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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
20:10 5th April 2010

LUTON TOWN 6-0 GRAYS ATHLETIC

Kevin Gallen scored his first senior hat-trick to help the Hatters to their ninth successive victory over already relegated Grays Athletic at Kenilworth Road. The 34-year-old striker rolled back the years with a treble while Tom Craddock helped himself to a brace and substitute Liam Hatch scored a late sixth to make it 31 goals in their last six matches in the Blue Square Premier. A bumper Easter Monday crowd were expecting to see a routine Hatters home win but after half-an-hour it looked as though the hosts were going to be in for a long afternoon as they were frustrated by their bottom-of-the-table visitors. The Town upped the ante though as they began to get a strangehold on proceedings with Claude Gnakpa forcing Grays goalkeeper Glyn Garner into a smart stop on 16 minutes. Simon Heslop fired wide five minutes later after fine flowing move involving Gallen and Gnakpa and on 27 minutes Keith Keane came agonisingly close to making it 1-0 when he saw a curling shot from outside the penalty whizz past the post. However, the perturbed atmosphere was lifted on 32 minutes when the deadlock was broken. Helsop crossed from right flank and up popped Craddock to head ahead of Glyn Garner to give the Town the lead and give the striker his 19th of the season. The Town's tails were up, and on 34 minutes, both the players and supporters were up in arms when referee Berry failed to play an advantage that saw Jake Howells hit the target after a slaloming run through the visitors' defence. But most inside Kenilworth Road were on their feet seconds later, when Gallen belted the resulting free-kick past Garner to double the Hatters' lead. As the confidence began to flow into the Town's play, two goals in three minutes became three in nine minutes, as on 41 minutes, Gallen doubled his tally for the afternoon. A long pass from George Pilkington found Craddock beating the offside trap. He took a touch to round Garner before squaring for his striker partner to knock home from eight yards into an empty net. With the Town front two causing the visitors all sorts of problems, Craddock almost made it four a minute before the interval when scampering onto Keane's slide-rule pass but could only hit a left-foot shot wide of the target. Once again then though the home crowd didn't have long to wait to see another goal as two minutes into the stoppage time at the end of the first half the fourth goal arrived. A long ball from Janos Kovacs was expertly nodded on by Howells into the path of Craddock who made no mistake poking the ball beyond Garner to take his tally for the season to 20. It was the former Middlesbrough man's 10th in his last nine games. It took the Town until the 56th-minute to force Garner to action when he firstly saved smartly with a leg to deny Craddock his hat-trick before the goalkeeper brilliantly saved Claude Gnakpa's close-range header following Craddock's cross. Two minutes later though it was five when Gallen secured the matchball. Half-time substitute Craig Nelthorpe won a corner down the left and from the resulting deep flag-kick swung in by Keane, Gallen rose at the back-post to head in his 17th goal of the season to continue his own hot-streak in front of goal. That was his eighth goals in six games. Richard Money withdrew the hat-trick hero to rapturous applause a minute later, introducing Hatch. However, it the Grays goal was living a charmed life as the Town poured forward looking to extend their advantage but a combination of poor finishing, the woodwork and great goalkeeping kept them at bay. Hatch saw a powerful header clawed away by Garner on 67 minutes, Matthew Barnes-Homer volleyed over on 72 minutes and then Gnakpa saw a volley deflected behind by Danny Bunce on 74 minutes. It seemed that the Grays stopper was fighting a one-man battle against the Hatters as he continued to keep out the hosts' sixth. It was the post, however, that saved Athletic on 76 minutes when Nelthorpe hit a terrific first-time volley against the post. Three minutes later a lovely move orchestrated by Heslop found Barnes-Homer but his shot was well-saved by the legs of Garner and while Gnakpa buried the rebound, the goal was chalked off for