Luton Town were comfortably knocked out of the FA Trophy by Blue Square Bet Premier leaders Grimsby Town tonight, writes Mike Simmonds.
In a match that will swiftly be deleted from the memory banks, Hatters boss Paul Buckle named a surprisingly strong team, with four changes to the side who had shocked Premier League Norwich City in the FA Cup at the weekend.
Goalscoring hero Scott Rendell came in, as did Dean Brill, Stuart Fleetwood and JJ O’Donnell, with Mark Tyler, Jon Shaw and Andre Gray on the bench, while Greg Taylor was cup-tied.
Meanwhile, Grimsby started with recent Town target Marcus Marshall, who Luton had been in the running to sign and striker Richard Brodie was among the substitutes.
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A poor start saw Hatters fall behind after just eight minutes as a harsh free-kick against Janos Kovacs gave Jamie Devitt the chance to curl past the Town defence and the unsighted Brill for the opening goal.
Luton almost hit back straight away as Fleetwood’s low free-kick was nervously parried away by James McKeown.
Town appeared lethargic after Saturday’s exertions, struggling to show any real cohesion as Brill made a fine block to prevent Aswad Thomas’ fierce blast making it 2-0.
With goalmouth activity at a premium, Luton had three calls for a penalty as O’Donnell pleaded with the official that his free-kick had struck a hand, Fleetwood tumbled over in the area and Rendell thought his heels were clipped, but on each occasion, nothing was given.
Hatters did improve as the half wore on, but couldn’t create anything clear-cut as the rain and wind continued to hinder both sets of players.
After the interval, Town had a glorious chance on 55 minutes when the ball bobbled to Arnaud Mendy eight yards from goal, but he volleyed high into the night sky.
Devitt then did the same after Craig Disley’s shot fell into his path as, one-on-one with Brill, he spooned his effort over.
Fleetwood skimmed wide on 67 minutes, while the visitors had an escape moments after when Andy Cook blasted against the bar.
The crucial second came on 75 minutes though as Ronnie Henry fouled substitute Richard Brodie on the edge of the box and Cook thumped the resulting free-kick low into the net.
It was 3-0 almost immediately when, almost inevitably, Marshall was on target as his tame effort deflected off replacement Simon Ainge, giving Brill no chance.
The keeper prevented Brodie from notching a fourth with a smart stop late on, but the hosts easily went through to face either FC Halifax or Dartford in the semi-finals.
Mariners: James McKeown, Aswad Thomas, Shaun Pearson, Ian Miller, Craig Disley (C), Andy Cook, Jamie Devitt (Joe Colbeck 63), Bradley Wood, Andi Thanoj (Derek Niven 86), Ross Hannah (Richard Brodie 71), Marcus Marshall. Subs not used: Simon Ford, Dayle Southwell.
Hatters: Dean Brill, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Janos Kovacs, Alex Lawless, Scott Rendell (Jon Shaw 69), Jake Howells, Stuart Fleetwood, Arnaud Mendy (Simon Ainge 70), JJ O’Donnell (Adam Watkins 84), Jonathan Smith, Ronnie Henry (C). Subs not used: Mark Tyler, Andre Gray.
Attendance: 2,791 (75 away).
Referee: R Whitton.
Assistant referees: J Hayes and B Lamb.
Fourth official: R Wigglesworth.
Bookings: Kovacs 61, Smith 85.
Star Hatter: Jonathan Smith.