Luton 1, Fleetwood Town 2
TOWN pulled level with Conference leaders Wrexham, though some of the shine was taken off this seventh successive away win by another serious injury to the luckless Junior Brown.
James Vardy lit the blue touch paper when he fired Fleetwood in front as early as the 11th minute.
Jamie Milligan gave Town a cushion with a second-half penalty which proved crucial as the home side scored a consolation goal they barely deserved deep into stoppage time.
On the downside, Brown was taken to hospital after a 24th-minute collision with Curtis Osano. The left-back received lengthy treatment on the pitch from the Fleetwood physio and Luton doctor before being helped off.
The suspected ankle ligament damage looks set to sideline Brown for six weeks and will definitely rule him out of Saturday’s FA Cup clash with Wycome and the England C international in Gibraltar the following Tuesday.
Brown, fit again after a groin injury, replaced Alan Goodall, while the other change from the 5-0 FA Cup hammering of Mansfield saw Ryan Jackson return at the expense of Gareth Seddon for the last game of his loan month from AFC Wimbledon.
Vardy started a menacing afternoon by racing clear of the Luton defence in the second minute, from Sean Clancy’s pass, but he shot wide.
The attacker was again in on goal soon afterwards but a nick-of-time tackle by Janos Kovacs thwarted him.
At the other end, central defender Nathan Pond was just as solid to deny Aaron O’Connor a first real opportunity for Luton. The first yellow card in what was at times an ill-tempered affair was shown to George Pilkington as Vardy again threatened Luton.
However, Vardy put Town in front a minute later, when Clancy threaded another promising ball through.
Town’s leading scorer expertly lifted the ball over the advancing Mark Tyler to open the scoring.
Richard Brodie then supplied Vardy but Kovacs was again on hand to deny the Town dangerman a second.
Following Brown’s painful exit, his fellow full-back and England C call-up switched to left-back, while Jackson moved back to right-back and Seddon slotted into the midfield.
Despite the reorganisation, the Fleetwood defence stood resolute as Jamie McGuire reinforced the defence effectively on a number of occasions.
A flashpoint came shortly before the break, when Beeley and Luton striker Stuart Fleetwood were both cautioned near the bye-line.
A further Luton name went into the book when Pilkington fouled Brodie down the left – to add insult to injury, Pilkington need treatment before play resumed.
A Milligan free-kick found Seddon on the six-yard line and the striker’s side-foot shot beat Tyler but went inches wide as Clancy raced in for a tap-in.
Home appeals for a handball penalty against Jackson did not interest the referee but Luton continued to probe.
Though Fleetwood repelled the Luton advances without too much concern, Davies was forced into three saves in as many minutes.
Morgan-Smith posed some threat but Goodall did well to keep him quiet.
Pond displayed growing confidence in the centre-half role, dealing with a Stuart Fleetwood threat well.
Brodie went close with a shot and Town’s passing approach play was rewarded when they doubled their lead on 67 minutes.
When Jackson darted into the box and was fouled by Morgan-Smith, Milligan placed the spot-kick to the left of Tyler, who guessed right but dived under the ball.
Town skipper Steve McNulty capped a fine display with a crucial header which sent a late goal-bound effort over his own bar.
Town’s back-line stood solid as the Hatters pressed late on, and Kovacs’ headed goal came far too late to detract from an impressive performance by the Cod Army, both on and off the pitch.
Luton: Tyler, G Pilkington, Howells, Osano, Kovacs, Keane, Lawless (Watkins 76), Willmott (Wright 58), Morgan-Smith, Fleetwood, O’Connor (Kissock 70). Subs not used: K Pilkington, Hand.
Town: Davies, Beeley, McNulty, J Brown (Seddon 25), Jackson, Pond, Clancy (Briggs 53), Milligan, McGuire, Brodie (Mangan 82), Vardy. Subs not used: St Louis-Hamilton, Vieira.
Ref: Davies; Att: 6,361