Supersub Andre Gray re-energised the Hatters as he inspired them to a 2-0 win over Salisbury City in their first home game of the season at Kenilworth Road this evening, by Mark Wood.
Turgid Town had struggled to get going in the Skrill Premier encounter before the striker’s 61st-minute introduction as he instantly won a penalty, coolly converted by Solomon Taiwo, before the impressive Luke Guttridge made sure of victory with a close-range header.
Town made two changes to the team that lost 1-0 at Southport on Saturday as Anthony Charles was preferred at centre-half to Alex Lacey and the fit-again Jon Shaw led the line with Jake Howells dropping to the bench.
Luton almost took the lead after just three minutes when Guttridge’s cute pass released Mark Cullen on the edge of the box and he curled inches wide.
Lovely skill from Shaun Whalley then saw him skip past his man and cross for Shaw, but Glenn Wilson did superbly to thwart him.
Town were playing some lovely stuff as David Martin left the ball behind him when in behind the full-back, while Cullen was just outmuscled as he tried to burst on to Guttridge’s through ball.
After a frustrating lull for the Hatters, skipper Steve McNulty, who had Saturday’s red card rightly rescinded before kick-off, almost gave them the lead on 37 minutes but his snap volley flew just over.
The home supporters grew increasingly restless in the second half as Dan Fitchett rolled wide for the visitors.
Town finally mustered their first effort on target just before the hour when Jonathan Smith whipped in a good cross and Shaw headed straight at Will Puddy.
Gray’s introduction drew cheers from the crowd on 61 minutes and he made an immediate impact as he burst into the box and, just like on Saturday, a lunge by the last defender, James Clarke, drew a penalty. This time Taiwo stepped up and calmly stroked into the bottom right-hand corner.
Gray almost doubled Luton’s lead moments later when Martin’s pass released him in the box and Puddy closed the angle to save well.
After a lengthy spell of treatment, Charles was forced off on 71 minutes and replaced by Lacey, while Salisbury, who had named three former Hatters in their starting XI, brought on ex-Town striker Warren Feeney late on.
Hatters made sure of victory with nine minutes to go when Taiwo did superbly to win a free-kick on the right and Martin whipped it in as the unmarked Guttridge thumped home his header.
There was almost a third moments later when Gray burst through and, as the keeper blocked his pull-back, Whalley could only drive wide with Shaw just unable to turn home from close range.
Gray’s firm drive was well held with five minutes to go as the Hatters finished strongly.
No-one could quite connect with a dangerous late Whalley cross and, although five minutes of injury time were added, Salisbury never looked like hitting back.
Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Jonathan Smith, Steve McNulty (C), Anthony Charles (Alex Lacey 71), Solomon Taiwo, Jon Shaw, Scott Griffiths, Mark Cullen (Andre Gray 61), David Martin (Jake Howells 84), Luke Guttridge, Shaun Whalley. Substitutes not used: Elliot Justham, Matt Robinson.
Whites (4-4-2): Will Puddy, Luke Ruddick, Callum Hart, James Clarke, Glenn Wilson (C), Theo Lewis, Clovis Kamdjo, Rob Sinclair, Stuart Sinclair (Chris McPhee 51), Ben Wright (Warren Feeney 77), Dan Fitchett (Elliott Frear 87).
Substitutes not used: Ricky Wellard, Brian Dutton.
Booked: Taiwo 33; Hart 43; Clarke 62.
Referee: P Rees.
Assistant Referees: A Ricketts and R Cox.
Fourth Official: L Marshallsay.
Attendance: 6,520 (92 Salisbury).
Star Hatter: Luke Guttridge. Influential throughout, some great passes and scored the crucial second.
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