Outstanding second half showing puts Hatters fans into seventh heaven

Skrill Premier: Luton Town 7 (1) Hereford United 0 (0)

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 15th February 2014, 4:22 pm
Luton Town v Hereford United. Photos by Liam Smith. wk 08.
Luton Town v Hereford United. Photos by Liam Smith. wk 08.

A simply irresistible second performance by six-y Hatters put Town’s supporters into seventh heaven as they destroyed Hereford United 7-0 at Kenilworth Road this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.

Matadoresque Luton cracked home six second half goal as they put the bulls to the sword and move nine points clear at the top of the Skrill Premier summit as they made it 11 home league wins in a row and extended their record unbeaten run to 22 games.

Town had led just 1-0 at the break through Andre Gray’s predatory strike, but the on-fire striker again stole the show with two more second half goals to register his third hat-trick of the season and move him clear at the top of the Conference scoring charts with 22 goals for the season.

The Hatters played some exquisite football in the second half as strike partner Paul Benson, Jake Howells, from the spot, powerful midfielder Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and substitute Alex Lawless at the death were all on target too as Town ran riot.

Luton named an unchanged side from the one that battled to a 2-1 victory at Macclesfield Town on Tuesday night, the only change coming on the bench where Jon Shaw came in for new dad Mark Cullen, while the Bulls named former Hatters Luke Graham and Dan Walker in their starting XI.

On a threadbare pitch Luton made the better start as Luke Guttridge won the ball on the edge of the box and skipped into the area, only to be barged over by Rod McDonald, who was making no effort to play the ball, but referee D Handley waved away their appeals for a penalty.

Guttridge then did well to release Gray in the box but his angled drive was cleared off the line by Graham, before Hereford let Howells’ cross run across their six-yard box and the reaching Gray could only poke it over the bar.

Walker’s corner was missed by everyone on 10 minutes as it ran behind, before the Hatters deservedly took the lead two minutes later when Cameron McGeehan’s low drive from the edge of the area was spilled by Daniel Lloyd-Weston and Gray reacted first to fire home the rebound under the keeper.

The Bulls threatened intermittently as Chris Sharp fired well over before Luton almost made it 2-0 on 22 minutes when Gray’s slide-rule pass released strike partner Benson behind the Bulls’ defence but, one-on-one with the keeper, Lloyd-Weston saved with his legs.

The difficulties of Town’s beach-like pitch were summed up on 26 minutes when Guttridge could only air-kick a half cleared cross when well placed on the edge of the area.

Luton though had to remain alert as the Bulls threatened after half an hour when good play by Walker released Jonathan Brown on the right and his dangerous cross was well headed behind at the far post by Ronnie Henry with Michael Rankine lurking.

After a spell of Bulls pressure Town went close to a second again on 34 minutes when Gray beat his man as he surged into the area but blasted over with the keeper to beat.

McGeehan became the first man in the book on 37 minutes for a foul on Brown and from the resulting half-cleared free-kick McDonald’s effort dipped just over.

Persistent fouling then saw Guttridge yellow-carded moments later, before a lovely weaving Guttridge run was prematurely ended by Kingsley James’ cynical challenge and he was duly booked as Town’s midfielder reacted angrily, throwing the ball to the floor.

In stoppage time Mpanzu’s powerful blast took a nick as it went behind and Benson headed over from Guttridge’s corner as Town led narrowly 1-0 at the break.

Great work from Gray saw him burst to the byline four minutes into the second and his fierce near-post cross-shot was beaten behind as Town took the lead from the subsequent corner.

Howells’ corner was headed back into the mix by McGeehan as Benson bravely forced the ball home from close range for his 12th goal of the season.

A spell of treatment followed for McGeehan as he doggedly carried on, before Chris Bush was booked for blocking off Gray as he looked to romp down the right.

And it was 3-0 on 56 minutes when Mpanzu and Guttridge combined brilliantly on the edge of the area as the former West Ham United man burst into the box and was scythed down by James, who was perhaps lucky to not get a second yellow card, as Howells confidently smashed home the penalty to the keeper’s left.

And the Hatters finished off their opponents on the hour with another brilliant goal as Guttridge jinked his way into the box and his ball in was brilliantly laid into the path of Mpaznu by Benson for the midfielder to crash home off the bar.

But the Hatters weren’t done and made it five on 68 minutes when Guttridge’s lovely pass put Gray clean through and he kept his cool to fire home off the far post.

Boss John Still took the chance to make a change, bringing on Matt Robinson for McGeehan who was afforded a great reception by the home faithful as he made his way from the field.

Robinson’s first contribution was to be harshly booked for his first foul on 73 minutes as Brown dragged his free-kick wide.

Another change saw Lawless replace Howells with 14 minutes to go and it was he who was the provider for Gray to complete his hat-trick on 82 minutes when he pulled the ball back perfectly from the byline for Gray to powerfully side-foot home into the corner.

And it should have been seven moments later when Guttridge played Gray clean through again, but the striker hesitated with the defence closing and could only fire into the side netting.

In stoppage time Lawless skirted along the byline as he twice forced Lloyd-Weston down to save before Luton capped a fantastic afternoon in the third minute of stoppage time with a seventh.

Robinson’s blistering 30-yard free-kick was tipped into the air by Lloyd-Weston with Lawless and Shaw both sliding in to force the ball into the net and cap a simply scintillating second half performance.

Hatters (4-3-3): Mark Tyler, Fraser Franks, Steve McNulty, Jake Howells (Alex Lawless 76), Scott Griffiths, Cameron McGeehan (Matt Robinson 69), Luke Guttridge, Ronnie Henry (C), Paul Benson (Jon Shaw 79), Andre Gray, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu. Substitutes not used: Anthony Charles, Elliot Justham.

Bulls (4-4-2): Daniel Lloyd-Weston, Danny Leadbitter, Chris Bush, Kingsley James (Rob Purdie 59), Rod McDonald, Luke Graham (C), Dan Walker, Chris Sharp (Sam Smith 62), Michael Rankine, Jonathan Brown, Jame Edge. Substitutes not used: Rhys Evans, Dominic Collins, Cory Williams.

Booked: McGeehan 37; Guttridge 39; James 43; Bush 54; Robinson 73.

Referee: D Handley.

Assistant Referees: C Wade and M Taylor.

Fourth Official: A Quelch.

Attendance: 7,111 (Hereford 156.

Star Hatter: Andre Gray. On-fire striker is simply unplayable at the moment.