League Two: Plymouth Argyle 0 Luton Town 1
Luton Town breathed life into their play-off hopes yet again as Jack Marriott’s first half winner secured a third away win on the bounce at promotion-chasing Plymouth Argyle this afternoon.
Marriott notched the only goal of the game, taking Paddy McCourt’s clever pass in his stride to beat Luke McCormick and make it five wins from six on their travels since Nathan Jones took over, with another hard-fought clean sheet, a fourth in that excellent run.
Once again, Hatters were made to work hard for the victory though, under a barrage of aerial pressure in the second period, but fantastically marshalled by Scott Cuthbert, the defence stood firm, and actually created the better chances as the game wore on.
Results elsewhere didn’t do Town any favours though as although they climbed a place to 12th, Leyton Orient’s 1-0 success over Morecambe kept the gap to the play-offs to six points.
Boss Nathan Jones made one change to the side from the 1-0 defeat against Crawley Town, new loan signing from Brighton Glen Rea making his Hatters debut in place of the injured Olly Lee.
A slow start on a difficult surface saw chances at a premium early on, Luton’s best opportunity when McCourt and Craig Mackail-Smith combined for Marriott’s shot that was charged down by Curtis Nelson.
On 10 minutes, Argyle went close too, with Craig Tanner nipping in to head goalwards, only for Dan Potts to get a crucial block and turn the ball behind.
Hatters were dealt a blow on 15 minutes when Mackail-Smith went down in a heap clutching his ankle while tracking back and despite receiving treatment, couldn’t continue, as Paul Benson came on.
Jonathan Mitchell made a routine stop from the lively Tanner, before Luton came to life on 20 minutes as Potts released Jonathan Smith on the left of the area.
He picked out Marriott with the striker’s shot charged down, but Luton won the seconds and Benson from a tight angle saw McCormick deflect with legs.
From the corner, Cameron McGeehan’s dummy allowed Marriott with a clear sight of goal, but frustratingly he dragged wide from a very decent position.
Hatters’ spell of pressure was rewarded on 28 minutes though, as McCourt was the instigator in chief, finding a yard of space and then driving at the box.
With the hosts’ expecting a shot, the Northern Irishman sent a wonderfully disguised ball to Marriott, who with his left found a minuscule gap inside McCormick’s near post for a 13th of the season.
Argyle tried to force an immediate response, Ben Purrington scuffing straight at Mitchell, with the keeper showing further exemplary handling from Graham Carey’s hit on 40 minutes.
Mitchell almost blotted his copybook moments later, as Carey took aim from even further out, with the on-loan Derby man nervously shovelling over the top.
Argyle ramped up the pressure with a number of crosses flying across the box, with Luton putting their bodies on the line, Alan Sheehan taking one full-bloodied attempt from Nelson square in the chest, but crucially ball the was repelled.
Town were forced into another change for the start of the second half as McCourt, who had required treatment in the closing stages of the first period, didn’t reappear and Danny Green came on.
The winger was almost behind a second goal just three minutes in as his cross was spilled by McCormick, as Rea reacted quickest only to spin and put his shot wide of the empty goal.
Plymouth then looked to step it up as was met at the far post by Gregg Wylde with Mitchell saving excellently low down, although a goal kick was awarded.
With the hosts enjoying easily their best spell, the game started to look similar to Luton’s performance at Leyton Orient, with the visitors conceding ground as they started to cling on somewhat.
Hatters were then dealt their third injury blow of the afternoon as Potts was sent tumbling after being caught late as the stretcher was called for.
That saw Magnus Okuonghae on for the final 20 minutes with Sheehan moving to left back, while Town, who had been non-existent as an attacking force, had a great chance for a third.
Benson and Marriott combined for the onrushing Stephen O’Donnell, but with McGeehan on the overlap, he went for goal and was tamely wide.
Argyle then raided the bench for leading scorer Jake Jervis and Reuben Reid to enter the fray, the pair with 15 league goals between them this season.
However, it was Luton who once again had a splendid chance to grab a pressure-relieving second as Marriott sped away, but with Benson completely unmarked in the middle, went for the bottom corner, McCormick turning behind.
Plymouth then wasted a very presentable four on one chance as O’Donnell held his ground well to force a pass across goal, with Jervis eventually wastefully firing over.
For all their territory though, the Pilgrims couldn’t create anything clear-cut, as sub Jervis put his header from Carey’s cross off target, leaving Town to soak up the adulation from the 500-plus travelling supporters once more after another superb away day showing.
Argyle: Luke McCormick, Gary Sawyer, Curtis Nelson (C), Peter Hartley, Graham Carey, Gregg Wylde (Carl McHugh 83), Ben Purrington, Jamille Matt (Reuben Reid 73), Oscar Threlkeld, Jordan Houghton (Jake Jervis 73).
Subs not used: Josh Simpson, Louis Rooney, Jordan Foster, Vincent Dorel.
Hatters: Jonathan Mitchell, Stephen O’Donnell, Dan Potts (Magnus Okuonghae 68), Scott Cuthbert (C), Alan Sheehan, Jonathan Smith, Glen Rea, Cameron McGeehan, Paddy McCourt (Danny Green 46), Jack Marriott, Craig Mackail-Smith (Paul Benson 15).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Joe Pigott, Alex Lawless.
Attendance: 7,973 (554 Hatters).
Booked: Smith 59, McGeehan 77, Purrington 87, Rea 89.
Referee: Darren Bond.
Hatters MOM: Scott Cuthbert. Defender marshalled his side to another fantastic away clean sheet.