League Two: Luton Town 2 AFC Wimbledon 0
A late double from substitute Jack Marriott earned Hatters their first back to back league victory since October last year as they eventually ground down 10-man AFC Wimbledon at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.
With the visitors having to play for almost an hour with 10 men after centre half Karleigh Osborne was sent off for two bookable offences, Hatters were making increasingly heavy weather of breaking through against their dogged opponents.
However, Marriott came off the bench midway through the second period and pressed his claims for a starting berth, producing two clinical close range finishes to ease the mounting tension at Kenilworth Road.
Hatters named an unchanged side for the clash, but started desperately quietly as bar the odd majestic Paddy McCourt crossfield pass, the final ball was sorely lacking.
It was an impressive Dons side who came closest as George Francombe tested Mark Tyler low down and man mountain Adebayo Akinfenwa looped a header over.
Tyler made an even better stop from Jake Reeves’ deflection that took a wicked deflection, with the keeper scurrying back to paw behind.
Sensing something needed changing, boss John Still moved Josh McQuoid into a more central role to try and give the isolated Craig Mackail-Smith some much-needed support.
Osborne then picked up his first booking on 29 minutes for bringing Mackail-Smith down in full flight, a caution he could have little complaint about.
From the free kick, Dons keeper James Shea had his only work of the half, nicking the ball off Mackail-Smith’s toe after McQuoid’s header down.
Winger Andy Barcham once again got the better of a well below bar Stephen O’Donnell with all-too apparent ease, as Tyler has to be alert to save at his near post.
Finally, the game showed signs of opening up, with a rare sighter for Mackail-Smith ending in a wayward strike off target.
With 35 minutes on the clock came the game ‘s contentious moment as Cameron McGeehan got a toe to the ball ahead of Osborne, who couldn’t avoid a the collision, as official Brendan Malone showed him a second yellow.
Looking to take immediate advantage of the extra man, McCourt tried to take matters into his own hands, foregoing the trickery to fire over the top before the interval.
In the second period, AFC sacrificed the impressive Adebayo Azeez with Sean Rigg coming on as they turned into obvious point-saving mode from the early stages, with Shea cynically running the clock down whenever the opportunity arose.
Despite this clear tactic, when Dons looked to press, they usually had a sniff, Rigg escaping and firing across Tyler’s bows of Tyler’s goal.
However, with AFC conceding both territory and possession, it allowed Luton to monopolise the ball, but they struggled to create anything significant, bar a low Scott Griffiths attempt touched behind by Shea.
Still made a double change on the hour mark, ending O’Donnell’s desperate afternoon with Alex Lawless coming on, while Marriott replaced McQuoid
Akinfenwa nodded wide of the mark, while Hatters were guilty of being far too pedestrian at times, as the visitors showed how it could be done, Akinfenwa teeing up Rigg whose left-footer drew an excellent full-length save from Tyler.
Finally, Hatters started to grow stronger though as Luke Wilkinson was wrestled to the ground by Akinfenwa in the area, with nothing given, while Marriott escaped, only to be denied by a great Paul Robinson block.
Still introduced Ryan Hall with 15 minutes to go and it was from the winger’s corner that the deadlock was finally broke shortly afterwards.
From his delivery, Lawless fired the ball back into the area for the lurking Marriott to stab into the net.
As they had against Mansfield last week, the goal saw Luton retreat to the sanctity of their own area once more, Tyler forced into an excellent tip over from Akinfenwa.
Hatters then tried to play the percentages with the ball in the corner, but from one such attempt came the clinching second goal as Mackail-Smith lost possession.
Trying to run from deep, McCourt won it back and fed McGeehan who missed his kick completely from a matter of yards.
It mattered not though as Marriott was in the right place to smash home with his left foot and complete another welcome victory for the Hatters.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Stephen O’Donnell (Alex Lawless 60), Scott Griffiths (Ryan Hall 75), Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Olly Lee, Jonathan Smith, Paddy McCourt, Josh McQuoid (Jack Marriott 60), Cameron McGeehan, Craig Mackail-Smith.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Dan Potts, Mark O’Brien, Danny Green.
Dons: James Shea, Barry Fuller (C), Paul Robinson, Karleigh Osborne, Jon Meades, George Francomb, Dannie Bulman (George Oakley 90), Jake Reeves, Andy Barcham (Egli Kaja 80), Adebayo Akinfenwa, Adebayo Azeez (Sean Rigg 46).
Subs not used: Callum Kennedy, Ryan Sweeney, Joe McDonnell, Dan Gallagher.
Referee: Brendan Malone.
Booked: Osborne 30.
Sent off: Osborne 35.
Attendance: 8,415 (588 Dons).
Hatters MOM: Mark Tyler. Once again made some crucial stops to prevent AFC taking the lead..