League Two: Blackpool 0 Luton Town 2
Luton Town gave their supporters the perfect early Christmas present with a thoroughly professional 2-0 triumph at Blackpool this afternoon.
Goals from Jack Marriott and Cameron McGeehan were enough for the visitors to inflict only a second home defeat of the season on the Tangerines, as Luton dominated matters, particularly in the second period, as they could have enjoyed an even larger margin of victory.
The Hatters were indebted to a couple of fine Christian Walton saves in the first period, but once Marriott struck from close range, Town exuded confidence and no little class in adding to their tally, picking up a first league triumph since their 2-0 win at Morecambe almost a month ago.
The result was vital too as with the top three also winning, Luton would have been loathe to fall any further behind their promotion rivals in this congested festive period.
Boss Nathan Jones spoke in the week about the 'unpredictable' nature of his team selection against Carlisle the previous weekend, and he continued that at Bloomfield Road.
The visitors made three changes to their starting line-up, as Alan Sheehan and Dan Potts missed out with knocks, while Isaac Vassell dropped to the bench, with Alex Gilliead, James Justin and Olly Lee coming in.
Town set up with a 3-1-4-2 formation, Glen Rea dropping into the defence alongside Scott Cuthbert and Johnny Mullins, with Lee the holding midfielder, while Marriott and Danny Hylton resumed their partnership upfront.
It was Lee who had the first attempt of note, shooting waywardly from 25 yards, while Cameron McGeehan's effort dribbled through to Sam Slocombe.
Christian Walton prevented Blackpool from taking a 15th minute lead though, brilliantly tipping Danny Pugh's fizzing effort over the bar.
Hatters went close after Marriott won a corner, with Gilliead's delivery met by Rea, who after leaping well, could only glance disappointingly wide of the target.
Walton's handling was spot on midway through the half after Kyle Vassell showed all the confidence from his 11 goals so far this term, wriggling away from Mullins and shooting low.
The keeper then came to the rescue again moments later as the Tangerines broke away, with Vassell once more going for goal despite Brad Potts in acres of space for a tap-in, Town's on-loan Brighton stopper sticking out a strong hand.
Hylton tested Slocombe, who looked less assured than the Town custodian, awkwardly palming away the striker's angled effort away, Justin unable to collect the rebound.
Hatters broke the deadlock on the half hour though from another blistering countering attack. with Blackpool appealing in vain for a handball against McGeehan.
Referee Peter Bankes waved play on as Hylton received the ball and fed Marriott who turned inside Tom Aldred, tucking his shot underneath the advancing Slocombe for a sixth goal of the season and first in the league since September 24.
Walton again was well positioned to keep out Jamille Matt's header on 38 minutes after the striker got up above Cuthbert, further emphasising his importance to the side this term.
Luton almost had a second on the stroke of half time as Hylton's deflected cross was cleared away from the line, with Lee busting a gut to reach the loose ball, unable to keep his powerful volley down.
After the break, Hatters made the ideal start, rewarded for the high tempo efforts with a well-worked second. Gilliead burst forward after picking up a loose ball, with a number of ricochets playing in Justin, who produced an inch-perfect cross for McGeehan to nod past Slocombe for his 10th of the season.
Marriott looked to have made it 3-0 moments later, his curler not missing by much, while McGeehan also had a go, sending a low effort only narrowly off target.
Town looked in complete control, with Justin affording the visitors some welcome width on the left hand side that they have been crying out for in recent weeks, as his swirling delivery wasn't too far away from the far corner.
Blackpool remained a sporadic threat at times, Eddie Nolan shooting at Walton, but Luton's defence, marshalled by the superb Cuthbert, were happy to throw their bodies on the line and ensure a fourth successive clean sheet on their travels, shutting out a side who were amongst the top scorers in the league this season.
Rather than try and sit on their lead too as other sides in their position might have done, Luton went in search of a third, Gilliead dancing round his man and crossing just beyond the waiting white shirts in the area.
Lee almost wrapped it up with six minutes to go as picked out by Isaac Vassell's pull back, he showed wonderful technique to send a scorching effort which grazed the top of the bar, but but Luton saw out injury time with a minimum of fuss to ensure a wonderful start to the first part of their Christmas quartet.
Blackpool: Sam Slocombe, Andy Taylor, Clark Robertson, Kyle Vassell, Brad Potts, Tom Aldred, Eddie Nolan (Armand Gnanduillet 80), Danny Philliskirk (Bright Osayi-Samuel 55), Jamille Matt (Mark Cullen 55), Danny Pugh (C), Jack Payne.
Subs not used: Dean Lyness, Jim McAlister, Will Aimson, Jack Redshaw.
Hatters: Christian Walton, Glen Rea, Johnny Mullins, Scott Cuthbert (C), Stephen O'Donnell, Olly Lee, Cameron McGeehan (Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu 71), James Justin, Alex Gilliead (Jonathan Smith 83), Danny Hylton, Jack Marriott (Isaac Vassell 75).
Subs not used: Craig King, Jack Senior, Josh McQuoid, Jordan Cook.
Referee: Peter Bankes.
Star man: Scott Cuthbert.