Skrill Premier: Hyde 0 Luton Town 1
A second half goal from Alex Wall saw Hatters reached 100 points for the season thanks to a 1-0 win at the Skrill Premier whipping boys Hyde this afternoon.
It had looked for long periods though that the champions were going to be denied in their quest for the century as the plucky hosts looked anything but a side who had won just once all campaign.
But then Wall took a flick on from Andre Gray in his path and finished clinically past Chris Kettings for his fourth goal of the campaign.
It was a day of achievements for Luton too as they kept their 23rd clean sheet of the campaign to break a club record, while Gray won the division’s golden boot, as FC Halifax rested rival Lee Gregory ahead of the play-offs.
Boss John Still made two changes to the side that defeated Forest Green Rovers, with Alex Lacey and Andy Parry replacing Fraser Franks and skipper Ronnie Henry, Steve McNulty taking the captain’s armband.
Meanwhile, midfielder Jonathan Smith made a welcolme return to the bench after his horrific injury against Barnet on Boxing Day.
Cameron McGeehan hooked a volley over on nine minutes, while Gray then fluffed a marvellous chance to score his 31st goal of the campaign.
A delightful dinked pass from Mark Cullen released Jake Howells and he picked out the run of Gray perfectly, only for Town’s top scorer to somehow volley wide of the target from a mere six yards.
Adam Thurston low shot was easy for Tyler, while he then held on to Adam Blakeman’s fizzing drive too.
Hyde had another decent chance when a fine ball over the top caught out Scott Griffiths and David Poole’s dipping lob just didn’t come down in time.
The hosts then managed to gain a foothold in the game as Jake Pollard burst forward and after cutting inside Parry, sliced an effort off target.
Town were failing to really test home keeper Kettings, as McGeehan chose to shoot from 20 yards, but was wayward.
A lovely spell of neat interchanges from Hyde saw Pollard clip the top of the bar with a superb effort from distance, with Tyler grasping thin air.
Town then made a change just moments before the break as Wall came on for Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu.
The forward almost got in during the opening moments of the half, but Gray’s ball was just too strong and then Tyler was forced to stop from the ever willing to shoot Pollard.
The impressive Howells was having plenty of joy on his left flank, beating two men and delivering a glorious cross, but Wall, despite some serious hang time, missed his header.
Liam Tomsett then side-footed straight at Tyler from 20 yards, before an effort from closer in sailed harmlessly over.
Hyde kept pressing for the opener as Pollard’s shot brought a block from McGeehan, while Griffiths charged down Regan Walker’s follow up.
A long range free kick from Blakeman beat Town’s wall, but despite bobbling, Tyler clung on well low down.
Anthony Charles replaced Parry before the hour, making only his fourth appearance of the season and first since October 19.
A disjointed Town struggled to get going during the second period and a free kick saw Robinson’s curler deflect off the wall and on to Wall’s instep, but wide of the goal.
Town had shouts for a penalty as Cullen broke into the box, and tried to go round Darren Thornton as both went to ground, but nothing was given.
Gray then came within inches once more as Cullen sent over a delightful low cross, but at full stretch, he just couldn’t make contact.
Town finally started to up their game as Robinson’s powerful left footed drive was tipped over by Kettings, before the crucial strike arrived on 70 minutes.
The goal was as route one as route one can be too, Tyler’s long clearance flicked on by Gray and Wall eventually managed to beat the offside trap before finishing with aplomb beyond Ketttings.
Wall and Gray then combined well again with the latter chipping a ball through for his striker partner, but the goalscorer dragged wide.
The hosts then fashioned a superb chance to level when Jordan Clark escaped the attentions of Town’s defence, but with Tyler to beat, lifted his header narrowly over the bar.
As the game became stretched, Gray’s fierce attempt was fingertipped over by Kettings and then from the corner, McGeehan’s goalbound header was well blocked by Thornton.
Hyde continued to look for a final send off for their long suffering fans as Clark again tested Tyler.
The Tigers winger then came close once more, skipping round Lacey and firing into the side-netting with options in the middle, while Walker shot at the keeper again.
Smith was given the entrance Town’s fans demanded late on too, entering the fray for the final moments, as he received a standing ovation from all sides of the crowd, with 2,253 Hatters fans making up the 2,729 gate.
Referee Anthony Backhouse then called time on Town’s five year stay in the Conference to herald another pitch invasion from Town’s followers who will next season be once again cheering their team in the Football League.
Tigers: Chris Kettings, Adam Thurston, Adam Blakeman, Alex McQuade, Darren Thornton, Liam Tomsett (C), David Poole, Jake Pollard (Damase Kiwanda 67), Jordan Clark, Regan Walker, Connor Hughes.
Subs not used: Andy Fitzgerald, David McNiven, James Kirby, Josh Morrell.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Andy Parry (Anthony Charles 52), Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty, Alex Lacey, Matt Robinson, Cameron McGeehan, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Alex Wall 45), Jake Howells, Andre Gray (Jonathan Smith 88), Mark Cullen.
Subs not used: Jon Shaw, Elliot Justham.
Referee: Anthony Backhouse.
Attendance: 2,729 (2,253 away).
MOM: Jake Howells. Full of creativity on the left hand side.