Guttridge 29, Gray 51, Benson 85
Alfreton Town 0
The Hatters made it 13 wins on the spin in Skrill Premier at Kenilworth Road with a hard-fought victory over Play-Off chasing Alfreton.
After being frustrated for almost half-an-hour against a visiting team intent on wasting time and defending for their lives, the Town broke the deadlock thanks to another goal from Luke Guttridge – his 13th goal of the season on 29 minutes.
That meant the visitors had to come out and attack and that mean the Town had time and space to exploit and two goals in the second half – strikers from Andre Gray and Paul Benson – secured yet another win and make it an incredible 25 matches unbeaten.
The first half saw Alfreton, who began the day in fourth place, work hard to deny the Town the opportunity to play the high-tempo game and it wasn’t until Guttridge’s goal that the Hatters threatened the visitors’ goal. Gray moved out to the left to hang up a high ball that was half-cleared to Guttridge. His first shot was bravely blocked but the ball kindly fell back into his path and his thundered a low shot home via the aid of a deflection. It was his 13th goal of the season and his 11th at Kenilworth Road.
Ahead, the Hatters could now exploit the space created by Alfreton’s need for an equaliser. Pelly Ruddock’s rampaging run into the box almost teed up a chance before Benson’s solo effort a minute later, 10 minutes before half-time, was blocked.
Alfreton knew they needed to attack in a bid for an equaliser and Tom Shaw volleyed straight at Mark Tyler on 38 minutes but a minute before the break a fine Town move resulted in Gray whacking a shot high over the crossbar.
Having upped the tempo now in front the Town started the second half with gusto: Gray burning through the gears causing Alfreton all kinds of problems to win a corner that saw Fraser Franks’ header cleared off the line by Josh Law.
Still the Hatters probed and probed. A Guttridge free-kick was deflected behind for another corner by Andrai Jones on 51 minutes but 60 seconds later it was another Andre who made it 2-0. Alfreton faffed around attempting to clear their lines, enabling Ruddock to hoist a ball back into the box. Jones’ hesitation allowed Scott Griffiths to steal in he stabbed a ball across goal into the path of Gray and he tapped home the easiest of taps in from two yards. It was his 25th goal of the season.
Two goals to the good the Town were almost pegged back immediately. Shaun Harrad’s firm low effort was parried well by Tyler before the Hatters’ number one tipped over a goal-bound header from Dan Bradley on the hour.
That near miss spurred the Hatters on again. Gray saw a shot blocked from the edge of the box three minutes later before Benson’s near-post thunderbolt was well beaten out by Jon Worsnop in the visiting goal.
However, there was concern for the Town with 20 minutes to spare when Guttridge was stretchered off with a foot injury.
That didn’t deter the Hatters from hunting a third goal. Gray came mighty close to doing so on 73 minutes when bursting clear and rounding the goalkeeper but his shot from a narrow angle hit the post.
Ruddock’s shot whistled wide on 79 minutes before the Town did make it 3-0 with five minutes to go. Worsnop’s kick struck his own defender allowing Jake Howells to drive at goal and his unselfish square pass found Benson and his first-time touch looped past the keeper for his 16th goal of the campaign.
As the game entered five additional minutes, an acrobatic stop from Worsnop denied a curling effort from Howells from the edge of the box from finding the top corner and that was that as the Town won again to keep up their advantage at the top.
TOWN: Tyler; Henry, Griffiths, McNulty, Franks; McGeehan (sub Robinson 65), Ruddock, Guttridge (sub Lawless 70); Howells, Gray, Benson (sub Shaw 88). Subs not used: Charles, Justham.
ATTENDANCE: 8,412, including 79 from Alfreton.