as Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu missed a glorious chance, sending his first time side-footer just wide of the post.
Ruddock Mpanzu was then clipped as he burst forward, a feature of Hatters’ play in recent weeks and Andy Bond went in the book on 10 minutes.
From the free kick Hatters had the lead as Drury sent over the set-piece and Wilkinson, just has he had done against Oxford a week ago, leapt highest to head downwards and past Chris Day.
Town almost had a second when the ball broke to Smith in the area as he shot into the ground and straight at Day.
The Stevenage keeper then produced a superb save from Wilkinson after McNulty and Drury had combined in wonderful fashion.
Town’s skipper magnificently swept a ball out wide and from Drury’s fizzing cross, Wilkinson’s low shot was tipped around the post.
That stop proved crucial as Stevenage, who had barely featured going forward, their long ball tactics easily repelled, then finally got going.
It took them 20 minutes to fashion their first chance as Bond connected on the volley from McNulty’s header out only to send it over the bar.
Out of nothing the hosts levelled on 33 minutes though when Chris Whelpdale’s controlled volley cross reached Tom Pett at the far post and he turned the ball past Tyler.
That ended Town’s run of 414 minutes since they conceded a goal and they almost shipped a second moments later when Darius Charles launched himself at a header, sending it flying over.
Stevenage threatened another when Scott Griffiths was caught out of position, as Wilkinson produced a fine sliding challenge on the dangerous Whelpdale.
With Hatters’ struggling to continue their early dominance, Boro went close once more when Dean Parrett let fly, although not testing Tyler.
After the break, both sides struggled to get the ball down until Ruddock Mpanzu, whose influence on the game grew and grew, broke and Drury’s cross was headed straight at Day by Benson.
Stevenage then played some rare passing football and Whelpdale teed up Pett again, but Lacey got a crucial deflection, allowing Tyler to change direction and gather.
A fully committed clash saw Smith and Benson in the book for poor challenges and they both were replaced by Jim Stevenson and Charlie Walker, the latter on for his Hatters debut.
Walker almost had a goal with his second touch, meeting Griffiths’ low cross, but it was deflected into the arms of Day.
Town’s sub then thought he had made it 2-1 as he reached Drury’s free kick and headed through Day’s legs, but it was hooked clear as he wheeled away in celebration.
Still then swapped Alex Wall for Cullen and the sub took Ruddock Mpanzu’s pass, beat his man and curled a lovely left footer beyond Day.
Hatters came close a third too as Drury’s free kick was met by Walker and he headed marginally off target.
Once again though, they stood firm at the back to negate Stevenage’s direct efforts and closed the match out to receive the adulation from their adoring fans.
Boro: Chris Day, Jon Ashton, Andy Bond, Chris Whelpdale, Darius Charles, Tom Pett (Roarie Deacon 70), Dean Parrett (Tom Conlon 62), Dean Wells, Chris Beardsley (Connor Calcutt 82), Charlie Lee, Ronnie Henry (C).
Subs not used: Tyler Reading, Bira Dembele, Cameron Lancaster, Ryan Johnson.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Alex Lacey, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith (Jim Stevenson 66), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Andy Drury, Mark Cullen (Alex Wall 83), Paul Benson (Charlier Walker 70).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Wall, Jake Howells, Luke Guttridge, Matt Robinson.
Booked: Bond 10, Smith 63, Benson 65, Wall 84.
Referee: Tony Harrington.
Hatters MOM: Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu. Deployed wider this time and relished his extra freedom. Such a powerhourse now for Town..
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