offside. But on 81 minutes the Town finally found their sixth when Keane sprayed a stupendous ball to the back-post to an unmarked Hatch who guided a diving header into the corner of the net from eight yards for his fourth of the season. The Hatters looked hungry for a seventh. Howells saw a shot saved by Garner a minute before the end and two minutes into stoppage time Heslop saw a fantastic long-range effort rebound off the underside of the crossbar but that was that. The aggregate score of the Hatters' last six games is 31-2. Says it all. Stevenage's 3-0 win at Wimbledon may have spoiled the day slightly but try telling that to Kevin Gallen. It's Tamworth next for the Town. Get up to the Lamb Ground to see if the Town can clock up a 10th win a row. Keep believing. For minute-by-minute analysis see below. Full time from Kenilworth Road Luton Town 6 (Craddock 32, 45, Gallen 35, 41, 58, Hatch 81) Grays Athletic 0 Final score FULL-TIME LUTON TOWN 6-0 GRAYS ATHLETIC - All the action, reaction and highlights to come. 90 + 2 mins - Oh so close to seven. Keane squares a free-kick into the path of Helsop who crashes a shot against the underside the crossbar. What a great hit. So unlucky. Pilkington fluffs the rebound before Keane fires over. Still 6-0. 90 mins - We've got four minutes to try and find a seventh... 89 mins - Bending shot from Howells from 25 yards is saved  by Garner. Again. The Grays keeper certainly has earned his wage this afternoon. 88 mins - Poor old Claude's sees desperate to score today but it's not falling for him. He goes the long way round, go down the right flank and fires in a cross-cum-shot that is beaten away by Garner. 86 mins - Shot for Tyler to deal with as he has to stop a good hit from Graham from making it 6-1. 83 mins - Seven minutes left to try and find it and they look a decent bet to do so. Heslop bursts forward, finds Gnakpa who drills a shot straight at Garner. 81 mins  GOOOOOOOOAL! HATTERS 6-0 Grays - There it is! They've been knocking on the door and the sixth has finally arrived. Keane pings a delightful pass from the left to Hatch unmarked six yards from goal on the right-hand edge of the six-yard box, diverting home a wonderful diving header past poor old Garner. Time for a seventh? 79 mins - Garner is having a super game in the goal for the Blues. If it wasn't for him it could easily be double figures. A lovely flowing move from the Hatters sees Heslop find MBH but after turning in the box sees his shot saved by the outstretched leg of the keeper. Gnakpa knocks home the rebound by the flag is up and that sixth just won't come. 76 mins - That sixth just wont go in! An Ed cross from the right is half-cleard by the visitors but the ball falls straight to Nelthorpe who hits a fabulous first-time effort that comes back off the post. Great hit. Then, moments later a Kovacs header is ruled out for pushing by the referee. 74 mins - Almost six but Grays are thankful for ultra-brave defending from Bunce denies a fierce volley from Gnakpa from finding the top corner. He went down like he'd been shot but it was one helleva a shot. Then, seconds later MBH is denied by another good sprawling save by Garner. 72 mins - Still 5-0 as Hatch flicks-on a long ball forward into the path of MBH but Saturday's goal hero can only blast a volley over way over Garner's crossbar. 67 mins - The Hatters are still hungry for more goals and I think my pre-match prediction of 5-0 might be dashed. It's Garner to the rescue again for the visitors as he acrobatically claws away a goal-bound Hatch header from the sky following Asafu-Adjaye's deep right-wing cross. 63 mins Third change of the afternoon for the Town and it's MBH on for Craddock. I think they call it an embarrassment of riches. 61 mins - It's a bumper Easter Monday Kenilworth Road attendance: 7,860 include 21 from Essex. 60 mins  Gallen's time is up. He's had an awful game... and is replaced by Hatch. How's that for sub? 58 mins  GOOOOOOAL! HATTERS 5-0 Grays - There's number five and there's a hat-trick for Gallen. Nelthorpe wins a corner which is floated to the back-post by Keane and there's there's the striker all alone to nod home from close range for his third. Get in! 56 mins - And then there's two chances in a minute for goal number five and the visitors have Garner to thank. Firstly Gnakpa bursts down the left and squares to Craddock who sees a shot saved by the goalkeeper's foot then Craddock crosses for the Frenchman who sees his header brilliantly kept out by the stopper from close range. Excellent goalkeeping and the Hatters unlucky not to be further ahead. 