Ten-man Hatters battle to a crucial win at Grimsby
League Two: Grimsby Town 0 Luton Town 1
Ten man Luton picked up an absolutely crucial three points in their battle for promotion this season as they produced a defensive masterclass during the second half to win 1-0 and complete the double over Grimsby this afternoon.
The visitors were a player light for over an hour after Jordan Cook was stupidly sent off in the 33rd minute for his second yellow, putting his side in a real predicament.
However, James Collins nodded the only goal of the game just after the break, and from then on, Town brilliantly repelled their opponents, keeping clear-cut chances to a minimum as they held on to end a run of three straight defeats on the road.
Other results also went hugely in their favour too, as the Hatters extended their lead over second placed Notts County to nine points, plus moving 11 ahead of non-playing Wycombe, in fourth, who Luton host on Tuesday night.
Prior to the game, Town chief Nathan Jones threw a selection curveball, making three changes to his side.
The return of Alan Sheehan from his suspension was no surprise, partnering Johnny Mullins, which allowed Glen Rea to push into midfield, while Harry Cornick joined Collins upfront.
However, there were eyebrows raised with midfielder Cook in for his first league start since April 14, 2017, as both Olly Lee and Lawson D'Ath dropped to the bench, with Danny Hylton missing out as expected.
The visitors were a whisker away from taking the lead on five minutes, Jack Stacey's sloppy ball across defence seized upon by Luke Summerfield whose first time 25-yarder whistled past Marek Stech and crashed against the bar.
After a hard-fought opening 20 minutes, Luton then went close, Luke Berry's header from a corner saved, Cornick hammering the rebound goalwards, only to unfortunately flick off Cook and clear the bar, when the net appeared destined to bulge.
Cook then saw his first yellow for a lunging challenge on James Berrett, a foul which could have seen red from some referees, while Summerfield showed his intentions, rifling narrowly off target from distance once more, as did Jamille Matt on the half hour mark.
There was no escape for Cook on 33, after a quite frankly brainless moment from the ex-Sunderland player.
Closing his man down and with the ball out of play, he went in not only late, but completely and utterly needlessly on Danny Collins and could have absolutely no argument with the second yellow that came his way, earning a real verbal blast from manager Jones at his glaring lack of discipline.
Luton managed to stave off any real threats for the remainder of the half, while in the second period, Stech easily gathered Matt's cross-shot, but Town went close, Cornick making a brilliant run, his low delivery just out of the reach of Collins.
Hatters then won a cheap free kick after a foul by Summerfield on Andrew Shinnie and took full advantage to break the deadlock on 48 minutes.
Luke Berry's brilliant attempt was excellently tipped on to the bar one-time Town trialist Ben Killip, only for the unmarked Collins to nod the ball over the line from a yard out, Dan Potts making sure, for the striker's 13th of the season.
That gave Town something tangible to cling on to and boy did they do that for the final 40-plus minutes of the half.
Nathan Clarke's header was straight at Stech, as Luton dropped deep, allowing their hosts a free run up to the half way line, before swarming around them, denying the Mariners any real time and space to create chances.
The odd one came Grimsby's way, a corner swung in and met by Karleigh Osborne, clipping the bar on its way over, but more often than not, the likes of Sheehan, Dan Potts and Johnny Mullins were more than a match for anything that came their way.
Jones brought on D'Ath on to increase their energy in midfield and the visitors almost had a three on one but the sub slipped at the crucial moment with Cornick and Collins sprinting clear.
As Luton continued to keep their hosts out, they had a let off on 80 minutes Dembele nicking the ball past Stacey and going over in the area, only to see yellow for troubles by the eagle-eyed official, who adjudged it a dive.
With Town immersed fully in game management mode now, Cornick continued running his heart out upfront to harry the home defenders, blocking a clearance from Killip, only to find the ball run away from him, as he still battled to win a corner.
There was to be no big hurrah from the hosts either, as they lacked the imagination or creativity to unlock Town's magnificent back-line, stretching their own winless run to nine games.
For Luton though, it is now two out of two as they head into a crucial period back at home, with Wycombe and then Exeter the visitors.
Mariners: Ben Killip, Paul Dixon (Mallik Wilks 77), Nathan Clarke (C), Ben Davies (Zak Mills 46), Danny Collins, James Berrett, Karleigh Osborne, Luke Summerfield, Jamille Matt, Charles Vernam, Mitch Rose (Siriki Dembele 60).
Subs not used: Andy Warrington, Diallang Jaiyesimi, Martyn Woolford, Scott Vernon.
Hatters: Marek Stech, Jack Stacey, Dan Potts, Johnny Mullins (C), Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Jordan Cook, Luke Berry, Andrew Shinnie (Lawson D'Ath 75), Harry Cornick (Elliot Lee 90), James Collins (James Justin 82).
Subs not used: James Shea, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Akin Famewo, Olly Lee..
Booked: Cook 21, Cook, Davies 40, Dembele 80.
Sent off: Cook 33.
Referee: Michael Salisbury.
Attendance: 4,159 (522 Luton).
Hatters MOM: Dan Potts. Part of a superb defensive display.