Lee at the double as Hatters defeat Gills
League One: Gillingham 1 Luton Town 3
Elliot Lee's second half double saw Luton cut the gap on the automatic promotion places to just two points with a comfortable triumph at struggling Gillingham this afternoon.
With Town 1-0 to the good going into half time, Lee struck twice from close range after the interval to make it seven wins from nine games, as the Hatters inched even closer to Sunderland, the Black Cats drawing 2-2 at Walsall.
Able to name an unchanged side for the third game, the game had begun fairly scrappily for the visitors, although Lee did trick his way into the area, shooting straight at Tomas Holy.
Gills leading scorer Tom Eaves then showed his threat for the first time on eight minutes, getting the better of Matty Pearson, cutting on to his right foot, only to fire wide of the target, Josh Rees looping a header behind as well.
Despite the untidy nature of the opening exchanges, Luton then took the lead with a goal of real class after 25 minutes.
Andrew Shinnie picked up possession from deep, drove forward, exchanged passes with Harry Cornick and from 20 yards, unleashed a perfect first-time effort beyond Holy and into the corner of the net.
James Collins thought he had immediately made it 2-0, rising to head Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu's cross into the roof of the net, only to see his effort disallowed by referee Kevin Johnson for what he perceived was climbing on his marker.
The official didn't give another far clearer infringement on the half time whistle though, home defender Gabriel Zakuani clearly hauling Sonny Bradley down as he went for a corner.
After the break, Town had their second just 10 minutes in when after a concerted spell of pressure, Glen Rea, Collins and Shinnie combined for Collins to drill across goal, where Lee turned the ball over the line via the underside of the bar.
Underfire home boss Steve Lovell made a triple substitution for the hosts, as Mark Byrne sliced wide from 25 yards, but Luton appeared to make the game safe on 68 minutes.
Well inside his own half, Cornick picked the ball up and with shades of Gareth Bale, just took off, going on the outside of two opponents, easily beating them for pace, speeding into the area.
Faced Holy, he was desperately unlucky to see his effort strike the inside of the post, but it mattered not as Lee was lurking in the perfect position to sidefoot into the empty net for his eighth of an increasingly prolific season.
Boss Nathan Jones took off Shinnie for Alan Sheehan, going to three in defence, and the hosts had a way back into the game with 19 minutes to go, top scorer Eaves left unmarked at the back post, volleying into the bottom corner.
Luke O'Neill's free kick was easy for Shea, while Gills had some moments of pressure in the final 15, Darren Oldaker's shot drawing a good block from Collins, while Elliot List sent a volley into orbit.
Luton could see out the win fairly comfortably though and had they made more of a some late breaks, might even have left with a bigger margin of victory.
Gills: Tomas Holy, Luke O'Neill, Max Ehmer, Gabriel Zakuani (C), Dean Parrett (Darren Oldaker 60), Tom Eaves, Barry Fuller, Elliot List, Billy Bingham (Bradley Garmston 62), Josh Rees (Josh Parker 60), Mark Byrne.
Subs not used: Tom Hadler, Callum Reilly, Noel Mbo, Connor Ogilvie.
Hatters: James Shea, Jack Stacey, James Justin, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley, Glen Rea (C), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Andrew Shinnie (Alan Sheehan 69), Elliot Lee (Lloyd Jones 90), James Collins Harry Cornick (Aaron Jarvis 84).
Subs not used: Marek Stech, Alan McCormack, Dan Potts, Jorge Grant.
Booked: Rea 35, Bradley 57, Eaves 65, Ehmer 90.
Referee: Kevin Johnson.
Attendance: 5,671 (1,282 Hatters).