Town triumphant on Boxing Day
Kovacs 15, Shaw 37, Rendell 82 (pen)
Goals from Jon Shaw, Janos Kovacs and Scott Rendell wrapped up the perfect present for the home fans who flooded Kenilworth Road for the highest home attendance of the season.
Kovacs headed home Jake Howells' delivery early in the first half for the Hatters before Shaw struck for his third in as many games. Andre Gray, Luton's man of the match, was in scintillating form playing pivotal roles in two of the goals including starting the move for Rendell's clincher. The Town hitman notched up his 10th of the season from the penalty spot as he tied the ribbon on a convincing home win.
Manager Paul Buckle selected an attacking line up as Woking were welcomed for their first ever visit to Kenilworth Road as Shaw, Rendell, Gray and Stuart Fleetwood were selected in an ambitious 4-3-3 formation.
Woking came to Bedfordshire with high hopes and looked to use their experienced squad listing to conjure up an upset. Adam Newton returned to Kenilworth Road for the first time since his departure in 2010 whereas John Nutter occupied the opposite flank for Garry Hill's men.
It was a quiet opening to the game for both sides was nearly brought to an abrupt end as Simon Ainge looped up a cross toward Rendell. Howells worked a quick free-kick routine which saw Ainge peel away from his marker and deliver toward the front man. Rendell challenged keeper Aaron Howe for the ball but the Woking stopper came out on top and gathered with ease.
A searching ball towards Shaw forced Adam Doyle to head away but only to the feet of Gray. The wideman then turned on the pace and drove into the box before seeing his corner deflected behind. The referee initially signalled for a goal kick before consulting the linesman and reverting the decision in the Hatters’ favour. Howells viciously whipped the flag-kick into the path of Kovacs who powered a bullet header past the motionless Howe to give Town a 15th-minute advantage.
Minutes later Henry shepherded the ball out for another Hatters corner which was taken by Alex Lawless in a wonderfully crafted set-play straight off the training ground. A huddle of Town bodies jostled in the area before splitting a path for Fleetwood to peel off into space. Lawless dragged the ball into the path of Fleetwood who slammed his shot goalwards. The ball deflected off Jack Parkinson to Rendell who was immediately shut down to cease proceedings.
An appeal for a dismissal on 26 minutes came when it appeared Gray was wrestled to the floor as he scampered goalwards. Kovacs spotted the run of the 21-year-old and attempted to pick him out from distance but Gray was pulled down by Doyle and to the dismay of all those in orange their appeals were ignored by the man in the middle.
Arnaud Mendy nearly doubled the Hatters advantage with a venomous volley from inside the area following confusion in the Woking defence. Henry lofted a deep cross towards Shaw ,which was aided in its elevation by the howling wind, as Howe flapped his punch to Mendy who instantly returned the ball goal-bound. His thunderous effort was slammed into the torso of Doyle and out of danger.
A fantastic Hatters build up nearly brought about a second as Fleetwood drilled goalwards. Mendy began the move by switching the ball out wide to Fleetwood who set Howells bounding down on the overlap. Howells set the ball back to Fleetwood who played the ball into the feet of Rendell on the edge of the area. The Town front-man then reversed the pass to match the run of Fleetwood who had a clear sighting of goal until a last ditch block from McNerney spared Woking conceding a second.
Another sighting at goal followed for Fleetwood on 35 minutes as Gray released the Welshman through. Gray bullied McNerney off the ball and released Fleetwood who got the ball caught up under his feet costing him an effort on target.
The Hatters were not made to wait long for their second, however, as Shaw lashed home from close range to double the home sides advantage. Again Gray wreaked havoc down the flank as McNerney failed to deal with a long ball allowing Gray to nip the ball off of his toes and stride into the area. The young Hatter then opened his body up in an attempt to slot the ball into the opposite corner but it was matched by Howe who got down early. His palming save travelled only as far as Shaw however who steadied himself before drilling into an open net.
