Hatters see off Stanley to gain ground on top three

Jayden Stockley is mobbed after his opening goal
Jayden Stockley is mobbed after his opening goal
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League Two: Luton Town 2 Accrington Stanley 0

Luton Town got their promotion push back on track as they ended a run of back to back defeats with victory over Accrington Stanley this afternoon.

On an afternoon that was solid if never spectacular, Hatters showed just how crucial results are over performance, taking full advantage of defeats for both Burton and Shrewsbury, with Wycombe held by Stevenage.

Town made three changes for the clash, with Elliot Justham remaining in goal as Mark Tyler wasn’t fit enough to start, while Luke Wilkinson returned from suspension as Alex Lacey dropped out of the squad completely.

Elliot Lee also came in for his full Town debut, with forward Mark Cullen, after confirming his intentions to stay at the club prior to the game, back on the bench.

The visitors settled far quicker though, creating a marvellous early chance as Terry Gornell beat the offside trap to go clean through, but Justham stood up extremely well to make a vital save.

The rebound fell to the impressive Josh Windass, who beat the Luton keeper but not the retreating Fraser Franks as he managed to stick out a heel and deflect it away.

Stanley continued to make the running in the opening stages, as they were by far the better side, producing some delightful approach play, often leaving their hosts chasing shadows.

With Town’s supporters reduced to frustrated groans, Franks had to twice clear dangerous crosses from inside his own area, while Gornell beat Wilkinson to another delivery, nodding wide of the post.

Windass, the games eye-catching player, then set off on a run at the heart of Town’s defence from inside his own half, with Wilkinson eventually blocking for a corner.

Town’s one opportunity of note summed up their efforts, as a dangerous free kick from 25 yards, was fired wastefully over the bar by Lee.

The on-loan striker finally tested Davies on 36 minutes as on a rare foray wide, Jake Howells’ sent over a cross that he nodded goalwards, with the keeper clawing his header away.

As they have done so often though, Luton made the most of their briefest spell of pressure, taking the lead on 40 minutes as Guttridge swung a corner over and Stockley rose highest to power a header home before celebrating wildly.

In the second half, Luton saw shouts for a penalty turned down for the second week running when Guttridge seized on Davies’ poor clearance and slid in Lee.

Although his touch was on the heavy side, allowing Davies to recover, the striker was bundled to the ground but referee Lee Collins gave nothing as Town were left wondering when their luck will ever change.

Acrington to their credit, were still always a threat going forward, with Gornell’s lovely flick met by Windass, whose ambitious first-time effort was well wide.

Town looked to have breathing space on 61 minutes though when the ball was fed through to Lee, who unselfishly squared for the onrushing Guttridge to expertly beat Davies from close range, bagging his first league goal since October.

Luton tried to turn the screw as Michael Harriman found McGeehan who whipped over a cross that Howells just failed to convert at the far post.

Cullen was introduced to warm applause from the home crowd and almost had his 13th of the season when he twisted to divert Guttridge’s free kick on target, with Davies tipping behind.

Stanley went slightly longer themselves in their quest for a consolation, but both Wilkinson and Franks stood firm, with the latter growing in assurance ahead of Steve McNulty’s availability on Tuesday.

Cullen’s busy cameo almost led to a goal in injury time, as he unleashed a blockbuster from 25 yards, with Davies touching it over the top, but it was definitely a case of job done by the hosts.

Hatters: Elliot Justham, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Fraser Franks, Luke Wilkinson, Jonathan Smith, Cameron McGeehan, Jake Howells, Luke Guttridge, Elliot Lee (Alex Lawless 72), Jayden Stockley.

Subs not used: Andy Drury, Mark Cullen, Andy Parry, Shaun Whalley, Nathan Oduwa, Craig King.

Stanley: Scott Davies, Luke Joyce (C), Dean Winnard (Matt Crooks 45), Josh Windass, Terry Gornell, Kai Naismith (Sean Maguire), Pierio Mingoia, Antony Barry (Shay McCartan 69), Andy Proctor, Rob Atkinson, Seamus Conneely.

Subs not used: Michael Liddle, Gerardo Bruna, Andrew Dawber, George Bowerman.

Referee: Lee Collins.

Booked: Franks 45, Atkinson 48, Lee 71, Windass 85.

Attendance: 8,700 (Accrington 87).