Hatters back on top after beating Bees

League Two: Luton Town 2 Barnet 0

Saturday, 24th March 2018, 8:36 pm
Updated Saturday, 24th March 2018, 8:50 pm
James Collins rifles home Luton's second against Barnet

Luton began their mini season in the perfect fashion, as they went back to the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Barnet this evening.

With previous leaders Accrington not in action and Notts County in fourth not playing until tomorrow, the clash against League Two's basement boys resembled a perfect chance for the Hatters to put yet another marker down after going five games without a win.

That they did too as second half goals from Danny Hylton and James Collins were enough to overpower a Bees side who had new manager Martin Allen back in the dug out for the first time after being appointed for his fifth spell in charge earlier this week.

Prior to kick off, Town were also boosted by the news filtering through that they hadn't been overtaken by Wycombe, the Chairboys held to a 0-0 draw by struggling Port Vale, with fellow challengers Mansfield losing 2-0 at Forest Green.

Knowing a win would take them to the summit, Hatters boss Nathan Jones sprung a surprising five changes to his side, which included a league debut for James Shea, after regular number one Marek Stech recently became a dad.

Also in were Olly Lee, James Justin, Andrew Shinnie and Alan McCormack for the first time since September 16, as Elliot Lee, Jack Stacy and Glen Rea dropped to the bench, Luke Gambin away on international duty with Malta.

A slow start from both sides saw Olly Lee curl one over from distance, John Akinde doing the same for the visitors soon after.

Lee had another go on 20 minutes and was far closer, his purposeful run and low shot requiring Craig Ross to parry behind for a corner.

Ross made another comfortable stop just before the half hour, falling to his left to gather Dan Potts' header from Alan Sheehan's free kick as the dynamic duo combined once more.

Try as they might, the hosts just couldn't get any kind of real momentum in the first period, struggling to break through a congested Barnet midfield and back-line, the Bees acquitting themselves doggedly to the task ahead.

Hylton and Collins got in each other's way attempting to head in Justin's excellent cross with Hylton's glancing effort from Luke Berry's delivery seeing Ross punch clear.

Berry lined up a curler from 30 yards that Ross easily turned behind, and from the corner, Lee once again showed sublime technique to whistle a volley inches over.

Barnet almost had a shock opener on 40 minutes, Potts' loose pass picked up by Akinde who didn't miss the bottom corner by much from 25 yards.

If Town were left frustrated from their first half exertions, they were all washed away just moments after the break.

Sheehan's excellent free kick was met superbly by, surprise, surprise, Potts who arched and twisted magnificently to head goalwards, Hylton making sure from a yard out for his 18th of the campaign and first since Newcastle in early January.

Now with the bit between their teeth and free from any tension, Luton began to push forward in the rampant manner home fans had been used to witnessing earlier in the campaign.

Justin's cross was cleverly dummied by Collins for Shinnie's blast, Ricardo Almeida Santos getting a vital block.

Berry then tried his luck from distance, Ross getting himself in a bit of a pickle, readjusting in the nick of time to tip over the bar.

A rare error from the otherwise excellent McCormack saw Barnet had a sniff, Akinde's daisycutter well handled by Shea.

Hatters then had real breathing space on 68 minutes though when Berry picked out Collins on the edge of the box and his angled drive, although hit low and true, should have been stopped by Ross, only to burst through his gloves and into the net.

The Barnet stopper did redeem himself partially on 77 minutes, Collins teeing up Lee who hit it right out of the screws, the Bees keeper acrobatically turning it over the bar.

He was soon called on again, when McCormack fizzed a glorious 40-yarder that was about to bring the house down, until the custodian leapt to his right to turn aside.

Luton then tried what is now known as the 'Accrington' corner routine with Sheehan, on his 100th appearance for the club, taking Collins' backheel and crossing for Cuthbert to head inches wide.

Late on, Barnet went longer to try and find a way back, but with McCormack dominating, while Cuthbert and Sheehan cleared their lines with no-nonsense regularity, it was always a lost cause.

In stoppage time, Shea produced a fine tip over from sub Simeon Akinola's deflected free kick, to ensure a first clean sheet in seven games and a place at the top of the table once more with just seven games to go.

Hatters: James Shea, James Justin, Dan Potts, Scott Cuthbert (C), Alan Sheehan, Alan McCormack, Olly Lee (Jack Stacey 90), Luke Berry, Andrew Shinnie (Glen Rea 87), James Collins, Danny Hylton (Jake Jervis 90).

Subs not used: Marek Stech, Jordan Cook, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Elliot Lee.

Bees: Craig Ross, Richard Brindley (Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro 81), Charlie Clough, Ricardo Almeida Santos, Curtis Weston, John Akinde, Jack Taylor (Shaquile Coulthirst 67), David Tutonda, Alex Nicholls, Andre Blackman (Simeon Akinola 54), Dan Sweeney (C).

Subs not used: Michael Nelson, Ryan Watson, Wesley Fonguck, Kai McKenzie-Lyle.

Referee: Michael Salisbury.

Booked: Brindley 62, Akinde 76, Tutonda 79.

Attendance: 8,140 (272 Barnet).

Hatters MOM: Alan McCormack.