A sighting at goal followed for the visitors as Mark Tyler was called upon for his first participation of the afternoon as Gavin McCallum tried his luck from range. McCallum wriggled the ball away from Lawless before heading goal-wards and letting fly from range. His effort failed to lack conviction however and bobbled into Tyler grateful clutches.
The visitors again pressed for a way back into the game as Billy Knott came close shortly before the referee called time on an embracing first half. A neat interchange between Knott, McCallum and Kevin Betsy saw Knott forced wide. The Woking attacker then cut inside and looked to curl the effort past Tyler but his effort sailed agonisingly wide and the Hatters headed into the dressing room 2-0 to the good.
Woking started the second half brightly and were awarded their first corner kick of the game shortly before the 50 minute mark. The in-swingning delivery was nodded away to safety by Ainge who roared his fellow Hatters up the pitch.
Parkinson then attempted to get his name on the scoreshee for the visitors as he let fly from long range. The midfield man picked the ball up from Knott and found himself in acres of space and an invitation to shoot. He duly accepted this invitation but his pile-driver was dragged wide and skipped off the damp surface for a goal-kick.
As the rain began to pour over the Kenilworth Road turf the home side went in search of a third. Howells again drilled in an in-swinging corner toward Ainge who rose highest and nodded against the frame from point-blank range. The referee signalled for another corner as Howe's vital touch was the catalyst in keeping the scoreline to two as the resulting corner was headed away.
The openings began to flow and Henry and Gray linked up as the Hatters came within inches of finding a third. A similar move to Gray's goal in the last home game against Alfreton as Henry whipped an early cross in from deep to find Gray in the area. The Town forward stooped low to re-direct the ball towards the goal but could only make contact with the side netting.
‘Almost’ was the name of the game as Gray again went close. Henry was again the provider, swinging in a delivery into Gray who took the ball on his chest. The former Hinkley forward then swivelled and acrobatically connected to loop the ball goalwards. For a second it looked like it would drop over the keeper’s head into an unguarded net but Howe snapped the ball out of the air to deny Gray a goal of the season contender.
Fleetwood then added his name to the 'close' tally as Kovacs powerful defensive header sent the Hatters’ top scorer blistering away. Fleetwood took the ball first time with an exquisite outside of the boot prod which slammed against the advertising boardings and out for a goal kick.
Gray again proved to be a real threat for the Woking back line as he raced through on goal after Rendell's weighted pass. However the Hatters star performer got tangled up with McNerney and saw his half-hearted penalty appeal again waved away.
The Hatters proved to rue their missed chances however when McCallum drove into the area and skipped away from three Town challenges before firing goalwards. Tyler managed to get a strong hand to the effort but could only palm into the path of the on rushing McNerney, who had been thrust forward in an attempt to salvage their journey. A resurgent 235 Woking fans who had made the trip to Bedfordshire roared with jubilation as their Christmas mission remained possible.
Woking pursued an equaliser. Substitute Loick Pires and Kovacs went shoulder to shoulder before Pires tumbled over in search of a spot kick. The referee again dismissed the appeals, to the dismay of the raucous away following in the Oak Road.
Another penalty appeal was shut down by the referee but seconds later the man in the middle was again pressed to make a decision and this time he pointed straight at the spot without hesitation for the Town. Gray was released by Lawless after the Hatters countered a Woking set-piece. Gray then dropped the shoulder, turned Ricketts, swooped into the area and slotted underneath the onrushing keeper only to be denied by the post. The ball ricocheted kindly to Lawless who bustled his way into a shooting opportunity before being hoisted down for a penalty. The calmest man in the ground Rendell stepped up with a tactical stutter before stroking home for his fourth successful penalty of the season.
It was a comfortable scoreline for the Hatters as they ran out 3-1 winners and picked up their first maximum of the Christmas period. A busy spell lies ahead for Buckle's men starting with Ebbsfleet at Kenilworth Road on Saturday.