Hatter ease to victory over Imps
Martin 41, 72 Gray 43
The Hatters ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Lincoln City thanks to a Dave Martin brace on a night of clinical finishing at Kenilworth Road.
Martin lashed home the opener five minutes before the break in emphatic fashion, crashing home from inside the area before Andre Gray added his name to the score sheet calmly rounding the keeper before sliding home from close range.
The Hatters continued their dominance into the second half as Martin completed his double to put the tie beyond the visitors on an impressive night for John Still's men.
Still re-instated Ronnie Henry to the starting eleven but opted for Steve McNulty to continue in the role of captain. Alex Lawless also re-emerged to the starting line up with Scott Griffiths also making his first Kenilworth Road start for the Hatters. Dean Brill continued to deputise between the sticks as Mark Tyler remained sidelined with a back injury.
The opening possessions were evenly shared but Mamadou Fofana was the first to test the resolve of the Hatters goal when his long range effort fizzed into the gloves of Brill before grabbing onto the ball at the second attempt.
It was the Imps again who gained the attacking initiative in the early stages when top scorer Jamie Taylor looked to catch Brill off-guard and fire into the near post but the Hatters stopped managed to sling up a strong left arm to divert the ball away.
Martin got the Hatters shot attempts for the evening off the mark as his narrow drive from just inside the area blazed over Farman's crossbar seconds before Matt Robinson's long range drive skipped wide off the surface.
The Hatters thought they had broken the deadlock on 12 minutes when Martin converted Gray's perfectly weighted pass. Martin wheeled away to celebrate in front of the Town fans but his delight was short lived when the linesman's flag ruled the effort out for offside.
A combative 20 minutes followed with both sides cancelling each other out in the middle third of the pitch was brought to an end after a neat passage of play from the hosts. Griffiths wound up a cross which was flicked on by Shaw to the feet of Gray. Using Jonathan Smith as a dummy he threaded the ball to McNulty who slammed the ball into Lawless' feet. His instant reverse ball threaded in Henry in an advanced position but his cross come shot trickled wide of the far post without the far post finish the move deserved.
Again the Hatters tried to break the deadlock after another impressive move, involving several of the Hatters men, worked Lawless an opening to shoot from range. Henry galloped deep into the Lincoln half before finding Robinson who drilled a pass into the feet of Shaw. Instantly, with support from Lawless, Shaw found the Welshman who shifted the ball onto his right side and looked to whip the ball round Farman in the Imps goal. The effort did have Farman scrabbling to his left but failed to find the corner and it was shepherded out for a goal kick.
A cagey first half was finally brought to an end when Martin lashed home a scintillating drive five minutes before the break. Lawless' deep corner was retrieved by Griffiths who set the ball back to Martin on the edge. Jinking away from the first lunge he darted past a second before unleashing a ferocious strike at goal which clipped the inside of the post and thundered into net with Farman dazzled by the velocity of the effort as the Hatters took a deserving 1-0.
That lead was doubled minutes later when Gray kept his cool to round Farman and slide the ball home for a Hatters second. A long searching pass from Smith found Gray springing the offside trap and racing clear on goal. The Town forward brought the ball down with sumptuous ease killing the pace with exquisite control before throwing the keeper a dummy to drift past him and slot home from close range.
The second half began with Shaw's long range volley nearly catching Farman off-guard for what would have been one of the goals of the season. Shaw brought the ball down on the chest before volleying a looping effort towards the far corner which had Farman bounding over to his left before watching the ball drop just outside the post.
Lincoln issued a response of their own ten minutes after the re-start as Jake Sheridan warmed the gloves of Brill once more. Driving inside of the Hatters defence, Sheridan looked to curl the ball around the Town keeper but he was alert to the danger and palmed the ball into the ground before grabbing onto the ball and maintaining his clean sheet.
The Hatters had the ball in the Lincoln net once more but the referee had other idea's as a whistle from the man in the middle ruled it out for an off the ball incident involving Lawless. As Martin sneaked in at the far post to hammer home Gray's cross emphatically Lawless was involved in a tangle with Boyce which caught the referee's attention. Martin's celebrations, for the second time, were short-lived as the ref beckoned over Lawless and Boyce with a booking apiece for their scuffles.
However the Gray and Martin combination did finally have the Hatters third confidently turned home with 72 minutes on the clock. McNulty was alert to the blistering run of Gray down the right hand touch line and threaded him in accordingly from a quick free-kick. Gray scampered away from the challenge before squaring the ball with Martin on hand to comfortably stroke the ball home from close range in a carbon copy of their earlier effort which was chalked off.
Fifteen minutes remained when Lawless' departed after an influential night playing in a more attacking role with Scott Rendell his replacement.
Brill had endured a comfortable night in the Hatters goal thanks to a sterling performance from the back-line rebuffing any threat the visitors posed but when Imps substitute Oliver tried his luck forcing Brill to spring to his left and fingertip the ball round the post.
Shaw then trudged off with ten minutes to play as Alex Wall replaced him in attack and was immediately involved when Martin pinged a searching ball into the channel for Wall to chase. He retained the pass and drilled a shot into the near post for his first contribution which nearly caught Farman by surprise but he was down low to prevent a fourth.
Wall, Gray and Rendell now formed the new look Hatters attack with all three interchanging for Gray to fizz twice at goal. His first effort was parried by Farman which was recovered by Rendell who slipped the ball back into Gray who fired again at goal before the keeper turned the ball away from danger. Seconds later it was Rendell's turn to draw agonisingly close when his half volley zipped off a Lincoln body and swerved agonisingly wide of the post.
Gray was named man of the match after his devastating form helped him acquire his 16th goal of the season whilst racking up an assist in addition to his strike. His evening was ended early in order for him to receive his well deserved standing ovation as Dan Walker entered the fray for the final moments of the game.
Late on the Hatters continued their ruthless search for more goals as Wall and Robinson both tested Farman's resolve from range but both were unable to add a fourth before the referee called the game to a close.