Hatters hit six past bottom side Barrow
Neilson 2, Kovacs 27, Shaw 29, 59, 64, Gray 72
A magnificent Jon Shaw hat-trick sealed a comfortable win for the Hatters as they racked up their sixth consecutive home win under the lights on a damp night at Kenilworth Road. Scott Neilson introduced himself to the Hatters fans immediately latching onto Shaw's volley to turn home inside two minutes. Janos Kovacs then added his name to the score-sheet nodding home unmarked from an Alex Lawless set-piece before Shaw stole the show. Andre Gray added a sixth for the Hatters after Adam Boyes netted a consolation for the Bluebirds.
In the wake of their cup triumph against Wolves, manager Paul Buckle named his line-up with just the one enforced change as JJ O'Donnell sits out with a broken nose he picked up on Saturday and Neilson makes his home début for the Hatters after signing from Crawley Town on the opening day of the transfer window.
Barrow's troubles were evident in the line up. Dave Bayliss' men are currently under a transfer embargo and injury problems meant they were only able to name two substitutes at Kenilworth Road.
It took the Hatters just over one minute to take the lead with débutante Neilson tapping in from close range. Jonathan Smith pounced on a loose clearance to nod the ball into Gray's feet. A quick swivel from the Hatters front man made space for a thunderous strike which cannoned back off the upright. It fell kindly to the feet of Shaw who slammed the ball into the ground allowing Neilson to tap into an empty net.
Neilson again threatened for the Hatters as he looked to plate up a chance for Gray. Smith again battled in midfield to retain possession before the ball bobbled into Neilson's feet who spun and drove at Barrow's back four. Neilson spotted the blistering run of Gray and slid the ball into his path. Gray's first touch put him through on goal only to be thwarted by Danny Hurst.
Barrow mustered their first chance on goal shortly before the quarter hour mark as Danny Rowe tested Mark Tyler in the Hatters net. Rowe received the ball on the left flank and cut inside for a sighting at goal before unleashing from range. The ball skipped off the turf and into the grateful clutches of Tyler who collected calmly.
Calls for a dismissal shortly after the visitors first chance as Gray appeared to be cynically tripped in an off the ball incident on the edge of the Barrow area. Alex Lawless picked the ball up and again spotted the run of the alert Gray. As Gray looked to scamper away he appeared to be tripped by Matt Flynn. As the Hatters faithful roared for his dismissal the referee acted quickly and defused the situation with a booking only. The following free-kick was cleared by Flynn who atoned for his error.
Shaw brought the best out of Hurst on 20 minutes to keep the score at 1-0. Arnaud Mendy headed the ball into the path of Shaw who volleyed the ball goal-wards and would have found the top corner were it not for a fantastic point blank save from Hurst who sprung to his right and palmed over the bar. Despite the brilliance of Hurst it would not have counted as the official had flagged Shaw for offside.
The Town continued in to assert their dominance throughout the first half an hour as Taylor lashed over from 20 yards after a brilliant passage of play. Taylor started the move carrying it out from full back before sliding it into Neilson. The débutante then wrestled away from the defender and slipped it into Shaw who returned the ball to Taylor. The full back found himself in an advanced position and after a neat one-two between Mendy and Gray was invited to shoot. His ambitious volley from the edge of the area headed skyward however rather than putting the gloss on a deserving move.
Kovacs then nodded the Hatters into a 2-0 lead on 27 minutes after he wandered into space for an unmarked header. Neilson was grounded by Mike Pearson on the left hand touchline to win a dangerous free-kick. Lawless then whipped a teasing cross into the six-yard box with Kovacs latching onto it to nod under the body of Hurst.
Less than a minute later Shaw finished from close range to put the Hatters three points securely on hold. Kovacs switch of possession saw Gray spin off of his marker and race away from the challenge before squaring for Shaw to tap home. An exquisite finish from Shaw with the outside of his boot which saw the ball trickle into the far corner leaving Hurst motionless.
Ten minutes until the half time interval and Barrow really were throwing their bodies in the way to defer a fourth. A deep free-kick found Lawless who nodded into Shaw who saw his header rebuffed into the air by Pearson. Shaw was unable to connect with the ball as it dropped and a scrambled followed with players from both sides scrabbling to connect with the ball on the goal line. The referee brought an end to the madness inside the area as he signalled for a foul in favour of the visitors.
Half time could not come quick enough for Dave Bayliss men as Gray switched on the afterburners to scamper past his marker. A neat flick inside from Gray before surging round the outside of his man and drilling at the near post only to find Hurst preventing him from a magnificent solo effort.
Lawless nearly stole the headlines once again as his first touch control and self tee-up allowed the Welshman to smash a volley towards the inside post. Hurst bounded down to his left to push round the post as he remained Barrow's shining light.
A quiet opening to the second half for both sides cancelling each other out in the middle of the park before a slip from Garry Hunter allowed the ball to break to Shaw. Instantly the front-man picked his head up and pointed Gray to chase his through ball. Speeding away Gray picked the ball up and smashed into the torso of Hurst who deflected the ball away.
The hosts were not made to wait long for their fourth however as Shaw slid in to net his second of the evening on the hour mark. Neilson picked the ball up in an advanced position before sliding it into the feet of the overlapping Taylor. Driving onto the byline, the full back spotted Shaw who had the simplest of tap-ins for his brace.
The former Gateshead hit-man who endured a prolific spell with the Heed then nodded home for his first Town hat-trick on 64 minutes. Taylor again the provider as he swung in a tantalising cross for Shaw to rise highest and head past Hurst for his treble. Donning the headband after his clash with Wolves' Stephen Ward on Saturday the Hatters number nine picked up the ball to salute the Kenilworth Road end before being surrounded by his team-mates.
The chances began to show on a frequent manor and the home side nearly found a sixth as Henry found Neilson inside the area. The Town skipper drilled in a cross to Neilson who's first touch allowed Hurst to dive to his feet and cling on to the ball.
A consolation from the visitors giving the travelling 31 Barrow fans something to cheer about as Adam Boyes slammed home from close range. A deep searching cross found Rowe at the far post who nodded down to the feet of Boyes who gobbled up the chance and beat Tyler at his near post.
A sixth followed from the Hatters as Gray wreaked his rewards for his continuous running as he coolly chipped over the on rushing Hurst to add another strike to the already emphatic scoreline. Substitute Jake Howells slid the ball through the back-line as Gray raced away to net his tenth of the season.
Just under 20 minutes remained when hat-trick hero and man of the match Shaw was replaced by Scott Rendell. A rapturous reception from the home support who sang Shaw's name as he departed from the scene, knowing he would be collecting the ball at the full time whistle to commemorate his achievement. Gray was also replaced as Stuart Fleetwood headed onto the pitch in a new look front-line for the Hatters.
Fleetwood looked to make his mark as the two substitutes linked up well. Rendell rose above the challenge to flick the ball into the path of Fleetwood who scurried away before drilling at the near post but Hurst shouldered the ball for a corner. Howells whipped in the resulting corner aiming for Fleetwood who looped the ball towards the back post. Rendell was jolly on the spot and nodded down into the ground but Hurst rescued Barrow again to keep the scoreline at six.