54 mins - Another quiet start to the half, no chances of note yet. How many can we land up with? Four, five, six? 50 mins - Out trot MBH and Hatch from the bench. I'm sure they both want a piece of the action today. They are strikers. They like scoring goals. 48 mins - Consternation amongst the visiting players as they really should be awarded a corner as Kovacs heads a Bayowa shot behind. 47 mins - The change has seen Howells dropped to left-back and Nelthorpe is now on the left-wing. 46 mins Grays get the second half underway kicking towards the Oak Road end. We've heard that there are 14 fans in there and they all got free burgers. Town are now kicking towards the Kenny end. 46 mins  Half-time change for the Town. Craig Nelthorpe replaces Murray. HALF-TIME  LUTON TOWN 4-0 GRAYS ATHLETIC - It wouldn't be Kenilworth Road without goals and we've had four in the space of 13 minutes have blown away the already relegated visitors. Check back in 15 for all the second half updates. COYH! 45 mins +2  GOOOOOAL! HATTERS 4-0 Grays - There was a little bit of discomfort around the place on 31 minutes. Now there's not as Craddock makes it four with his second, poking home from six yards for his 20th of the campaign after Howells had flicked on a long ball from Kovacs Get in! 45 mins - We've got three additional minutes to add on try and get a fourth. 44 mins - Oh it should be four. Keane rolls the ball down the line to Craddock to chase after. He has no-one around him and is through on goal but he's coming in off the left flank and the ball is on his left foot but with the keeper closing the angles the striker can only whack the ball into the Oak Road stand. 41 mins - Gallen's sniffing a hat-trick but can only screw a shot wide after receiving a square pass from Craddock. 41 mins  GOOOOOOAL! HATTERS 3-0 Grays - All we seem to do is score goal in bursts. Six minutes after making it 2-0 Gallen makes it 3-0. Craddock beats the offisde trap, running onto Pilkington's raking ball out of defence. He takes a touch to get him past Garner in the visitors goal before squaring the ball back for his striker partner who confidently finishes from eight yards. 35 mins  GOOOOOOAL! HATTERS 2-0 Grays - There were so very unkind chants aimed at the referee but they are soon forgotten about. The Hatters are incensed as referee Berry pulls the play-back for a foul on Howells as he slalomed through the away defence and hit the back of the net. Nobody can believe it but it's a free-kick and the ref's having none of it. Anyway, from it, Keane taps it to Gallen who arrows a thunderous drive beyond Garner for his 15th of the season. Terrific finish. Get in! 34 mins - The ball is the Grays net and it should be 2-0. I'll let you all about it in two ticks... 32 mins  GOOOOOOAL! HATTERS 1-0 Grays - Frustration over! Heslop gallops down the right and sends a deflected cross towards Craddock who gets ahead of Garner in the air to head home his 19th goal of the season. Get in! 31 mins - More frustration around Kenilworth Road as Craddock spurns another chance for the the Town. Gallen feeds Howells in the left-hand channel in the penalty box and the winger cuts the ball back for the on-rushing striker but he screws hit shot wide. 29 mins - Grays are still going for this themseves and, having been relegated on Saturday, are playing with a very care-free attitude. Bunce and Graham combine down the left which sees the former crash a shot goalwards but Pilkington is there with a fine block to clear the danger. 27 mins - Another chance to break the deadlock goes by. The ball falls to Keane 25 yards out before he sizes up his options and lets fly with a well-hit drive that flashes just past the post. Great strike, terrific technique. Shame it didn't hit the back of the net. 26 mins - It's all a bit frustrating at the moment as the Town try and  find a way through but they've only tested Garner the once. 23 mins - From an intricate move one minute to route one the next. Tyler punts the ball downfield which reaches the Grays penalty area. Gallen is first to it but, seeing the keeper off his line, he tries to head over Garner but his effort lacks the oomph and the goalkeeper can collect easily. 