Luton Town sealed a third successive victory to keep their faint play-off hopes alive with a superb 2-1 win at Carlisle United on Tuesday night.
With the Football League ridiculously scheduling Hatters’ longest trip of the season for a midweek clash, Nathan Jones’ side showed no signs of travel sickness, as they made it seven wins on the road from nine since the manager took over.
Another excellent finish from Joe Pigott set the tone, while Josh McQuoid added to the tally early in the second half, and although Jack Stacey pulled one back on the hour, Town stood firm to climb to 13th in the table, leap-frogging their Cumbrian rivals.
Hatters were unchanged from the 3-2 win at Oxford United on Saturday as both sides kept each other at arms length in the opening exchanges, while the visitors almost had a stunning opener on 19 minutes when Stephen O’Donnell tried his luck from 20 yards and his dipping volley forced Mark Gillespie to arch his back and tip over.
Luton then were in front on 23 minutes after another sublime move down their right hand side, starting with Danny Green’s clever flick to Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu.
The midfielder sprinted away and sent over a low cross that Pigott collected before spinning to beat Gillespie with a controlled low finish for his third goal in two games.
Town were then happy to consolidate their lead, with a few speedy counters, one which Pigott looped a header into Gillespie’s gloves, while the visitors couldn’t quite release O’Donnell’s burst from well inside his own half.
A fine Glen Rea excellent sliding block prevented Macauley Gillesphey from turning in from close range, while Luton then turned defence into attack, with Lawless’ clever flick finding Ruddock Mpanzu but faced with Gillespie, his angled drive went narrowly wide.
Rea once again timed his sliding challenge to perfection inside the area once more, with Stacey then going alone from 20 yards, whizzing wide.
The hosts had a great chance moments after the break, with Charlie Wyke stooping to meet a corner, but under pressure from the defence, couldn’t keep his header down.
However, it was Hatters were to score next, when Pigott showed tremendous perseverance on the byline to win the ball back and his cross eventually reached McQuoid, who side-footed home.
Half time sub Jabo Ibehre should really have given his side a lifeline on the hour mark as Jason Kennedy flicked on for the sub but he could only toe-poke wide from a matter of yards.
However, on 61 minutes, the hosts were back in the game when Stacey went a mazy run and then shot goalwards, with Justham beaten at his near post.
With Carlisle abandoning their passing style to bombard Luton’s area at every opportunity, Justham had the ball headed out of his gloves by Alan Sheehan, conceding a corner, with Dan Potts having to head Wyke’s attempt away from the goal-line.
A mistake by David Atkinson almost saw Luton add a third though, but Pigott’s ball was cut out by sprawling Gillespie before it could reach Green.
As the game wore on, the imposing Ibehre was inches away from a leveller on 80 minutes as he beat Justham to another searching delivery, but Alan Sheehan was there to produce a superb goal-line clearance, hooking away from under his own bar.
Luton then went into game-management mode to try and see the game out, but might have killed off the hosts’ as O’Donnell’s fine burst and pull back was skied by McGeehan.
However, the visitors did indeed hold to record another fine victory on their travels, and now head back to Kenilworth Road this weekend, to host Newport County.
Carlisle United: Mark Gillespie, Danny Grainger (C Derek Asamoah 82), Luke Joyce, David Atkinson (Troy Archibald-Henville 67), Jason Kennedy, Charlie Wyke, Brandon Comley (Jabo Ibehre 46), Jack Stacey, Alex Gillead, Macauley Gillesphey, Alex McQueen.
Subs not used: Patrick Brough, Antony Sweeney, Dan Hanford, Joe Thompson.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Stephen O’Donnell, Dan Potts, Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Alex Lawless, Olly Lee, Danny Green (Cameron McGeehan 68), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Jake Howells 85), Josh McQuoid (Jack Marriott 90), Joe Pigott.
Subs not used: Zane Banton, Craig King, Frankie Musonda, Paul Benson.
Attendance: 3,497 (235 Hatters).
Booked: McQuoid 74.
Referee: Mark Haywood.
Hatters MOM: Joe Pigott. Another super finish and led the line superbly once more from start to finish.