Hatters picked up their first home win of the season with what eventually turned out to be a comfortable victory over Macclesfield Town this afternoon, writes Mike Simmonds.
It hadn’t looked like it would be such plain sailing for a time as after going 2-0 up through Andre Gray and Jake Howells in the opening 20 minutes, Town conceded a sloppy goal immediately after the break and had to fend off a spirited Silkmen fight back.
But Scott Rendell eased the tension around Kenilworth Road from close range, before Stuart Fleetwood bagged his seventh goal of an already flourishing season to put the gloss on the afternoon in the final moments.
Boss Paul Buckle made one change for their clash as the fit-again Janos Kovacs came back in for Adam Watkins, who dropped to the bench that also contained deadline day loan signing Connor Essam.
The Hungarian partnered Dean Beckwith and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, forming a newlook back three for Town as Alex Lawless and Greg Taylor occupied the flanks.
Scott Rendell was pushed further forward due to Jon Shaw’s suspension, while the visitors had a number of ex-Town players in their ranks, as both Matthew Barnes-Homer and Charlie Henry started, with deadline day signing Amari Morgan-Smith on the bench.
After the frustration of not being able to score for love or money against AFC Telford in Town’s last home game, they were given the perfect fillip after a mere 40 seconds.
Stuart Fleetwood picked the ball up and fed Andre Gray, whose shot deflected perfectly into the path of the onrushing Howells and the Welsh U21 international’s half volley into the net for his first goal of the season.
The Silkmen almost hit back straight away when Jack Mackreth’s wicked cross swerved past Tyler and Beckwith somehow avoided the ball as is it whizzed across goal.
Fleetwood’s effort from distance was straight at Lance Cronin, but on 17 minutes the lead was doubled as Howells’ corner was met by a thumping Gray header, as the forward also broke his duck for the campaign.
The visitors barely threatened in the early stages and although they did start to get a handle on proceedings, with Luton content to play on the break, Town’s newlook back three was never unduly threatened.
Fleetwood put another long-rangerat Cronin, Gray was slipped through but thrashed into the Kenny End, before the goalscorer then rather surprisingly opted to shoot off balance when a ball to the unmarked Fleetwood would have been the better decision.
Beckwith went into the book for tripping Holroyd and from the free kick, Henry’s cross was headed over by Barnes-Homer, who was barracked by a section of Town fans throughout.
Gray was almost put clean through from O’Donnell’s hopeful punt forward only to see Cronin out of his goal quickly to just about win the crunchinh challenge between the pair.
A shocking decision to penalise Kovacs for a great tackle saw Henry send a free kick into Tyler’s grateful gloves as Town went into the break 2-0 ahead.
The visitors grabbed a lifeline just six minutes into the second half as after Rowe-Turner and Taylor were guilty of trying to play their way out of trouble, Howells gave away a free kick near the corner flag.
Henry’s delivery was spot on and defender Nathaniel Brown didn’t need to do to much to nod past Tyler off the underside of the bar as Hatters’ curse of conceding from free kicks struck again.
Charnock was next in the book for upending Gray on the edge of the box, as he beat the offside trap and Fleetwood’s deft curler from the free kick was flicked over by Cronin.
Growing in confidence, the visitors spurned a magnificent chance on 64 minutes when after some more sloppy defending, Charnock had time on his side, but fired wastefully into the stands from eight yards.
The hosts defending got even worse as a sliced half clearance by Beckwith saw Mendy scuff a left footer that only just dribbled past Tyler’s post with the keeper a spectator.
It was almost full panic stations when Barnes-Homer cut inside and blasted a deflected effort that cannoned off the woodwork, off the line and out again, with Rowe-Turner just about toe-ending the rebound away from Holroyd.
Luton finally had the breathing space they craved though on 82 minutes, thanks mainly to the willing running of Gray.
From a fluffed Silkmen throw, Gray’s pace saw him reach Rendell’s searching ball forward and after a one-two with Howells, he drilled in a cross that Rendell turned in at the near post.
Town were happy to play keep ball to take the sting out of the game, before Watkins let fly from 25 yards, as his daisycutter forced a smart save from Cronin, who turned it round the post.
Substitute Jake Woolley came close to a fourth too sending a shot at Cronin after the visiting defence got into a pickle but the icing was on the cake in the final moments as Woolley was sent clear and crossed for Fleetwood to tuck home his seventh of the season through the legs of the advancing keeper from a tight angle.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (Adam Watkins 74), Greg Taylor, Dean Beckwith, Janos Kovacs (C) (Connor Essam 90), Alex Lawless, Scott Rendell, Jake Howells, Stuart Fleetwood, JJ O’Donnell, Andre Gray, Jake Woolley 90).
Subs not used: Dan Walker, Dean Brill.
Silkmen: Lance Cronin, Nathaniel Brown (C), Jack Mackreth, Charlie Henry (Amari Morgan-Smith 74), Matthew Barnes-Homer, Carl Martin (Tony Diagne 81), Arnaud Mendy, Craig Braham-Barrett, Keiran Murtagh, Kieran Charnock, Chris Holroyd (Waide Fairhurst 79).
Subs not used: Sam Wedgbury, Antony McNamee.
Booked: Beckwith 41, Charnock 61, Braham-Barrett 76.
Referee: R Whitton.
Assistant referees: M Eva, O Jackson.
Fourth official: G Kinnear.
Attendance: 5,804 (110 Macclesfield ).
MOM: Jake Howells.
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