League Two: Hartlepool 1 Luton Town 4
Luton Town’s charge up the League Two table continued in some style this afternoon with a clinical 4-1 win against Hartlepool thanks to yet another brace from striker Jack Marriott.
The forward got his chance due to the early withdrawal of Craig Mackail-Smith to injury as his two quick-fire goals in the second period ultimately proved too much for the hosts.
However, Luton were indebted to a superlative goalkeeping performance from Mark Tyler as he made four stunning stops from Pools striker Rakesh Bingham, who must have been sick of the sight of the visiting stopper by the end.
Making one change to the side that triumphed 3-1 at Morecambe in midweek, with Luke Guttridge replacing Paddy McCourt, Luton started slowly, with Pools looking to bounce back from a 3-0 hammering by Bristol Rovers last time out.
Jake Carroll’s free kick was well handled by Tyler, but Hartlepool should have been ahead on four minutes as a long boot forward by keeper Adam Bartlett was allowed to reach Bingham, who dagged wide.
The striker did manage to test Tyler moments later from range, with the visiting stopper gathering well, while he was then able to watch Rhys Oates effort fly behind as Pools continued their sprightly start.
Out of nothing though, Luton were ahead with their first real attacking move on 17 minutes. Cameron McGeehan fed the ball into Guttridge whose cross-shot was parried out by Bartlett straight into the path of Jonathan Smith who fired home his fourth of the campaign.
The goal was followed by Hatters putting together some of their best moments as a wonderful passing move saw Cuthbert in acres of space on the right. His blocked cross fell to Lee, who could only sidefoot timidly at Bartlett.
The visitors were then dealt a huge blow as Mackail-Smith, who along with McGeehan and Guttridge were causing all sorts of problems on the break, suddenly pulled up.
He could take no further part as Marriott entered the fray, while Luton were thankful to Tyler for a superb reflex save from Bingham’s fierce volley after he beat the offside trap, a feature that was going to become a regular occurrence.
Still, Luton prodded for a second, as Cuthbert once again found space on the right and his deflected cross was spilled under pressure by Bartlett, although the keeper redeemed himself, charging down Guttridge’s follow up.
With Pools fans starting to get on the back of their players, particularly skipper Billy Paynter, it was something of an irritant that Hatters let their hosts back on level terms moments before half time.
A cross from the impressive Oates on the left flank reached Paynter who held off his man and plant a downward header beyond Tyler and into the net, celebrating in front of the supporters who had barracked him.
Despite conceding the late leveller, Luton didn’t retreat into their shells at the start of the second period, enjoying the lions share of territory, and had the lead once more on 53 minutes with a move that was simplicity itself.
A long ball down the centre was repelled from where it came by Wilkinson allowing Marriott to race through, outpace his man, and slip the ball under the advancing Bartlett.
Once again though, Hatters were indebted to the heroics of Tyler to preserve the lead almost immediately as he showed superb reflexes to stick a hand out and turn Bingham’s close range lash behind.
The importance of that save was highlighted moments later as Luton attacked with clinical efficiency again.
Josh McQuoid found the advancing Guttridge, whose cut back was deftly diverted by Marriott past Bartlett for his second with 57 minutes on the clock.
Although the hosts were poor for long periods, with Bingham at the point of the attack, they remained a threat, with the striker once again prevented from notching by the legs of Tyler.
With the points almost certainly in the bag, Hatters looked to see the game out, restricting their opponents to shooting from range, as Michael Woods fired well over.
Bingham strode clear once more in the closing stages, but by now the outcome was already a formality, Tyler standing tall to complete his outstanding afternoon.
Sub Nicky Featherstone shot into the side-netting, before Luton’s travelling supporters were off their feet again, with Town saving the best of the bunch until last.
This time it was Olly Lee who picked up a loose ball and from 25 yards out, powered into the top corner to net his first goal for the club in some style.
The result saw Luton up one place to 10th in the table, now a mere two points off the play-offs, and more importantly, just four adrift of the top three.
Pools: Adam Bartlett, Brad Halliday, Scott Harrison, Andrew Boyce, Jake Carroll, Connor Smith, Michael Woods (Nicky Featherstone 84), Carl Magnay, Rhys Oates, Billy Paynter (C Scott Fenwick 72), Rakish Bingham.
Subs not used: Trevor Carson, Matthew Bates, Brad Walker, Kudus Oyenuga, Dan Jones.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Scott Cuthbert, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Olly Lee, Jonathan Smith, Luke Guttridge, Josh McQuoid (Nathan Doyle 80), Cameron McGeehan, Craig Mackail-Smith (Jack Marriott 28).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Dan Potts, Alex Lawless, Luke Guttridge, Danny Green.
Referee: Richard Clark.
Attendance: 3,876 (406 Hatters).
Hatters MOM: Mark Tyler, breath-taking performance from Luton’s number one. Without him, it would have been a completely different outcome.