Hylton at the double as Hatters hit back to beat Red Devils

Jordan Cook is stretchered off against Crawley this afternoon.
Jordan Cook is stretchered off against Crawley this afternoon.

League Two: Luton Town 2 Crawley Town 1

Two goals in six minutes from leading scorer Danny Hylton saw Luton come from a goal behind to claim an absolutely crucial victory over Crawley this afternoon and potentially ignite their faltering promotion charge.

It had looked like another afternoon of frustration for the Kenilworth Road faithful once James Collins fired the visitors ahead on the hour mark, with Hatters' appearing destined to drop further points on home soil.

However, once Hylton bundled the ball over the line from Alan Sheehan's free kick 10 minutes later, he then had his second and 17th of the season, volleying Pelly-Ruddock's cross into the bottom corner to seal victory.

The importance of the win was highlighted even more with a quick look at the other scores in the division, third placed Carlisle hammered 4-1 at home by Blackpool, with Exeter beaten by Plymouth too, as Nathan Jones' side closed the gap on the Cumbrians to just three points.

Jones had opted to make just one change from the side who hammered Yeovil Town in the Checkatrade Trophy, as captain Scott Cuthbert replaced the still suspended Johnny Mullins.

That meant Arsenal loanee Matt Macey retained his place in between the posts for his league debut for the club, with Stuart Moore on the bench, while Stephen O'Donnell got the nod over James Justin too.

Hatters were denied an opener on seven minutes after a truly wonderful save from visiting stopper Glenn Morris, who somehow got down to repel Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu's instinctive volley from O'Donnell's pinpoint cross, Jordan Cook putting the rebound into the side-netting.

Crawley looked to attack as well, a refreshing change from sides who normally rock up at Town and stick men behind the ball, Jimmy Smith just failing to turn a dangerous cross beyond Macey and then firing wide from a quick throw-in.

Hatters had another opportunity when O'Donnell's cross was miscontrolled by Hylton in the clear, and Vassell, searching to make it five games in a row on the scoresheet, didn't gamble as he could have been left with a tap-in.

The visitors enjoyed a decent spell of possession, Jordan Roberts' searching cross clipping the top of the bar and then dangerman Smith not too far away with a snapshot on 22 minutes.

Vassell was close to continuing his prolific vein of form on 27 minutes, after Hylton's sublime dummy from Sheehan's through ball, but his first touch took him wide allowing Morris to narrow the angle.

A lengthy stoppage then ensued on 34 minutes, when Cook was felled by an aerial challenge from Conor Henderson and after some extensive treatment, was stretchered off in a neck brace.

That saw Ollie Palmer on for his home debut upfront, with Hylton dropping back to the tip of the diamond, although during the eight minutes of stoppage time, Crawley weren't too far away from an opener, Jimmy Smith nodding just past the far post.

In the second period, and with results starting to fall for Town, they made matters harder for themselves, falling behind on the hour mark as Dean Cox's chip outfoxed Sheehan to release Smith.

Macey came out to save well at his feet, but the Red Devils' attacker showed good composure to tee up Collins who lashed home.

Vassell was then taken off for Luke Gambin, which allowed Hylton to return to his favoured striking berth alongside Palmer, the latter almost equalising in spectacular fashion, arching a thunderous volley that was palmed away by Morris.

However, Town, who were much more direct than they have been at any stage this term with Palmer upfront, were level on 70 minutes with a strike that will never win goal of the month, Sheehan's free kick punched into the air by Morris, Hylton stabbing home from close range.

Now on level terms, Luton wasted no time completing the turnaround, as the excellent Mpanzu set off on a mazy run to the byline and dinked over a wonderful cross for Hylton to volley in his 17th of an increasingly impressive season just six minutes later.

To their credit, Crawley came back once more in the final stages, almost nicking a point through Roberts' drive from distance, tipped behind by Macey, and sub Rhys Murphy, who dragged off target after Town gave the ball away cheaply.

The hosts clung on though to climb to fourth in the table and could even be as high as third when struggling Hartlepool visit Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night, if results elsewhere are as favourable once more.

Hatters: Matt Macey, Stephen O'Donnell, Jack Senior, Scott Cuthbert, Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Jonathan Smith, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jordan Cook (Ollie Palmer 42), Isaac Vassell (Luke Gambin 67), Danny Hylton (Jack Marriott 90).

Subs not used: Craig King, Jake Gray, Lawson D'Ath, James Justin.

Crawley: Glenn Morris, Mark Connolly, Enzio Boldewijn (Bobson Bawling 83), Jimmy Smith (C), Jordan Roberts, James Collins, Lewis Young, Kaby Djalo (Rhys Murphy 79), Josh Lelan, Dean Cox, Conor Henderson (Josh Payne 84).

Subs not used: Yusuf Mersin, Andre Blackman, Billy Clifford.

Booked: Lelan 47, Palmer 90, Rea 90.

Attendance: 7,316 (Crawley 225).

Referee: Christopher Sarginson.

Hatters MOM: Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu. Fine all-round showing and marvellous assist for the winner.