A stunning eight minute goal spree saw Hatters equal their biggest margin of victory away from home at Alfreton Town this afternoon, writes Mike Simmonds.
Strikes from Andre Gray (10), Paul Benson (13), Gray again (14) and Luke Guttridge (18), meant Luton simply obliterated their shell-shocked opponents inside the opening 20 minutes with an awesome display of clinical finishing.
Alex Lawless added another just after the hour mark as Town closed the gap on leaders Cambridge to a point and also drew level on goal difference.
Hatters had made two changes to the team who had won 3-0 against Southport as Alex Lacey and Andy Parry both missed out by injury, with Alfie Mawson coming in for his Town debut alongside Steve McNulty, and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu began in midfield.
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The visitors, who had never scored here in their previous two visits to the Impact Arena, started impressively as Gray scissor-kicked over.
Luton then created two further presentable chances with Benson nodding Ronnie Henry’s cross on to the roof of the net and Guttridge skying Gray’s cross from a decent position too.
An open game saw the Reds enjoy two opportunities through Paul Clayton and Alastair Taylor as well, but depite the open nature of the early exchanges, there was no indication of the goal glut that was to come.
On 10 minutes, Town had the lead with a beautiful goal as Guttridge took charge inside his own half and with the outside of his foot, sent Gray clean through.
Town’s in-form striker took one touch and as keeper Ross Atkins advanced, he rifled the ball into the corner.
One then immediately became two as Gray touched to Guttridge and he put Benson through, who coolly waited for Atkins to commit himself and then delicately dinked the ball into the net.
Hatters were now rampant and third arrived as a lovely team move involving Scott Griffiths and Guttridge once more saw Benson released and his inch perfect cross was tapped home by Gray.
Luton fans were in dreamland on 17 minutes when Gray knocked the ball over the top, Guttridge flicked past Atkins and from the tightest of angles, slid the ball into the empty net.
A bewildered Alfreton boss Nicky Law made a change on just 20 minutes, sacrificing winger Alastair Taylor for club captain and centre half Darran Kempson.
The hosts were still creating chances of their own too as Clayton fired over, John McGrath drove wide and Daniel Meadows’ shot was easy for Mark Tyler.
Gray almost had a hat-trick inside 30 minutes as he met Guttridge’s cross and headed straight at the keeper, while Lawless glanced Henry’s whipped cross inches wide of the far post.
Mawson had to come off for Town during the break as on-loan Port Vale defender Joe Davis came on in his place.
In the second period, Hatters seemed to start sitting back slightly as John Akinde headed off target, while Meadows fired wastefully over from distance.
Just as the heavens opened, John Still’s side looked like they had weathered the storm on the pitch too as Benson lined up a shot that was charged down.
After going almost an hour without a goal, the fifth was finally in Alfreton’s net on 66 minutes when Lawless nicked the ball in midfield and was sent away by a lovely flick from Gray.
Town’s Welsh midfielder had no problems in racing through and easily beating Atkins for his second of the season.
If they weren’t enjoying the game before then, Town’s supporters were soon treated to a period of ole football, with Hatters keeping possession almost at will.
Gray tried to get his second hat-trick in Luton colours, but fired well wide and Lawless saw his drive deflected wide.
It mattered not though as Town stopped at five and sent a serious message out to their fellow title challengers that they mean business.
Reds: Ross Atkins, Bradley Wood, Connor Franklin, Chris Westwood (C), Michael Wylde, Tom Shaw (Daniel Wishart 72), Paul Clayton (Samuel Akinde 59), Daniel Meadows, Alastair Taylor (Darran Kempston 46), John McGrath, John Akinde.
Subs not used: Jonathan Hooper.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Ronnie Henry, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty, Alfie Mawson (Joe Davis 46), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Alex Lawless, Jonathan Smith, Luke Guttridge, Paul Benson, Andre Gray.
Subs not used: Jake Howells, Elliot Justham, Shaun Whalley, Matt Robinson.
Booked: Wylde 34, Clayton 42, McGrath 62.
Referee: Simon Bennett.
Assistant referees: Michael Harvey, Dumitru-Ravel Cheoslaua.
Attendance: 1,279 (649 Luton).
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