O'Donnell 53, Smith 56, Gray 57
The Hatters continued their impressive run of form and clawed back some priceless points on the league leaders as they strolled to a comprehensive 3-0 triumph over Nicky Law's Alfreton.
Three goals in the space of five second half minutes ensured maximum points were claimed after a JJ O'Donnell, Jonathan Smith and Andre Gray broke the Alfreton resistance early in the second half.
Paul Buckle made seven changes as the Town prepared for Blue Square Bet Premier action once again after a length spell of domestic distraction.
Mark Tyler, Janos Kovacs, Scott Rendell, Jake Howells, Smith, Ronnie Henry and Gray came in to the side that demolished Dorchester Town on Tuesday evening.
An early appeal for a Hatters penalty was optimistically shouted for by the home fans as Rendell was sent sprawling under a challenge from Alfreton keeper Jon Stewart who gripped the ball off of the toes of the in-form forward.
A second early sighting at goal for the Hatters came after just three minutes on the clock when Rendell was the target from a Lathaniel Rowe-Turner cross. Rendell dropped the header to the feet of Gray who athletically attempted to get the shot away before Stewart again clung on.
The Hatters begun bravely as they searched for an early opener. Rendell peeled away from his marker before receiving the ball from a Howells set piece before whipping an effort toward the far corner. Again Rendell found Stewart In the way as he flicked the ball wide to Gray whose follow-up effort rippled the side netting.
The temperature may have dropped in recent weeks but there was nothing cold about the Hatters attacking threat as Gray dropped a shoulder and raced away from his marker. The former Hinkley man then looked up to see O'Donnell and Rendell steaming into the area but his low teasing cross evaded both before trickling out of play.
As the quarter-of-an-hour mark approached, the first card was brandished by the referee for former Hatter Matthew Harriott who was penalised for a high challenge on Howells.
After the Hatters controlled the opening 15 minutes the visitors responded. Paul Clayton was sent through on goal by Ben Tomlinson as the Town back line waited for a flag that wasn't coming. Clayton then attempted to round Tyler but the Luton stopper blocked the ball and prevented an early deficit.
There was a second booking for Alfreton after a late challenge from Darran Kempson sent Rendell rolling away in pain. The Hatters forward gingerly got back to his feet before hobbling back on from the touchline.
The affects of that challenge did not stay with Rendell long as he had a half sighting of goal briefly before the half hour mark. Howells with another deep delivery which evaded Ainge dropped to Rendell on the chest but the following prod from the Town forward found only the torso of Stewart.
Gray continued to be a thorn in the Alfreton defence as he wriggled his way past Kempson and drilled another excellent cut back into Rendell's feet from the byline. Rendell looked for the top corner but couldn't open his body up enough to get the full directed contact he desired as it sailed into the Oak Road stand.
As the half-time interval approached Josh Law stung the fingers of Tyler from a vicious free-kick. Law swung the free-kick goalwards which Tyler matched, scampering over to his right before flinging out a strong right hand to palm aside for a corner.
That resulting set-piece was then glanced on by Kempson which was clawed out by Tyler to release the Hatters away for a counter attack. Gray bounded down on goal after O'Donnell sent him chasing. Stewart galloped off of his goal-line to clear but only to the feet of Howells who slid the ball into the feet of Lawless. The Welsh midfielder then attempted to chip the ball over the stranded keeper but his effort was gripped out of the air by Stewart to keep the game goalless,
The first period finished deadlocked and the second half started much like the first with a tenacious challenge on Gray enraging the Hatters fans. Howells’ set piece was curled into the grateful grasp of Stewart who continued his fine performance between the sticks.
An up-tempo urge soothed the Hatters support as they pressed for an opener, Lawless found space on the right and hammered it goal bound. A vicious effort swerved the wrong side of the upright to the disappointment of the Kenilworth Road stand.
It took just seven second half minutes for the Hatters to break the deadlock as O'Donnell slotted home from close range. Rendell's flick on was chested down by Lawless who then clipped the ball into Gray. Gray then returned the favour sending Lawless through before he cut the ball back for O'Donnell to send the Hatters fans into rapturous and slam home.
Less than three minutes after and Luton could have doubled that advantage through Gray but for a last ditch tackle from Kempson at the expense of a corner. The resulting corner was whipped in by Howells whose delivery was headed away only as far as Lawless. The midfielder then swung the ball back into the danger zone for Smith to head home for his first for the Hatters.
Instantly back on the offensive the Town smashed home a quick-fire third through Gray. Henry scampered away down the right hand side before lashing across a tantalising delivery for Gray to exquisitely volley home.
Three goals in five minutes for the Hatters fans to celebrate which had resulted a scoreline that there was still time to improve.
It should have been four on 67 minutes when Gray pulled apart the Alfreton back line and threaded a pass through to meet the run of Rendell who looked to slip the ball on the inside of the on rushing keeper into the corner but his effort it skipped inches wide.
Still the chances came. Another glimpse of goal for the Hatters came on 72 minutes when a mazy run by Rowe-Turner allowed O'Donnell to fire at goal but his effort confused half of the ground who saw the net ripple. To the disappointment of O'Donnell and fans alike it made contact with the side netting only.
Lawless nearly added his second of the afternoon as Rendell slipped him in to match another charging run. Lawless then struck the ball sweetly but a flailing arm from Steward deflected the ball behind. The resulting set-piece, hung up by Howells, was acrobatically attempted by Ainge who tried an ambitious scissor-kick but failed to make contact.
The chances came and went for the Hatters to add to their three goals as O'Donnell drove over from 25-yards. Gray was sent racing away by Smith, beating Stewart to the ball and setting it back for O'Donnell who in-turn dummied away from the keeper and fired over a distant empty net.
Gray then went on a give and go with Rendell sent him blistering away from the challenge. He drove into the Alfreton box before hitting an off balance effort agonisingly wide.
Gray was to be denied the honour of claiming a second however as he earned a standing ovation upon his replacement by Stuart Fleetwood five minutes from time. Fleetwood's introduction was part of a double change which also saw Tuesday night's skipper Jon Shaw replace Gray's strike-partner Rendell, who also received a warm reception when he departed.
It didn't take long for the substitutes to make their presence felt as Fleetwood weaved his way to the byline and sent a telling cross in Shaw's direction but he was unable to latch onto it to add to the scoreline.
O'Donnell was replaced soon after by Dan Walker as the Hatters eased off the gas and cruised to a comfortable and convincing three points.