Mpanzu bags a rare double as Luton hit back to defeat Blackpool

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu celebrates his second goal against Blackpool this afternoonPelly-Ruddock Mpanzu celebrates his second goal against Blackpool this afternoon
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu celebrates his second goal against Blackpool this afternoon
Championship: Luton Town 3 Blackpool 1

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu scored his first double in almost four years as Luton hit back to advance their own play-off ambitions and defeat struggling Blackpool at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.

The hosts had trailed just after the midway point of the first half, only for Mpanzu to level on the stroke of half time, before two quickfire goals in the second period from Carlton Morris and the long-serving midfielder ensured the points remained in Bedfordshire.

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Town boss Rob Edwards made one change from the team who drew 0-0 at Millwall on Good Friday, Reece Burke replacing Gabe Osho in the hosts' back three.

After a quiet opening 15 minutes, the hosts had the first opening when Morris's shot was deflected behind for a corner after Marvelous Nakamba, who else, broke up play.

A short corner routine saw Alfie Doughty's delivery palmed away by Chris Maxwell and then recycled by Burke at the far post, Cody Drameh's header falling off target.

The visitors, who looked a far better side than the one that was 3-0 down early on against Cardiff City in their recent fixture, had the first attempt on target with 26 minutes gone, Lewis Fiorini's hopeful attempt simple for Ethan Horvath.

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A clumsy aerial challenge by Tom Lockyer saw the Tangerines win a free kick that led to the opening goal shortly afterwards, Andy Lyons reaching Fiorini's set-piece to bury his downward header into the top corner.

The setback sparked an instant response from Luton, Elijah Adebayo picking out Morris who saw his close range attempt brilliantly blocked, as was Allan Campbell's follow-up blast.

Blackpool might have extended their lead though, the unmarked Josh Bowler in space to see his effort batted away by Horvath, who then just about beat CJ Hamilton in a foot race to the rebound.

Town were clearly out of the slumber now, Drameh's low drive blocked behind for a corner as the wingback had another crack when teed up by Nakamba on the edge of the box, his dipping volley not coming down in time.

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With seconds remaining, Luton were back on level terms when a free kick ended up at the feet of Mpanzu, who despite usually only scoring bangers, this time produced the most measured curling finish beyond Maxwell and into the bottom corner.

Keen to use the momentum gained by the equaliser after the interval, the Hatters couldn't quite manage to do so early on, the dangerous Bowler seeing his attempt deflect into the hands of Horvath.

Town did start to up the tempo, Morris bursting into the box and appeared to have beaten Maxwell at his near post, but fired into the side-netting, punching the turf in frustration with half the ground thinking it was in.

Still the Tangerines, who needed the points for their own reasons, pressed, Morgan Rogers' shooting well over the top on the hour mark.

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With 63 minutes on the clock, Edwards made two changes to try and pep up the Hatters' attack, Cauley Woodrow and Luke Berry on for Adebayo and Campbell, only a fine defensive clearance preventing Berry from scoring with his first touch from Amari'i Bell's cross.

Woodrow did connect with a header from Drameh's searching right wing cross, putting it straight at Maxwell, while Nakamba almost had his first goal for the Hatters in fortuitous fashion, his dink into the box missed by everyone, Maxwell scurrying across to touch it behind.

The keeper could do nothing on 72 minutes though, Doughty beating his man on the left, his cross catching in the wind, and with Husband's clearance going straight to Morris just a few yards from goal, he couldn't miss, slamming home a 17th of the season.

Luton looked to have wrapped up the points four minutes later too, a ball over the top collected by Woodrow who picked out the unmarked Mpanzu in the area.

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He proved he does mainly score bangers, absolutely leathering it into the top corner to double his tally in terrific fashion, the Hatters scoring three at home for the first time under Edwards, as Mpanzu had his first double since April 2019 when he also netted twice against Accrington Stanley.

Blackpool might have pulled one back immediately, Lyons forcing a flying save out of Horvath and then Burke stretching every sinew to head his rebound away from underneath the bar.

An open final stanza saw Doughty have to go off with a head injury, Luke Freeman on for his first outing of 2023, as Kenny Dougall sent a spinning shot past the posts for the visitors.

Freeman might have put an even bigger gloss on the victory, not missing by much from 25 yards, but Town held on to take another step towards cementing a top six berth, now nine points above seventh with five matches to go now.

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Hatters: Ethan Horvath, Cody Drameh, Reece Burke, Tom Lockyer (C), Amari'i Bell, Alfie Doughty (Luke Freeman 86), Marvelous Nakamba, Allan Campbell (Luke Berry 63), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (Sonny Bradley 90), Elijah Adebayo (Cauley Woodrow 63), Carlton Morris.

Subs not used: James Shea, Henri Lansbury, Joe Taylor.

Tangerines: Chris Maxwell, James Husband, Lewis Fiorini (Ian Poveda 75), Keshi Anderson (Callum Connolly 63), Josh Bowler, Sonny Carey (Kenny Dougall 75), CJ Hamilton, Andy Lyons, Morgan Rogers, Curtis Nelson ©, Jordan Thorniley.

Subs not used: Jordan Gabriel, Dominic Thompson, Charlie Patino, Daniel Grimshaw.

Bookings: Thorniley 43, Fiorini 48, Morris 81.

Referee: Andy Davies.

Attendance: 9,772 (Tangerines 493).