League Two: Luton Town 1 Exeter City 0
Luton Town bounced back in fine style from Tuesday night's 3-2 defeat against Wycombe by picking up an absolutely crucial victory against fellow promotion chasers Exeter City this afternoon.
Although it might not have had the amount of goals that home fans have had the luxury of witnessing at times this season, make no mistake, this was one of Hatters' best displays, especially first half, in recent matches, as they were by far the better team throughout.
In fact the only criticism that could be levelled at the hosts was that they weren't out of sight in the closing stages, as despite dominating possession and territory, a lack of composure in the final third meant an unusually poor City were still in the contest.
However, they barely tested home keeper Marek Stech, who kept one of his most comfortable clean sheets from the 15 racked up now this term, as they fell 12 points behind, albeit it still with two games in hand.
Hatters boss Nathan Jones handed debuts to two deadline day signings in Flynn Downes and Jake Jervis, while Harry Cornick came back in, with injured duo Johnny Mullins and Elliot Lee out, Andrew Shinnie dropping to the bench, where leading scorer Danny Hylton gave Luton a real boost by being fit enough to join him.
A bright start saw Downes take the ball off Rea, who dropped into central defence, look up and find Cornick. He spun his man cleverly and unleashed a fierce left-footer from 18 yards that crashed against the post.
Jervis was quick to show his pace, setting off on a counter attack and trying his luck from 20 yards, not getting the required bend to find the net.
Town stayed in the ascendancy, something they hadn't done in midweek, Potts' first time cross headed out to Jervis who scuffed wide, as he then hooked an awkward volley over, Cornick also not picking his head up with the unmarked Berry screaming for the pass.
Hiram Boateng made Stech at least get his top dirty from range, while Rea produced a superb block from Kyle Edwards as Luton were caught short on the right hand side.
Town were inches away on 28 minutes, Collins picked out by Cornick and his deflected cross-shot beat Pym only to clip the top of the bar.
There was no let up in Hatters' sustained attacks though, the hosts having shouts for a penalty turned down when Daniel Seaborne fell on the ball in the box, Jack Stacey sending the rebound into orbit.
However, Luton were ahead and deservedly so on 38 minutes as Berry fed Potts who nipped between a gap in the visitors defence, teeing up Cornick on the edge of the box, his shot taking a wicked deflection off Jordan Storey to wrong foot Pym.
Lee looked for an instant second, drilling an effort that Pym parried away to safety.
Although comfortably on top, Hatters needed to be wary after the interval, as they had been second best in their opening 45 minutes at St James' Park back in August, only to then blitz their opponents with three goals in 10 minutes.
To be fair, that never looked remotely likely repeating itself for the Grecians, Jervis demonstrating once more he was not afraid to chance his arm, wide once more.
Town still kept a tight leash on their opponents, Downes winning more than one fine challenge and showing a lovely array of passing, keeping things simple to regularly find his man and keep his team on the front foot.
Berry looked to extend Town's lead, narrowly missing the near post from 20 yards while he was then left all alone to meet Alan Sheehan's corner, heading into the ground and straight at Pym.
Still Exeter had nothing going forward as Sheehan made sure that former Town striker Jayden Stockley, who had caused Luton such problems earlier in the campaign, was to have a fruitless afternoon, never allowing him a second on the ball.
Hylton came on for Jervis with 12 minutes to go, combining with Collins for the latter to send a curler just wide and then heading over the top from a set-piece himself.
Lloyd Jones came on for his debut in the closing stages with Cornick cramping up, as Luton switched to three centre halves for the final five minutes.
City had the ball in the net though Liam McAlinden, as they looked to have rescued an unlikely point, but it was rightly ruled out for a clear foul on Stech.
The Town stopper was called upon for one final save, showing good handling to stop Kane Wilson's bouncing drive, while when Boateng shot wastefully over, that was that.
Wins for Wycombe and Notts County meant the top three stayed the same, but Luton did move 10 points clear of fourth, that berth now taken by Mansfield Town.
Hatters: Marek Stech, Jack Stacey, Dan Potts, Glen Rea, Alan Sheehan (C), Glen Rea, Flynn Downes, Olly Lee, Luke Berry, Harry Cornick (Lloyd Jones 83), James Collins, Jake Jervis (Danny Hylton 77).
Subs not used: James Shea, James Justin, Andrew Shinnie, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Lawson D'Ath.
City: Christy Pym, Lloyd James (Lee Holmes 55), Jordan Tillson, Jayden Stockley, Daniel Seaborne (Liam McAlinden 71), Dean Moxey, Kane Wilson, Jake Taylor (C), Kyle Edwards (Robbie Simpson 85), Jordan Storey, Hiram Boateng.
Subs not used: Pierce Sweeney, Paul Jones, Matt Jay, Alex Byrne.
Referee: Andy Woolmer.
Attendance: 8,788 (464 Exeter).
Hatters MOM: Flynn Downes – belied his age with a tremendous debut.