Gray 16, 56, 78, Guttridge 51
McNulty (og) 45
A hat-trick from Andre Gray inspired the Hatters to victory over bottom-of-the-table Hyde.
The striker’s first goal arrived on 16 minutes before he struck twice in the second half either side of Luke Guttridge’s close range effort.
Hyde, winless and with just two points all season, shocked Kenilworth Road by equalising on the stroke of half-time when Steve McNulty headed past Mark Tyler.
But the Town responded well after the break and Gray supplied Guttridge with his sixth goal of the season to restore the lead six minutes after the restart.
Gray hit his second four minutes later to make it 3-1 before he completed the hat-trick with 12 minutes to take his tally to five goals in three games.
It all began with home supporters behind both goals, with the Oak Road end open completely open to Hatters supporters – and those fans were almost treated to a goal inside the first minute when Andy Parry’s low shot was blocked.
However, they didn’t have to wait long for the first goal when, on 16 minutes, Gray scored his first of the afternoon. Scott Griffiths did well down the left to curl in a cross which Gray took down brilliantly and slammed home a low shot past visiting goalkeeper David Carnell, despite being manhandled in the box by a posse of Hyde defenders.
Hyde, to their credit, responded well. Louis Almond, who scored an excellent goal in the corresponding fixture last season, saw a shot blocked well by Alex Lacey on 21 minutes before Tyler was called into action three minutes later when Tom Collins’ cross was parried away and Josh Brizell’s piledriver was pawed away by the Town keeper.
Back came the Town. McNulty headed over Guttridge’s set-piece on 27 minutes before the centre-half came to Parry’s rescue at the other end when the midfielder’s back-pass set Hyde through on goal.
Hyde were enjoying a good spell and ended the first half on top. And, just when it looked as though the Town would get to half-time in front, the Tigers levelled. Brizell’s high ball into the box caused uncertainty in the Hatters backline and, under pressure to make a clearance, McNulty sent a header back past Tyler leaving Kenilworth Road in stunned silence as Hyde and their 30 fans celebrated.
Frustrated at being pegged back so late in the first period, the Town came out with purpose after the restart and just needed six minutes to retake the lead. This time Gray was the provider, breaking through the Hyde defence to square for Guttridge to roll home from six yards for his sixth goal of the season.
Four minutes later it was 3-1 when Gray notched his second in thunderous fashion. Tyler’s long ball down-field was nodded on by Paul Benson and Gray took one touch before blasting a left-foot shot into the top corner leaving Carnell with no chance.
Now the Hatters sensed blood, and on 57 minutes it was almost 4-1 when Lacey’s header from a Guttridge corner was smothered by Carnell.
Benson and Gray continued to link-up well and the latter’s running in behind the visitors’ defence led to Hyde being reduced to 10 men with 22 minutes to play when centre-half Luke Ashworth was red-carded for hauling back Gray with just Carnell to beat.
By now the Hatters were playing keep-ball, looking to pick off Hyde at will, and Gray collected his matchball on 78 minutes. Lacey headed back across goal following a right-wing corner and Gray was on hand to powerfully shoot home from eight yards to take his tally to six for the season and five in three games to seal a comfortable victory.
Town: Tyler; Henry, Griffiths, McNulty, Lacey; Smith, Parry (sub Robinson 82), Lawless (sub Cullen 87), Guttridge (sub Whalley 74); Benson, Gray. Subs not used: Justham, Charles.
Attendance: 7,081 (including 30 from Hyde).