League Two: Tranmere 0 Luton Town 1
Birthday boy Cameron McGeehan ended the Hatters appalling run of form by scoring a late winner as Luton edged out relegation-threatened Tranmere Rovers this afternoon.
The on-loan Norwich midfielder converted the rebound after Mark Cullen had won and missed Town’s first penalty in over six months, in front of the travelling 526 away fans.
John Still’s side had gone into the game on the back of seven straight defeats, just one match away from equalling the club’s worst record for league defeats, which had lasted since 1900.
However, in an encounter low on any real quality throughout, Hatters made sure an unwanted entrance to the record books was avoided and although stayed in ninth, are now just one point behind sixth-placed Stevenage.
The visitors made three changes to the side that lost against Exeter as Ryan Hall, Scott Griffiths and McGeehan all came back in, while Alex Lawless and Luke Guttridge dropped to the bench with Lewis Kinsella missing out.
Tranmere should have had the lead on five minutes when Nathan Doyle gave away possession cheaply and Jennison Myrie-Williams was put clean through to face Elliot Justham, with the keeper crucially sticking out a leg to divert his timid shot.
Hatters had their first real opportunity on 16 minutes as Steve McNulty and McGeehan combined to find Mark Cullen, whose deep cross was headed goalwards by Benson, with keeper Peter Brezovan using all his 6ft 6in frame to claw it behind.
The striker was then only inches away from reaching Luke Wilkinson’s raking pass forward, with Town putting together some good possession although rarely creating any opportunities of note.
Rovers created another chance for the unmarked Myrie-Williams, only for the attacker to shank a volley away from danger allowing Griffiths to clear, with the attacker then taking aim from 30 yards but shooting well wide.
Hall was marginally behind Jonathan Smith’s low cross into the area, while McNulty atoned for a sloppy control, by getting his body in the way of George Green’s fierce blast.
In the second period, play stopped for a good five minutes as Max Power appeared to collapse on the edge of his own penalty area and needed medical attention before eventually being stretched off with Marc Laird replacing him.
Green then forced the simplest of save from Justham with a 20 yard free kick, with the keeper’s handling tested further by Myrie-Williams’ next deadball attempt.
Set-pieces were the dominant theme in the second period as Hall sent one narrowly over the top from 25 yards too, while Rovers did fashion an opening through Kayode Odejayi’s neat backheel but Laird was wayward.
Town then finally won a long overdue spot kick on 80 minutes as Cullen took Benson’s flick, rounded Michael Ihiekwe and was fouled by the outstretched leg of the onrushing Brezovan.
The striker took the ball himself, but although hitting his effort true and hard, saw Brezovan block well, only to see McGeehan quickest to react and sidefoot the rebound over the line.
Hatters were indebted to a wonderful save from Justham to keep their lead intact as Kayode Odejayi headed back across and Laird connected with a powerful header, only for the keeper to brilliantly flip over the top.
Sub Iain Hume flicked off target from a Rovers corner, but with play getting stretched at both ends, Luton’s defence remained solid with McNulty and Wilkinson to the fore, earning a first clean sheet on the road since January 17 at Plymouth, coincidentally Town’s last away win too.
Rovers: Peter Brezovan, Liam Ridehalgh, Max Power (Marc Laird 50), Michael Ihiekwe, Kayode Odejayi, George Green, Janoi Donacien, Rob Taylor (Iain Hume 61), Adam Dugdale, Steve Jennings (C), Jennison Myrie-Williams (Rory Donnelly 75).
Subs not used: Owain Fon Williams, Danny Holmes, Cole Stockton, Lee Molyneux.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith (Jake Howells 90), Cameron McGeehan, Ryan Hall (Alex Lawless 74), Mark Cullen, Paul Benson (Jayden Stockley 83).
Subs not used: Alex Lacey, Luke Guttridge, Matt Robinson, Craig King.
Referee: Dean Whitestone.
Booked: McNulty 57, McGeehan 76.
Attendance: 6,035 (526 Luton).
Hatters MOM: Jonathan Smith.