Huge three points for Town as they defeat Lincoln
League Two: Luton Town 4 Lincoln City 2
Luton Town bounced back from their defeat to Port Vale on Saturday in the perfect fashion by beating Lincoln City in a tumultuous clash at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.
With two controversial red cards, six goals and a whole host of other talking points, it was the kind of game you just didn't dare take your eyes off for a second, or even blink, in case you missed something.
Hatters not only fell behind twice, they had to play a good half an hour a man light, showing bags of character to not only draw level by the break, but then go on to pick up a brilliant three points in the second period thanks to strikes from Danny Hylton and sub Harry Cornick.
The Imps were no mugs either, going into the contest in even better form than their hosts, with six wins from seven in all competition, climbing to third in the table, conceding just once in their last five games.
As anticipated, boss Nathan Jones made wholesale changes from the side that were hammered 4-0 at Port Vale on Saturday, five no less, with Jack Stacey, Olly Lee, Andrew Shinnie, Luke Berry and James Collins all back in.
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Elliot Lee and Cornick dropped to the bench, with Lawson D'Ath missing out and Dan Potts absent with illness.
Town got off to the worst possible start, as skipper Alan Sheehan and Matt Rhead, who had already had one altercation when the defender beat his man to a clearance, clashed off the ball.
Both crazily swung for each other as blows were exchanged, with Sheehan looking like he connected with Rhead's midriff, the striker quickly taking the opportunity to dramatically collapse in a heap clutching his face.
Sheehan saw a straight red from referee Nicolas Kinseley for his part, with the Lincoln man escaping punishment for his antics, goading the Hatters fans after recovering by the touch-line.
It soon turned into a double whammy, Michael Bostwick taking aim from the free kick and shooting low from 25 yards, his effort flying under Marek Stech, who should have done much better.
Rhead saw yellow for his celebrations in the aftermath, but the damage had been done, as Luton faced 85 minutes now a goal and a man down, with official Kinseley having a tough afternoon on his hands.
It was vital that Town didn't go hell for leather too early and run the risk of being picked off as they had against Swindon a few months earlier when Scott Cuthbert saw red and with that in mind, they responded well.
In fact, well is an understatement, as Town were by far the better side, Collins's header beaten away by keeper Josh Vickers and Lee narrowly wide from 25 yards.
You could almost sense Kinseley was desperate to even things up as he booked both Elliot Whitehouse and Harry Anderson in quick succession, while Lincoln went long to Rhead at every opportunity, Sean Raggett's header flicked over by Stech.
Town then had the rewards their attacking play deserved on 32 minutes Hylton did wonderfully well to reach a long ball ahead of Sean Long and get on the wrong side of the former Hatters full back.
He stayed on his feet, driving into the area and as Vickers advanced, unselfishly teed up the unmarked Collins to slam into the net.
However, just as quickly as Town levelled, they were behind again when a deep cross saw two defenders try to challenge Rhead, who won the header, leaving Matt Green totally unmarked to volley goalwards, Stech only able to shovel his attempt into the net.
Kinseley finally got his opportunity to level up the numbers on 36 minutes though when Anderson went in for what looked like a perfectly fair block tackle on Andrew Shinnie, only for the official to deem it a caution-able offence, as the Imps midfielder saw red.
Now on a fairer playing field, and with Lincoln already displaying time-wasting tactics, it was crucial Luton got back on terms, and they did two minutes before half time.
A corner was headed out to Justin, who took a touch, transferred the ball on to his right foot and from 22 yards, found the bottom corner, with the aid of a slight deflection.
Luton could even have gone into the break 3-2 in front, but Collins sliced wide and got an earful from Lee who had bust a gut to join up in support.
Rhead was then replaced at the break, quite possibly before being sent off, as City's management team knew any slight blemish could have seen Imps down to nine men.
Town started brightly, Shinnie not missing by much after a lung-bursting run from Justin, but the hosts then appeared to drop their tempo slightly for the first time in the fixture.
Lincoln almost took advantage, Luke Waterfall's header from a corner leading to a scramble with Green deflecting a clearance just over.
Sub Josh Ginnelly then should have left Glen Rea red faced once more, as picking up a poor touch, his control was even worse, forcing himself to cut back as Town had men back in the nick of time.
Hylton dragged off target on his left foot and Lee's goalbound effort was charged down too, before they were thankful to the woodwork for keeping it 2-2, Green doing wonderfully to curl a shot out of the clutches of Stech, only to hit the frame of the goal.
Buoyed by their escape, Luton brought on Harry Cornick and promptly took the lead for the first time in the match, Berry's wicked cross glancing off the head of a defender, falling perfectly for a stooping Hylton to convert his 16th goal of the campaign from close range.
Cornick then gave Town the breathing space they desired with eight minutes to go, doing all the hard work himself before crashing past Vickers.
Lincoln were a beaten side by then, Collins hammering a wonderful curling effort against the bar and Lee bringing the house down with two Zinedine Zidane turns to bamboozle a couple of beleaguered defenders late on, leading to passionate celebrations by boss Jones at the full time whistle.
Although second placed Notts County scored yet another late winner to remain four points adrift of Town, Luton once again extended their advantage to 11 points over fourth, that hot potato of a position now belonging to Wycombe after a 2-1 win at Forest Green Rovers.
Hatters: Marek Stech, Jack Stacey, Jack Justin, Johnny Mullins, Alan Sheehan (C), Glen Rea, Luke Berry, Olly Lee, Andrew Shinnie (Harry Cornick 71), Danny Hylton, James Collins.
Subs not used: James Shea, Akin Famewo, Luke Gambin, Jordan Cook, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Elliot Lee.
City: Josh Vickers, Sean Long (Billy Knott 79) Sam Habergham, Elliot Whitehouse, Luke Waterfall (C), Matt Rhead (Josh Ginnelly 46), Matt Green (Rob Dickie 85), Michael Bostwick, Sean Raggett, Harry Anderson, Alex Woodyard.
Subs not used: Paul Farman, Ollie Palmer, Nathan Arnold, Cameron Stewart.
Booked: Rhead 5, Whitehouse 15, Anderson 25, Berry 44.
Sent off: Sheehan 4, Anderson 36.
Referee: Nicholas Kinseley.
Attendance: 9,659 (1,044 Lincoln).
Hatters MOM: Danny Hylton.