LUTON TOWN 4
Mackail-Smith 23 (pen)
Marriott 25, 51
Att: 1,655 (152 away)
The Hatters are two rounds away from Wembley after turning in a four-midable performance to knock yet another higher-level side out of the Checkatrade Trophy at Kenilworth Road tonight.
Chesterfield might be involved in a League One relegation battle and without a permanent manager following the sacking of former Town hero Danny Wilson on Sunday.
But the Hatters showed no mercy to leave the visitors from Derbyshire in disarray as Craig Mackail-Smith netted his first goal in almost 11 months, Jack Marriott bagged a double and substitute Isaac Vassell scored an emphatic fourth to send the Spireites the same way as Gillingham, West Brom and Swindon, as the Town booked a place in Thursday’s quarter-final draw.
Manager Nathan Jones selected a strong side, with goalkeeper Christian Walton, centre-half Glen Rea and midfielders Jake Gray and Jonathan Smith all starting from the team that kicked off at Accrington in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Stephen O’Donnell, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu and Marriott, who all came on as substitutes at the Wham Stadium, were in the starting line-up too, along with Mackail-Smith, Jordan Cook and young defenders Frankie Musonda and Jack Senior.
The Hatters’ first chance came in the seventh minute when Cook burst down the left and crossed low for Mackail-Smith, who couldn’t get a clean shot off and visiting keeper Lloyd Allinson collected easily.
Within a minute Gray had registered the Town’s second shot, although it whistled over the bar from 20 yards after O’Donnell teed the midfielder up from the right flank.
Marriott was next to have a go in the 17th minute after Senior had won the ball with a crunching tackle on the left, but the striker’s effort was straight at Allinson.
Chesterfield had their first attempt in the 22nd minute when Jay O’Shea curled one just wide of Walton’s right-hand post, but within seconds the Hatters had made the breakthrough, with Mackail-Smith latching onto a fine through ball from Marriott before being brought down in the area by Laurence Maguire.
The 32-year-old quickly picked himself up to take the opportunity to net his first goal since returning from the broken leg he suffered towards the end of last season, despatching the penalty with confidence down the middle as Allinson dived to his right.
It was two in the 25th minute when Marriott raced down the right and fired home from a tight angle, beating Allinson at his near post with a powerful right-footed drive the skimmed up off the greasy surface and nestled in the back of the Oak Road End net.
Just before the half-hour O’Shea had a low shot gathered by Walton, then Maguire fired high over the bar into the empty Kenilworth Road stand – with the Hatters’ England Under-21 keeper acting as ball-boy to collect it from among the unoccupied blue seats.
As half-time approached, Mackail-Smith had a great chance for his second, but his stabbed effort from Marriott’s sharp turn and cross was saved by Allinson, before Chesterfield reminded the Town they could be a threat in the game.
First, O’Shea hit the bar with a 25-yard free-kick, then Rea sold Walton short with an attempted back-header that put Jake Beesley in the clear, but the Spireites’ striker couldn’t get a clean shot away under pressure from the excellent Frankie Musonda.
The second half started in much the same way most of the first half had gone – with the Hatters on top, pressing high and knocking the ball around with confidence.
That brought about the third goal within six minutes of the restart, and once again it was the Town’s front pair of Mackail-Smith and Marriott who combined, the former playing the latter in on this occasion to cut back onto his left foot and hammer a shot unerringly into the bottom corner from just inside the area.
Chesterfield made a double substitution, bringing on midfielder Jon Nolan and striker Kristian Dennis in a bid to prise a way back into the game, and they enjoyed a spell of possession without creating a clear-cut chance, Connor Dimaio having their only shot of the half that trickled just past Walton’s right-hand post.
At the other end, Cook had a crack at goal in the 75th-minute, but his right-foot volley fizzed just wide of the far post, then the ex-Walsall man looked to put Marriott in for his hat-trick with a fine through ball, but the Chesterfield captain Sam Hird nicked it off his toe as he looked to get a shot off.
Cook had the ball in the net in the 78th minute with a neat finish after a lay-off from sub Olly Lee, but an offside flag ruled that one out, then Cook played in a low cross for Vassell – who had come on as sub alongside Zane Banton – but his near post effort flew wide.
The ex-Truro man made it four in the 86th minute, however, when Lee played him through with a drilled pass from inside his own half, and Vassell used his power and pace to great effect, regaining his footing when it looked like he was falling to outsprint Hird and finish emphatically into the roof of the Chesterfield net.
The Cornishman had another good chance seconds later when Mpanzu, who had turned in a composed performance in the holding midfield role, sprayed a lovely pass out to the left, but the striker’s shot flew wide of the far post.
It mattered not. The Hatters had already done enough damage with an emphatic performance that sent the Town soaring into the last eight, and “lifted” Jones after the disappointment of Saturday’s FA Cup exit.
TOWN: Walton, O’Donnell, Musonda, Rea, Senior, Mpanzu, Smith ©, Gray (Lee 62), Cook, Marriott (Vassell 77), Mackail-Smith (Banton 77). Subs not used: Mullins, Bakinson, King (GK), Cotter.
CHESTERFIELD: Allinson, Hird ©, Evatt, Gardner (Mitchell 75), O’Neil, Dimaio, Simons (Dennis 56), O’Shea, Maguire, Ariyibi (Nolan 56), Beesley. Subs not used: Parkin (GK), Martinez, Daly, German.