Second-placed Hatters took another huge step towards automatic promotion from Sky Bet League Two with a 3-0 win keeping them eight points inside the top on an eventful afternoon at Yeovil Town.
The hosts had two men sent off inside an opening 31 minute period in which the Town were already two goals to the good, as Nathan Jones’ side made it three victories from their last four games by recording a double over his former club after the 8-2 opening day win at Kenilworth Road.
Elliot Lee opened the scoring in the fourth minute with his 11th goal of the season, before Danny Hylton netted twice – including one from the penalty spot after Glovers left-back Ryan Dickson was sent off for dragging the striker back in the box – to take his tally to 21.
Yeovil were depleted further on the half-hour when striker Francois Zoko was dismissed following an off-the-ball incident that left Alan McCormack on the floor.
Ten minutes later Hylton moved clear of James Collins at the top of the Town scoring charts with a near post finish, before being taken off by Jones after picking up a yellow card for celebrating his fourth goal in as many games in front of the home fans.
Hylton's first goal meant that the Hatters have two players scoring 20 goals or more in the same season for the first time in 90 years, when Andy Rennie and Jimmy Yardley achieved the feat in the 1927-28 campaign.
Jones made one change to the starting line-up on his return to his old stomping ground; an enforced one with utility man Glen Rea – who netted the winner against Mansfield on Monday as a substitute – returning to the starting line-up in place of the injured Scott Cuthbert.
The Hatters made a dream start, with Elliot Lee firing them in front with just three minutes on the clock. Dan Potts clipped a ball down the left that Hylton flicked on midway inside the hosts’ half, taking out two defenders to allow Lee to race clear and pick his spot from ten yards as keeper Stuart Nelson came out to close him down.
Town twice came close to doubling the advantage with a flurry of chances, that started with Elliot Lee pouncing on a mistake by Shaun Donnellan to shoot low from the edge of the box.
Nelson beat his shot away, but Donnellan then whacked the ball against his centre-half partner Omar Sowunmi and presented Hylton with a golden chance ten yards out, but Nelson was equal to his effort.
Hylton then went close with a cross-shot from out on the right, and from the corner that came as a result of Nelson’s tip over, Alan McCormack volleyed he ball back into the box for Elliot Lee to head at goal.
Sowunmi got in the way of that one too, this time deliberately to divert it over the bar, but the second goal – and first red card – wasn’t long in coming as Hylton was pulled back by Ryan Dickson as he looked to get on the rebound after Olly Lee’s 20-yard shot was parried back into the area by Nelson.
Referee Malone didn’t appear to have seen the foul, but was alerted to it by his linesman and – after Dickson was dismissed – Hylton did the rest from the spot, placing his 20th-minute penalty firmly inside the post to Nelson’s right for 2-0.
The Town were playing some lovely football, making the extra man count and Jack Stacey was next to have a go, on 23 minutes, but his effort flew high over the bar.
By the 31st minute Yeovil were reduced to ten men, with McCormack going down after an off-the-ball incident with Zoko, with referee Malone – who was speaking to Hylton after giving a free-kick just inside the Yeovil half for a foul on Sowunmi – alerted by his other assistant on this occasion.
Faced with nine men, Glen Rea soon fancied his chances from 35 yards – although his effort was way off target – before Potts crossed from the left and Collins directed a header on target, but straight at Nelson.
The home keeper could do nothing to prevent Hylton getting his second, and the Hatters’ third, when he met Collins’ low cross with a stabbed 40th-minute effort that came back off the post, but straight to the striker to volley back past the keeper from close range.
Malone booked the striker for his celebration in front of the home fans, then spoke to him again back on the halfway line, and Jones soon had Jake Jervis stripped and ready to replace him to prevent any further disciplinary action against the 21-goal top scorer.
The Hatters came out after the break and immediately sent in search of more goals, Jervis hitting a 25-yarder that was flying towards goal when it hit Sowunmi flush in the face.
The Yeovil centre-half was thankfully back on his feet after receiving treatment, but Collins was soon trying his luck again - this effort blocked by Sowunmi before Olly Lee and Rea have further attempts, the latter's flying into the 1,126 travelling fans behind the goal.
Collins almost got in when he flicked the ball over Sowunmi’s head, a la Gazza against Scotland in Euro 96, but Nelson was equal to his half-volley, as he was McCormack’s follow-up from outside the box.
The game was being played at a much slower pace, but the Hatters cut the Yeovil defence apart again in the 66th minute when Potts got to the left byline and stood up a cross that Collins left for Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu at the far post, but the midfielder’s volley was always on the rise.
Yeovil had a rare sight of goal with 20 minutes to go when Stacey was booked for a foul on Jared Bird, although Lewis Wing’s 25-yard free-kick was high and handsome.
The midfielder then had a much better chance with quarter-of-an-hour to go, moments after McCormack had been booked for a foul on Bird, but Shea produced a terrific save to preserve his second league clean sheet, and the team’s 17th in total for the season.
Almost immediately Jones introduced Flynn Downes for McCormack, who left the field to boos from the home crowd while applauding the travelling Hatters on the open terrace behind the goal.
The Hatters had done more than enough to take the points home, and although Collins twice went close to getting on the end of moves in injury-time, the scoreline didn’t really look like being extended with the hosts prepared to sit in and limit the damage.
Another professional job done for Jones’ men ahead of next week’s penultimate home game of the season against Crewe as the finishing line comes into sight!
TOWN: Shea, Stacey, Rea, Sheehan ©, Potts, McCormack (Downes 77), Mpanzu, O Lee, E Lee (Gambin 89), Collins, Hylton (Jervis 45). Subs: Justin, Mullins, Cornick, Stech (GK)
Goals: E Lee 3, Hylton (pen) 20, 40
Yellows: Hylton, Stacey, McCormack
YEOVIL: Nelson, Bird, Wing, Browne (Mugabi 21), Dickson, Zoko ©, Green (Gobern 71), Sowunmi, Fisher (Surridge 55), James, Donnellan. Subs: Khan, Maddison (GK), Barnes, Santos D’abadia
Reds: Dickson, Zoko
REFEREE: Brendan Malone
ATT: 4,316 (1,126 Hatters)