21 mins - Best move of the match so far from the Hatters. Gallen finds Gnakpa with a lovely first-time pass down the right before Claude lay it back to the striker who heads the ball into the path of Helsop who takes one touch before firing the ball inches past the post. Unlucky. 18 mins - Bad news elsewhere: AFC Wimbledon 0-2 Stevenage. 16 mins - Best chance of the game falls to Claude. Howells and Craddock combine down the left that sees the former stand up a super cross right on the head of the Frenchman who sees his effort parried over the crossbar by Garner in the Grays goal. Unlucky. Only a matter of time now. 14 mins - The Hatters are coming into this now, Claude has half-hearted appeals for a pen turned down after being outmuscled by Danny Bunce and then from a Keane corner Heslop does brilliantly to send in a cross from the left but no Town man is on hand to get on the end of it, much to the midfielder's frustration. 11 mins - Eerie opening inside the ground so far but the Town almost fashion a chance. Keane takes a good throw to an unmarked Gallen who flicks the ball into the path of Howells but the midfielder can't get onto it and the chances goes begging. 8 mins - First sight of goal is for Grays but Jamie Guy can only thump a 25-yard free kick into the Town wall with the ball eventually cannoning off Keane. 6 mins - Not much to report on at the minute. Yep. Not a sausage. 4  mins - Stoppage in play as the visitors' Duran Reynolds receives treatment for a head knock. He's got a haircut like the Stevenage captain Roberts. 3 mins - A quiet opening at Kenilworth Road as we look around we're trying to spot the empty seats. There are thousands in the Oak but not many elsewhere. 2 mins - It's as you were again formation wise and you're probably pretty familiar with it by now. Tyler in goal; Ed, Pilks, Kovacs and Murray across the back; Claude, Keane, Helsop and Howells in midfield and Gallen and Craddock up top. I keep looking at that 'defensive' bench we've got! Hatch, MBH, Hall, Newton and Nelthorpe... 1 min  And we're off and it's the Hatters that get us underway kicking towards to the Oak Road end. Come on Luton! 14:57 HERE THEY COME Out come to the two sides to a fantastic reception with the Town led by George Pilkington. Grays are in their change strip of white shirts, sky blue shorts and sky blue socks. We're almost set, the handshakes and coin toss are out of the way. So let's get on with it. Enjoy the updates! COYH! 14:56 EASTER CROWD The ticket office has been very, very busy. The home ends are rammed with expectant home supporters. Grays meanwhile have brought - at our last count - approximately 14 fans. 14:50 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS Andrew Barringer: 5-0 Luton. Jake Morgan: 5-1 Luton. Ian Pearce: 5-0 Luton. Euan Duncan: 7-0 Luton. Mark Wood: 6-0 Luton. James Cunliffe 2-1 Luton. Bill Cole: 4-0 Luton. 14:35 FILLING UP NICELY There's a feel good factor going round the ground at the minute as we countdown to kick-off. Let's hope it's an Easter Monday to remember. 14:25 ONE CHANGE Following Saturday's 1-0 win over Stevenage Borough manager Richard Money makes one change to his starting XI with defender Janos Kovacs replacing Shane Blackett. It means goal hero Matthew Barnes-Homer remains on a strong looking Town bench that does not include a goalkeeper. Hatters: Tyler, Asafu-Adjaye, Keane, Kovacs, Pilkington, Craddock, Howells, Gnakpa, Gallen, Murray, Heslop. Substitutes: Newton, Hall, Nelthorpe, Barnes-Homer. Grays Athletic: Garner, Clarey, Reynolds, Cissoko, Guy, Graham, Harvey, Davis, Bayowa, Bunce, Dean. Substitutes: Glowacki, Rhodes, Agombar, Conteh, Osborn. 13:40 WEATHER WATCH Mild, with the sun peering through the clouds there's a light wind whistling arouund Kenilworth Road. 13:30 ON THIS DAY One year ago. Luton Town 3-2 Scunthorpe United. Wembley Stadium. Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final. Enough said. 12:45 FACEBOOK THOUGHTS James Brooker: 7-0 Luton.
Ollie Dooley: 5-0 Luton - "Pilkington first goal."
Jonny Bywaters: Luton 5-0.
Chris Slattery 5-0 Luton
Chris Frankland 6-1 Luton "Claude back on the scoring trail."
Jamie Mann: 9-0 Luton.
Carl Rowles: 5-0 Luton - Gnakpa 2, Craddock, MBH, Gallen.
