Super cool Howells nets penalty brace as Hatters hammer Harriers
Skrill Premier Division: Kidderminster Harriers 0 (0) Luton Town 2 (0)
Luton produced by far their best performance of the season as they eased to a 2-0 victory at promotion rivals Kidderminster Harriers this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.
Jake Howells twice kept his cool from the spot to convert two second half penalties as the Hatters maintained their incredible record at Aggborough, making it six wins and one draw from their seven visits to the West Midlands.
It was a superb all-round performance from the Hatters, who looked solid defensively and dangerous in attack as they ended a run of 4.10hrs without a goal but also made it three games in a row without conceding a goal.
Town made three changes from the team that drew 0-0 at home with Cambridge United last weekend. Striker Paul Benson came in for his debut as Howells and Andy Parry also started, with Mark Cullen and Shaun Whalley dropping to the bench and Jon Shaw missing out entirely.
Kidderminster were given an early sight of goal when Jonathan Smith was penalised for a foul on Joe Lolley, but Kyle Storer’s free-kick was straight into the Luton wall.
A low drive by the lively Lolley then deflected off Alex Lacey and just behind, while Mark Tyler did just enough to get a hand to the subsequent inswinging corner.
Only some really good defending stopped Luke Guttridge from setting Andre Gray free in the box on 12 minutes though as Town started to come more into the game.
A series of Kidderminster fouls led to Lee Fowler being booked for a reckless tackle on Howells, before Guttridge’s long-ranger was straight at Danny Lewis on 22 minutes.
Luton looked to turn the screw as they enjoyed plenty of possession, but Parry could only drive wildly over from distance.
And Guttridge unlocked the Kidderminster defence moments later when Gray burst on to his clever through ball but could only poke at the keeper who gathered at the second attempt.
Questionable decisions for both sides drew the ire from both sets of supporters and Town almost broke the deadlock on 36 minutes when Gray powered to the byline and pulled the ball back but Howells’ touch squirmed just wide.
The Hatters then needed Tyler to come to their rescue three minutes later when Lolley was teed up on the edge of the area as he skipped past his man before forcing a flying stop out of Tyler who tipped the ball past the post.
From the subsequent corner Luton broke quickly and when Smith dragged his shot across the face of goal Howells could only fire wildly over with the goal begging.
Guttridge then dragged a good chance disappointingly wide and Parry headed a Howells free-kick straight at the keeper as a promising half, just lacking a goal, drew to a close.
The second period continued in a similar vein to the first as Lee Vaughan fired straight at Tyler from outside the box early on.
Town had half shouts for a penalty on 51 minutes as Benson, Howells and Guttridge were all thwarted by some desperate defending in the box.
Storer spiralled an effort miles over the bar, but it was Luton who were continuing to create the better chances.
Smith poked Gray through on 55 minutes but his pull-back was behind everyone and when Kidderminster cleared the ball hit the referee and bounced into the path of Guttridge who rode a tackle before seeing his powerful blast from inside the area deflect off Chey Dunkley and over.
Aggborough completely overreacted when Steve McNulty muscled Callum Gittings into the hoardings, but play continued after the home fans had vented their fury.
More good play from the Hatters just past the hour saw Guttridge cleverly turn on to Gray’s pass in the box, but he could only fire straight into the keeper’s midriff.
Gray again did well as his cross was toed on to Howells at the back post by Smith, but the former Wales U21 international could only skew wide.
McNulty was then booked retrospectively for a cynical lunge on a Kidderminster man before Town took advantage of a defensive error to take the lead on 70 minutes.
Dunkley’s backpass went past onrushing keeper Lewis who deliberately brought down Benson as he looked to find the empty net.
Referee Kevin Johnson was quick to point to the spot and book the keeper as Howells confidently stepped to fire into the right-hand side of the net.
And Town doubled their lead from the spot again with 10 minutes to go. Guttridge’s pass released Gray in the box and, although he looked to have mad a hash of it, he regained possession and, as he looked to get to the byline he was caught by Josh Gowling. Appeals for a penalty were originally waved away by the referee, but his assistant signalled for the foul as the ref once again awarded a penalty.
Howells stepped up once more and drove low down the middle as, despite a boot from Lewis, the ball flew into the roof of the net as Town doubled their lead.
That completely deflated Kidderminster who failed to threaten for the rest of the game. And things got even worse for Harriers when a robust challenge from Parry on Gittings left the Kidderminster man in trouble as he had to be helped from the field. Parry was booked following the incident but, with Kidderminster having used all their substitutes, they were forced to finish the game with 10 men.
Smith fired well over and even Alex Wall was even given a late cameo as he came on for his first appearance of the season.
A stoppage-time injury forced Scott Griffiths off as he was replaced by David Martin but the contest was already over as Town cantered to a deserved victory.
Harriers (4-4-2): Danny Lewis, Lee Vaughan, Josh Gowling, Chey Dunkley, Mickey Demetriou, Kyle Storer (C Jack Byrne 71), Lee Fowler, Callum Gittings, Marvin Johnson (Danny Jackman 81), Joe Lolley (Anthony Malbon 71), Michael Gash. Substitutes not used: Nathan Vaughan, Nathan Blisset.
Hatters (4-3-3): Mark Tyler, Jonathan Smith, Steve McNulty, Jake Howells, Scott Griffiths (David Martin 90+5), Andy Parry, Luke Guttridge, Ronnie Henry, Paul Benson (Alex Wall 90+4), Andre Gray, Alex Lacey. Substitutes not used: Mark Cullen, Elliot Justham, Shaun Whalley.
Booked: Fowler 20; Smith 28; McNulty 67; Lewis 70; Benson 82; Parry 85.
Referee: Kevin Johnson (Somerset).
Assistant Referees: David Ricketts and Matthew Jones.
Fourth Official: Stuart England.
Attendance: 2,866 (Luton 821).
Star Hatter: Luke Guttridge. Simply outstanding in the Hatters midfield.