Kenilworth Road was rocking once more this afternoon after an outstanding team performance meant Plymouth Argyle fell victim to the Hatters’ ruthless home form.
James Collins was on hand to score his second hat-trick for the club, with James Justin and Elliot Lee getting on the scoresheet in a match where any man in a Luton shirt could have won man of the match.
The Hatters had no mercy for the Pilgrims, who were 3-0 down after half-an-hour. Memories of last season’s wonder wins over Yeovil, Stevenage and Cambridge came flooding back as the Town played some super football that more than entertained the sell-out crowd, a year to the day since that latter 7-0 victory, when the Town were also 4-0 up at the break.
Manager Nathan Jones named an unchanged starting XI from the side who beat Wycombe Wanderers at Kenilworth Road last weekend, although Dan Potts was back from injury and replaced Lloyd Jones on the bench.
Plymouth announced one change in the side from last Saturday’s narrow victory over Stevenage, with Ashley Smith-Brown taking the spot of Conor Grant, who missed out through injury.
It took the Hatters just four minutes to find an opening in the Plymouth defence when Glen Rea found Lee on the edge of the box, who hit it firmly, but too high on this occasion.
Only two minutes later the Town had two corners in quick succession, with Matty Pearson rising highest to send a thumping header just wide of the far post.
It was a sign of what was to come as the Hatters asserted their dominance over a side who are at the opposite end of the League One table, in 22nd place, but who had won three of their last four matches, including last week’s FA Cup victory.
It was in the 12th minute that Collins set the tone of the half and opened the floodgates. Justin and Lee combined nicely down the wing with a neat one-two around the static Argyle defence, and the latter’s pass into the area was met nicely by Collins, who managed to flick it past former Hatters loanee Matt Macey into the far bottom corner.
Rea picked out some lovely passes in the air from the middle of the park, the engine that powered the Hatters in the heart of the side who played some outstanding stuff.
Harry Cornick, also on fire, strolled around the green and white shirts until he was eventually stopped just in front of goal in the 18th minute.
Goal number two arrived not long after when a brilliant Stacey pass released Cornick, who put his effort across Macey, who parried into the path of Lee. The number 10 tapped it home comfortably, even though Macey got a hand to it on the goal-line.
More was to follow in the form of an onslaught from the team in orange, who made it three in the 29th minute. A fine Andrew Shinnie pass released Cornick, who took it – rapid as ever – to the byline, cleverly cutting back to Justin who was waiting. His first touch just about took it away from the defender, giving himself enough time to find the bottom corner.
Lee also had time to dance his way through the Plymouth defence on multiple occasions, dominating the area in front of the Plymouth box. The ex-Barnsley man won a corner in the process, resulting in another missed chance when the ball came to him on the edge of the area, but he placed his effort wide of the post.
It was four on the stroke of half time when Justin was tripped after the ball left his feet. The advantage was played until the ball reached Macey’s gloves. Although the Pilgrims protested, Collins was on hand to punish them, calmly putting it into the top right corner to claim his second of the match.
The second half began slowly as Plymouth tried to come to terms with what had happened in the first 45. Argyle may have played some better football but the Hatters controlled proceedings from start to finish.
The first real chance of the half came in the 58th minute when Bradley rose highest, latching onto JJ’s corner, only to have his effort tipped over the bar.
Shea was called into action for the first time in the 62nd minute when Smith-Brown found Taylor in acres of space, but his effort was palmed away by the ex-Wimbledon man as Plymouth still struggled to show the attacking prowess of last season.
Jones’ side were magnificent again throughout the second period, spurning numerous chances as the Pilgrims dug deep to only allow one more effort in their net.
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Lee and Justin combined for Lee to produce an exquisite pass to release Collins, who timed his run perfectly. The striker took his time and blasted it past Macey to put the game further out of reach.
The introduction of Kazenga LuaLua and Jorge Grant proved to be influential too, Grant threading Collins through once more, who cleverly pulled it back for Mpanzu, but his effort was thrashed towards the Kenilworth Road end, that may well have broken the net if Macey wasn’t alert to tip it over the bar.
The traveling Plymouth fans did have something to cheer about however, as Joel Grant converted an impressive effort from outside the box that left Shea rooted to the spot, nestling nicely in the top right corner with a minute of normal time remaining.
But nothing was to spoil the party atmosphere at Kenilworth Road, with the Hatters recording a hugely deserved sixth win in their last eight league games to cement fifth place and give themselves a four-point buffer over the play-off chasing clubs.
Substitute Aaron Jarvis even headed just wide in stoppage time, although it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. A mix of fine football and another win at home, extending the unbeaten run at the Kenny to 16 matches, ensured that the Hatters will go into next week’s match away at struggling Gillingham full of confidence.
Town: Shea, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley, Justin, Rea (c), Mpanzu, Shinnie (Grant 80), Lee, Cornick (LuaLua 80), Collins (Jarvis 84). Subs: Stech, Potts, McCormack, Sheehan.
Goals: Collins 12, (pen) 45+1, 77, Lee 23, Justin 29
Argyle: Macey, Moore, Songo’o, Canavan, C Grant, Ness (Taylor 35), Fox (c), Sarcevic, Carey (Lameiras 78), J Grant, Ladapo (O’Keefe 46). Subs: Letheren, Wylde, P Grant, Law.
Yellows: Stuart O’Keefe, Graham Carey
Goals: Joel Grant
REFEREE: Darren England
ATT: 10,004 (871 away)