Andy Drury scored his first goal of the season as Luton Town enjoyed a superb 1-0 win at promotion rivals Plymouth Argyle this afternoon, on what was Jake Howells’ 300th appearance for the club.
Drury struck in the 22nd minute, coolly slotting into the bottom corner after Nathan Doyle’s shot fell kindly into his path, to net a first Hatters goal since January 18, 2011.
Victory was no more than Luton deserved either as they controlled the game for long periods, with a display of real quality both defensively and when in possession, as the Plymouth fans turned against their shot-shy side early in the second period.
Winger Shaun Whalley replaced Luke Rooney as Town made just one change to the side that drew with Shrewsbury, meaning that 23-year-old became the club’s youngest ever player to reach the milestone of 300 games, while a depleted Plymouth could only name four substitutes.
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After a quiet opening, Pilgrims’ top scorer Reuben Reid had the first real chance as he turned Luke Wilkinson and dragged wide of Mark Tyler’s far post.
Town looked more than happy to knock the ball around patiently in the midfield areas, searching for an opening, with Whalley the most likely outlet on the right.
The winger showed just what he is capable of producing, displaying quick feet to find a yard of space and whip over a delightful cross that full back Kelvin Mellor only just beat Jayden Stockley too.
Debutant Olly Lee rifled wide from range for the hosts, as Luton came close to breaking the deadlock after counter-attacking with real precision.
Drury fed Whalley whose incisive pass put Howells through on goal but on the angle, his shot was deflected away by Luke McCormick’s legs, with the keeper then comfortably gathering Luke Wilkinson’s speculative 30 yarder.
On 20 minutes, the hosts were denied what looked like a perfectly good goal as Mellor’s cross was nodded home by Reid, for what can only have been an infringement in the area.
After the reprieve, Luton had another slice of luck as they were awarded a corner when it looked like the final touch had come off Wilkinson.
However, with Plymouth slow to react to the set-piece, Hatters worked the ball to Doyle, whose effort deflected into the path of Drury and the midfielder showed real class to sidefoot past the motionless McCormick.
Lee’s long range free kick was parried behind by Tyler, with Hatters finding themselves denied a second goal when it had looked like Stockley had timed his run to perfection, only to be flagged offside before beating McCormick.
Tyler’s handling was back to its exemplary best in claiming Curtis Nelson’s downward header and Reid skewed well wide after beating Michael Harriman.
In the latter stages of the half, Argyle bucked their ideas up as Hatters started to look less somewhat less secure at the back, but chances flashed across the goal with no-one able to get a touch.
Town still had opportunities of their own though, as they weren’t just content to sit on the lead, Howells and Stockley combining as Smith took aim, tamely shooting at McCormick.
In the second period, Hatters continued their pleasing on the eye attacking nature as a lovely passing move saw Drury on the right and Stockley looked odds on to head home his cross only for Curtis Nelson to intervene.
Town then gifted Argyle a chance as they tried to run the ball out for a goal kick, but Lee picked their pockets although lacked composure, shooting wildly past the post.
Still Luton looked the more confident in possession and Howells was close once again as his low drive was held by McCormick, while Scott Griffiths burst into the area only to lose his footing at the vital moment.
The closing stages saw Argyle’s fans on the backs of their players as pass after pass went astray, with Town defending their penalty area with real authority,
When the hosts did break down the flanks late one, Luke Wilkinson was on hand to make some vital clearances, as Luton stood firm to claim a marvellous away triumph and their first victory of 2015.
Results elsewhere went in Hatters’ favour too as Wycombe and Burton both drew, while although Shrewsbury triumphed, Newport lost at Cambridge, meaning Town climbed back into fourth, the ideal end to a special day for Howells.
Argyle: Luke McCormick, Kelvin Mellor, Ben Purrington, Lee Cox (Tyler Harvey 46), Curtis Nelson (C), Lewis Alessandra, Reuben Reid, Dominic Blizzard (Nathan Thomas 58), Carl McHugh, Tom Flanagan, Olly Lee.
Subs not used: James Bittner, Jamie Richards
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Luke Wilkinson, Steve McNulty (C), Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith, Andy Drury, Shaun Whalley, Jake Howells, Jayden Stockley.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Lacey, Mark Cullen, Matt Robinson, Paul Connolly, Charlie Walker, Alex Wall.
Referee: Keith Hill.
Booked: Doyle 64, Lee 67, Smith 86.
Attendance: 8,420 (Luton 802).