Wonder wall blockbuster completes dramatic Hatters comeback victory
A late winner from super sub Alex Wall saw Luton complete a dramatic comeback victory to triumph 4-3 against FC Halifax Town at Kenilworth Road this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.
With the scores locked at 3-3 wonder Wall proved to be the day’s biggest hit when he arched a sumptuous 25-yard effort past the helpless Matt Glennon to bag Town all three points as Luton rose to fifth in the table.
Impressive Halifax had made a dream start to the afternoon with the pacy pair of Lee Gergory and Dan Gardner particularly impressive.
And the Shaymen roared into a 3-1 lead thanks to goals from Paul Marshall, ex-Hatter Simon Ainge and Gardner, with Luke Guttridge initially equalising for Luton.
But Luton always always looked like they had goals in them and levelled before the break with strikes from forward Paul Benson and Andre Gray, before Wall’s belter seven minutes from time finally secured Luton victory.
Town made two changes from the team that drew 0-0 at Hereford United last weekend as Jake Howells dropped to the bench and Mark Cullen missed out entirely as in came Alex Lawless and Gray into the starting XI.
The visitors flew out of the blocks as Gregory almost jinked his way through before being muscled off of the ball by Steve McNulty.
But the reprieve was brief as the lively Gregory again streaked through the heart of the Luton defence and, although Mark Tyler did well to save at his feet, the ball ran for Marshall do drive past two home players on the line and give the Shaymen a third-minute lead.
Guttridge won the ball on the edge of the visitors’ box on nine minutes and a home defender did superbly to stop the ball reaching Gray.
Luton looked to respond as Alex Lacey had an effort blocked from a corner, Lawless lifted a cross to the back post which was cleared after a lovely jinking run and Gray blasted miles over.
The Shaymen continued to look dangerous in possession as Gardner dragged a good chance just wide before the Hatters levelled on 16 minutes.
Goal machine Guttridge skipped past former Hatter Ainge on the edge of the area and, as he looked to curl inside the far corner, his shot deflected off the sliding Ryan Toulson and inside Matt Glennon’s near post.
But the lead lasted less than three minutes as Halifax won a free-kick on the flank and Marshall’s delivery picked out Ainge in a static box to simply head past the hapless Tyler.
And things got even worse as Halifax added a brilliant third on 23 minutes. Gardner picked the ball up on halfway and wriggled his way past Lacey before racing away from McNulty and burying an unstoppable effort into the bottom right hand corner from 20 yards for a sensational goal.
A superb Andy Parry cross was cleared behind on 28 minutes and another good Guttridge delivery was headed away as Town sensed there was still a way back into the match.
Yet it was almost game over on 31 minutes when Gregory did well to muscle Lacey away from the ball and his mishit shot looped over Tyler and came back off the bar as Luton survived.
They were right back in it two minutes later as, after Scott Griffiths’ cross had just eluded Gray, Ronnie Henry drove the ball back into the six-yard and Benson turned home from close range.
And quite unbelievably it was 3-3 six minutes before the break when Lawless and Gray combined well on the edge of the box and the recalled striker’s snapshot bulged the bottom left-hand corner.
Halifax winger Adam Smith twice enraged the home crowd by going down for elongated spells of treatment before being replaced by Danny Lowe as four minutes of injury-time were added.
Town made a promising start to the second half as Guttridge headed over Benson’s cross six minutes in, before Gardner did well to beat McNulty before driving well over from range.
A more conservative half ensued and Lacey had to time his challenge to perfection on 63 minutes to deny Gregory as he looked to burst on to Gardner’s pass.
Gardner then did well to create space in front of McNulty as his low drive was repelled by Tyler.
At the other end Gray broke but his dangerous low cross was well cleared before it could find a Luton man.
Both teams were far more cagey in the second half, but both had chances to snatch the lead on 71 minutes. Kevin Holsgrove’s effort from the edge of the box took a huge deflection as it rebounded off the wrong-footed Tyler’s far post.
At the other end the ball the fell kindly for Benson, but lacked the legs as he raced clean through and the keeper smothered well at his feet.
Halifax centre-half Marc Roberts then headed a good cross just wide before Luton gambled as they replaced skipper Henry with striker Wall.
A fine Guttridge cross was missed by Ainge and Benson hesitated as the chance vanished.
And Town completed a scarcely unbelievable turn-around with a brilliant fourth on 83 minutes. Sub Wall picked the ball up wide on the left and cut inside before unleashing a wonderful arching effort to beat Glennon from 25 yards as his shot dipped over the keeper and into the top right hand corner.
Halifax poured forward in search of an equaliser as Town had to weather a couple of long throws that again caused difficulties in their box throughout the afternoon.
A swift Town break in injury time ended in a Benson putting over a woeful cross that drifted out, before Gray raced on to a Benson flick but, with just the keeper to beat, his effort rose just over the bar as Luton sealed a sensation comeback victory.
Hatters (4-3-3): Mark Tyler, Jonathan Smith, Steve McNulty, Alex Lawless (Matt Robinson 90), Scott Griffiths, Andy Parry, Luke Guttridge, Ronnie Henry (C, Alex Wall 74), Paul Benson, Andre Gray, Alex Lacey. Substitutes not used: Jake Howells, Elliot Justham, Shaun Whalley.
Shaymen (4-2-3-1): Matt Glennon, Ryan Toulson, Scott McManus, Adam Smith (Danny Lowe 43), Dan Gardner, Lee Gregory (C, Kevin Holsgrove 65), Marc Roberts, John McReady (Sean Williams 81), Paul Marshall, Lois Maynard, Simon Ainge. Substitutes not used: Phil Senior, Jonathan Worthington.
Booked: Gregory 29.
Referee: N Kinseley.
Assistant Referees: A Quelch and M Lucie.
Fourth Official: N Pratt.
Attendance: 6,519 (Halifax 260).
Star Hatter: Andre Gray. Hungry striker showed plenty of desire as he used his power and pace to unsettle the Shaymen and became more effective the longer the game went on.