Hatters move to within a point at the top with five star showing
Gray 10, 14, Benson 13, Guttridge 18, Lawless 67
The Hatters produced a stunning performance to equal their biggest victory away from Kenilworth Road as they put five past Alfreton and extend their unbeaten league run to 14 games.
The Town scored four times in a superb nine-minute spell in the first half with two goals from Andre Gray and one each from Paul Benson and Luke Guttridge.
After such an amazing first half the second was never going to live up to expectation but the Hatters remained disciplined and, after keeping Alfreton at bay, Alex Lawless scored midway through the second period to complete the rout and move the Town to within a point of leaders Cambridge.
The Hatters’ super afternoon all started with John Still making 10 changes to the side that saw off Staines in the Trophy in midweek with Pelly Rudddock Mpanzu retaining his place in central midfield. Defender Alfie Mawson made his debut at the heart of the Hatters defence.
And their stunning first half display started with a number of decent chances in the first five minutes with Benson heading a Ronnie Henry cross over the bar before Guttridge skied Gray’s cut-back on six minutes.
The Hatters were dominating the opening stages and they deservedly took the lead on 10 minutes with a lovely goal. Guttridge was the creator, bursting forward from the left flank to thread a perfect pass through to Gray and his finish exhumed confidence, a low shot that flew past Ross Atkins.
It was a really eye-catching goal and it got better for the Hatters two minutes later when Benson doubled the lead. This time Gray and Guttridge combined to feed Benson and the former Dagenham striker clipped a wonderfully cool finish over the advance Atkins for his seventh goal of the campaign.
Having failed to score in two previous visits (three if you count a friendly) at the Impact Arena, incredibly the Hatters made it 3-0 on 14 minutes as Gray got his second. It was another move of fantastic quality with Benson and Guttridge again involved: this time Benson squaring to his strike partner to tap home inside the six yard box for his 12th goal in 11 starts.
The Town looked dangerous every time they attack and, almost unbelievably, it was 4-0 on 18 minutes as the Hatters’ purple patch in front of goal continued. Gray’s high ball into the air was controlled by Guttridge and the midfielder rounded Atkins and – somehow – finished from the narrowest of angles. It was his seventh goal of the season and the Town’s fourth goal in just nine incredible minutes.
Four goals down, home boss Nicky Law introduced centre-half Darran Kempson for winger Alistair Taylor and the change had the desired effect as the hosts tightened up.
Mark Tyler, who showed his delight every time the Town had scored, made his first save of the game 23 minutes in, keeping out Daniel Meadow’s daisycutter from the edge of the box.
But the Hatters continued to press for a fifth. Gray spurned a chance for his hat-trick on 29 minutes when he nodded straight at Atkins following Guttridge’s left-wing cross and a header from Lawless flashed across the face of goal six minutes later following Henry’s centre – and that was the end of a breathless first 45 minutes.
After the break Alfreton rallied but failed to test Tyler. Henry blocked a goal-bound free-kick from Bradley Wood on 55 minutes and after weathering that storm the Town made it five on 67 minutes. Alfreton failed to clear their lines and Gray picked their pocket, and his flick through released Lawless and he did the rest, finding the corner of the net for his second goal of the season.
Benson and Guttridge almost got on the end of a right-wing raid from Ruddock Mpanzu moments later as the Town hunted a sixth.
It was ole stuff from the Town in the closing stages. Despite efforts from Gray and Lawless the Town couldn’t add to their tally but quite frankly, nobody in the Hatters ranks cared much – the job was done and the win moved the Hatters to within a point of the leaders.
Town: Tyler; Henry, Griffiths, Mawson (sub Davis 46), McNulty; Smith, Guttridge, Ruddock Mpanzu, Lawless; Gray, Benson.
Subs not used: Howells, Whalley, Robinson, Justham.
Attendance: 1,279 including 649 backing the Town.