The Hatters added another important three points to their tally this afternoon with Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Danny Hylton, Kazenga LuaLua and Luke Berry on target in a scintillating 4-0 win over play-off hopefuls Doncaster.
The Town guaranteed a play-off place at worst for themselves, now able to finish no lower than sixth, and proved exactly why they’re top of the league this afternoon with some outstanding play to remain unbeaten at Kenilworth Road since Accrington won here over a year ago.
The win means Mick Harford’s team remain top of Sky Bet League One, five points clear of Barnsley and one result away from equalling John Still’s Conference-winning side’s club record unbeaten run of 27 matches, having broken the club’s Football League record with last month’s win at Fleetwood.
The Hatters were excellent from start to finish today, with an impressive 29 shots at goal to more than justify exactly why the club are currently on the longest unbeaten run in the country.
With James Collins away on international duty, LuaLua joined Hylton up top. James Justin also began the match further up the pitch in midfield, handing Dan Potts his first league start since October.
Stacey and Hylton linked up well in the opening exchanges, the latter winning a free-kick and quickly finding the full-back in space on the wing. His cross-come-shot floated just over, clipping the top of the bar on its way.
Rovers’ first shot came from some neat play between Aaron Lewis and Mallik Wilks. Some slick footwork from Wilks allowed him time to skip past the Luton defence and plant a tame effort into the arms of Shea at his near post.
Kenilworth Road witnessed some delightful trickery from LuaLua a minute later, something they’ve become accustomed to over the course of this season. The forward won a free-kick in the process after cleverly turning Lewis.
Justin’s inswinging free-kick won the first corner of the match where Pearson glanced his header wide, just about clipping a touch on to the ball, but nowhere near hard enough to force it towards the net.
Another strongly hit corner from Justin found its way onto Potts’ head, but the ball fell well wide of the target once more.
Unfortunately this was to be the only impact the defender made on the match, picking up a knee injury as ha landed after an aerial challenge. Visibly upset, the full-back trudged down the tunnel and was replaced by Berry.
The Town began to get a hold of the match mid-way through the first half and made it difficult for Rovers, the substitute Berry with a tantalising touch to pluck the ball out of the sky and thread it just out of reach for Pearson who was looking to snatch a goal on the loose ball.
The visitor’s showcased some good football at times in the first half, proving their worth at the right end of the table, but couldn’t stop the Hatters ruthless flow to the match. Marquis did have a small chance after bringing it down well but couldn’t flick a shot away from Shea who collected well.
Justin had been delivering some wonderful corners throughout the first half, Berry was involved again when he got away from his marker in the box and headed the cross into the gloves of Marosi who had been the busier of the two keepers so far.
The Hatters were playing some cutting-edge football by this point, setting the tone for what was to follow in the second half. Andrew Shinnie with a backheel into the path of Lee, who hit well over, and LuaLua turned both of the centre-halves and unleashed a powerful strike to sting the palms of Marosi, but Hylton’s follow-up wouldn’t go in either as the Hatters closed in on an opener.
That opener did come moments later though. Pressing high up the pitch, Mpanzu won the ball outside Rovers’ penalty area and coolly side footed his shot into the bottom right corner from 25 yards.
The midfielder, who has been shortlisted for the EFL goal of the season award for his effort against Crewe last term, added another fine strike to his list of Luton goals on the eve of his 200th match for the Hatters.
LuaLua continued to press high up the pitch for the remainder of the half, causing the Doncaster defence problems. The forward’s presence up top forced the side into errors, even taking one to the face to keep the ball in play and in the danger area.
Hylton almost grabbed a second on the stroke of half-time on two occasions, the first after a well-worked free-kick routine made its way out to Lee on the left side of the pitch. A pin-point cross just alluded the forward who ended up in a heap in the net after narrowly missing the ball.
The second, a half hit and hope from the right side of the penalty area which fizzed wide of the goal. The Hatters could well have scored more, creating ample chances to be out of side as the referee brought an end to the first period.
The second half began very much like the first, the Hatters keeping hold of the ball from kick-off, patiently waiting for their chance. This time another great cross landed onto the head of Hylton. The home fans thought it was there, but it fell the wrong side of the post.
Sonny Bradley popped up with some last ditch defending when Marquis got the wrong side of Pearson, the centre-half calmly getting his foot to he ball and away from the striker who was looking to capitalise on a rare mistake from the home side.
The Hatters had their second just over ten minutes after the restart and what a goal it was. Stacey collected the ball in the middle of the pitch and darted forward, driving the ball into the Rovers half.
A quick turn and a burst of pace from the young full back took three defenders out of the game. The run was matched with lovely pass which fell to the feet of Berry, whose shot was diverted past a defender on the line by Hylton, netting for the third home match in a row and registering his eighth of the season.
Elliot Lee had a few tricks of his own a few minutes later when he backheeled the ball into the path of Shinnie, who had Marosi flapping the ball out for a corner. Justin sent in another top-notch pass which nearly gifted Bradley his first goal in a Town shirt, with a thumping header just past the upright.
The onslaught continued, the Hatters not allowing Rovers any chance to re-group, covering every blade of grass, pressing high and forcing Donny back into their own half. Stacey managed to get forward again, this time he cut inside and hit a great effort over.
Lee was denied by the crossbar when LuaLua out-smarted the Rovers defence once more, pulling the ball back to the edge of the area, where Lee was waiting to rattle the bar with a thunderous strike which should have made it 3-0.
Hylton had it in the net again on 70 minutes, a simple tap in on the goal line but had his celebrations cut short and the goal chalked off when he was judged offside. Lee also forced another top save from Marosi, the ball heading for the top corner, bumping over the bar on its way down off the shot stopper’s gloves. The Hatters were quite literally queuing up at this point.
Bradley made another important tackle with 15 minutes left to send the ball wide for a corner. Some good defending from Pearson then had Hylton racing down the line, taking it well past Coppinger and drilling his effort into the legs of Marosi.
Man of the match LuaLua netted the Town’s third seven minutes from time. Stacey again putting the defenders on the back foot with another decisive run towards the Rovers box. The 22-year-old was brilliant all afternoon, this time his pass set the striker up for the goal he deserved, bending the ball past Marosi who got a touch but couldn’t keep it out.
The triple somersault celebration more than matched the mood around Kenilworth Road as the home fans lapped it up.
The performance was topped off with a classic belter from Berry, who added a fourth in stoppage time, pouncing on a misplaced pass by Lirak Hasani. The midfielder brought the ball forward and hit a solid effort into the top left corner from outside the box, rubbing salt into the wounds.
TOWN: Shea, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley ©, Potts (Berry 22), Mpanzu, Shinnie, Justin, Lee, Hylton (Cornick 79), LuaLua (Cummings 87). Subs: Moncur, Thorne, Sheehan, Isted
Goals: Mpanzu 33, Hylton 57, LuaLua 82, Berry 90+2
ROVERS: Marosi, Andrew, Butler, Wilks (Smith 63), Marquis, Rowe © (Sadlier 63), Crawford, Blair, Coppinger, Downing, Lewis (Hasani 72). Subs: Jones, Anderson, Beestin, May.
Yellows: Lewis, Blair, Coppinger
REFEREE: John Busby
ATT: 10,071 (544 away)