Craig Clarke: 3-0 Luton.
Alexander Nyheim: "I don't predict we'll win with that many goals, but a 2-0 win is very liekly>"
Thomas Cox: "I just hope the players don't take it too easy."
Mike Jones: 4-1 Luton. Wimbledon to beat Stevenage.
Charlie Poulton. 3-1 Luton.
Bob Caswell: 5-2 Luton - Craddock hat-trick.
Julian O'Dell: "It's sometimes tricky playing against teams who have no pressure."
Andy Brett: "Let's go for another goal fest! I reckon another 4-0 with MBH bagging a couple."
Tommy Hull: 9-1 Luton.
John Smith: 5-0 Luton.
Ben James: "Wouldn't a 10-0 win with a defeat with a Stevenage defeat be nice? I'm going for a 4-1 win with the Wombles grabbing a draw. Gnakpa, Howells, MBH 2."
Steve Sullivan: "We should be wary of a potential banana skin but it should be 4-0 at least."
Neil Orchard: "A big win would be nice just hoping for a Wombles win, we could be top tonight."
Adam Driscoll: "Grays have nothing to lose, however if we can get any early goal I can see us getting five or six. I'm going for 3-0."
Michael Hodges: 10-0.
Graham Southey: "Who cares as long as we win!"
Simon Butt: "Hopefully a nice 3-0 win and a Stevenage defeat."
Nick Pates: 4-1 Luton.
Tracy Ring: 5-0 Luton.
Lee Chapman: "4-0 and come on Wimbledon!"
Paul Haines: "1-0 will do!" 12:15 CLOUD NINE? It's certainly been a good start to the Easter programme for the Hatters. It doesn't get much better than seeing off your main challengers for the title in their own back yard to rack up your eighth win on the spin. Today as we go from one extreme to the next as bottom-of-the-table Grays Athletic are the visitors to Kenilworth Road. Relegated on Saturday following a goalless draw on Saturday at Kettering, Julian Dicks' side will be playing for pride. And therein lies the danger. The Blues have nothing to play for and the pressure is off. Dicks will no doubt tell his troops that expectancy will be weighing down the Town. But what's new? The Hatters just need to keep winning to stand a chance of overhauling league leaders Stevenage if they are to lift the Blue Square Premier, and after Saturday's fantastic victory, all eyes will be on Richard Money's side to do the business against Athletic - and comfortably. Goals have been the order of the day at Kenilworth Road in recent weeks: eight against Hayes & Yeading and four against Salisbury. Should the Hatters earn another victory it will be nine wins on the spin. On cloud nine by 4.45? Well, whatever happens at Kenilworth Road today your official website will have everything covered: every step of the way. If you can't make the match then we'll have all the goals and incidents as it happens live with the usual news in the run-up to kick-off with team line-ups and plenty of chat as your official website has, as ever, the usual updates keeping you bang up-to-date with all the action - and in a number of ways. There's none of those boring ball-by-ball "defensive thrown-in taken by Luton left-back" updates as we continue to try and bring you an updated and detailed text commentary. This is a great way to keep in touch and has been popular to those supporters not able to get to a computer or a radio as the service is also available and is updated live on our WAP site. On Hatters Player you all have access to our live commentary. Remember, Player is available as ever which means you all have access to our live commentary. If you haven't heard it yet then where you have been? It's brought to you by Simon "Statto" Pitts - who is quickly making a name for himself with commentary that is the envy of all the competition. His commentary in injury time against Oxford has made international radio while groups in his honour have sprouted up on social networking site Facebook. He's back up in the gantry this afternoon calling home the shots with the best view in the house. As always we'll have plenty of content to keep you interested as we'll have all of the post-match reaction as well as match action from Gareth Owen to follow after the final whistle. Be sure to check out www.hatterspics.co.uk - our brand new online image library. Remember, we want you to get in touch. Join the updates and get in touch! Email andrew.barringer@lutontown.co.uk and we'll pick the best comments to go live on the site during our live updates. Don't forget we're also on twitter and Facebook so feel free to interact with your fellow fans online. Enjoy the game. COYH!
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