Free-flowing Hatters thump Hayes 4-2 in thriller
Blue Square Bet Premier: Luton Town 4 (2) Hayes & Yeading United 2 (1)
A NEW era dawned at Kenilworth Road this afternoon as Town battled to a 4-2 victory over lowly Hayes & Yeading United in Paul Buckle’s first game in charge, writes Mark Wood.
An action-packed end-to-end encounter saw the rejuvenated Stuart Fleetwood lead the way with a superb all-round performance, netting two great goals, while Keith Keane registered a rare strike and Andre Gray made it four goals in four games in Luton colours as Town registered their first win in nine games.
Late goals elsewhere though mean Luton remain seventh in the table, three points off the play-offs, but with games in hand over many of their rivals.
Town made three changes from the team that had been outbattled and defeated 3-1 at Braintree Town just two days earlier. Aaron O’Connor and Shane Blackett were relegated to the bench as Andre Boucaud dropped out of the squad entirely and into the starting XI came Fleetwood, Robbie Willmott and Godfrey Poku.
Some lovely interchange play in the opening minutes saw Gray’s backheel find Alex Lawless, but his low cross was cut out with Willmott lurking at the far post.
But United almost stunned the Hatters on 11 when Daniel Wishart was allowed to turn George Pilkington on the edge area and his fierce drive brought a fine flying stop out of Mark Tyler.
From the resulting corner a clever routine picked out the onrushing Tom Cadmore and his low drive was blocked by Pilkington as Town seemed to be half asleep.
Town though snatched the lead with a scintillating individual goal by Fleetwood on 13 minutes. Picking the ball up close to the halfway line he slalomed through several tackles before burying a great shot into the bottom left-hand corner before bursting with delight as he celebrated with the crowd.
And it should have been 2-0 seven minutes later when Jake Howells’ pinpoint cross picked out Fleetwood in the box but his header was straight at Steve Arnold.
Poku was forced from the field to change his shirt and the Hatters paid a heavy price as Hayes levelled in his absence. A free-kick was pumped into the box and Mark Bentley’s near-post looping flick was forced home at the far post by Wishart.
Luton threatened at the other end when Gray looked to pull the ball back from the byline, but Sam Argent cut it our with Willmott lurking.
The visitors looked lively going forward though and found numbers on the left on 26 minutes but Dan Spence dragged his shot across the face of goal.
Tackles began to fly in in the midfield as Curtis Osano scooped miles off target before United were again inches away on 31 minutes. The ball fell to Bentley on the edge of the box and his low drive went agonisingly wide.
Keane drove well wide, Lawless almost teased Gray in and Lawless then shanked wide as Town tried to get back on top.
And they grabbed the lead a minute before the break when Gray’s cross flicked a home head at the near post and Fleetwood met it with the sweetest of volleys to thunder home in off the bar.
More good play from the Hatters saw Willmott and Howells link nicely to tee up Gray but the in-form striker miskicked horribly wide.
And Luton got the two-goal lead they desperately needed eight minutes into the second half. Fleetwood’s intelligent pass found the onrushing Howells whose deep cross was slid home by Keane at the far post.
Undaunted United poured forward again. Wishart’s cross almost found Aiden O’Brien but Howells did superbly to cut the cross out and from the resulting corner Bentley looped his header goalwards but Lawless was in the right place to head off the line.
However, Hayes did pull a goal back on 56 minutes when O’Brien’s free-kick was flicked on by Cadmore and Janos Kovacs could only put through his own net as he tried to clear the danger.
A breathless end-to-end encounter ensued as Cadmore did brilliantly to block Willmott’s blast before the visitors almost equalised in freak circumstances on 61 minutes when Poku’s clearance rebounded off Wishart and the back-pedalling Tyler had to acrobatically turn the ball over the bar.
Great work by Fleetwood saw him break seconds later and his arcing crossfield ball picked out Gray unmarked at the far post but he could only volley wide.
Gray did well to get the ball out of his feet on 67 minutes but was met with fine save from Arnold before Keane returned the ball from a half-cleared corner but Kovacs could only head wide.
Luton though restored their two-goal lead on 72 minutes with a fabulous move that flowed the full length of the field. From a Hayes corner, Willmott won the ball on the edge of the box and Fleetwood and Gray swapped passes before the in-form striker made it four goals in four games since signing from Hinckley as he pivoted and lashed into the top right-hand corner.
A fifth should have arrived seconds later when Howells teed up Lawless but his effort looped just over before Willmott’s corner picked out Kovacs but he thumped his header just wide.
Willmott’s 25-yard torpedo flew just the wrong side of the post as Town continued to press and Arnold just did enough to cut out Keane’s cross with Fleetwood searching for his hat-trick.
Gray received a great round of applause as he was replaced by John Paul Kissock, while Osano’s cross dissected Hayes’ defence but neither Lawless or Willmott were able to get on the end of it.
Fleetwood was denied his hat-trick with five minutes to go when he skirted the edge of the box and his shot cannoned off the right-hand upright and out.
Another good free-kick by ex-Hatter Jamie Hand was headed over by Wishart, while Fleetwood received a standing ovation from the Kenilworth Road faithful as he made way for Craig McAllister.
The Hatters continued to search for more goals as Willmott’s corner was side-footed straight at Arnold by Kovacs.
More subs followed and Town almost added the fifth in stoppage time when Howells’ persistence saw him lay the ball into the path of Lawless but he could only scoop over as Luton recorded their first win in nine games.
Luton’s players then went over as one body to applaud the fans after the final whistle.
Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Keith Keane, George Pilkington (C), Alex Lawless, Robbie Willmott (Shane Blackett 90+1), Stuart Fleetwood (Craig McAllister 87), Jake Howells, Curtis Osano, Godfrey Poku, Andre Gray (John Paul Kissock 81), Janos Kovacs. Substitutes not used: Aaron O’Connor, Adam Watkins.
United (4-4-2): Steve Arnold, Sam Argent, Jamie Hand (C), Tom Cadmore, Luke Williams, Daniel Wishart, Mark Bentley (Freddie Warren 78), Pele, Aiden O’Brien (Phil Walsh 57), Dan Spence, Piero Mingoia (Tom Collins 74). Substitutes not used: Julian Owusu, James Beasant.
Bookings: Fleetwood 33; Gray 41; Cadmore 45+2.
Referee: M Bull.
Assistant Referees: M Hopton and T Ramsay.
Fourth Official: A Fielding.
Attendance: 6,003 (Hayes 79).
Star Hatter: Stuart Fleetwood. Two great goals and a great all-round performance – looked like the player Luton through they had signed.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Leighton Buzzard
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 4 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North west