Alfreton Town lost their third successive game when they succumbed to three goals in a lethal four-minute spell against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road on Saturday.
Having been eliminated from the FA Trophy by Kidderminster Harriers and the FA Cup by Leyton Orient in the previous two outings, manager Nicky Law made three changes to face Luton Town in a game that was to be the exact reversal of their earlier League meeting at the Impact Arena, which the Reds had won 3-0.
Out went Theo Streete, Ross Killock and Daniel Meadows with Adam Quinn, Leigh Franks and Matty Harriott all recalled, but Luton piled on the pressure early in the game and almost incessantly after the break with Alfreton only enjoying possession in the latter stages of the first half.
It was a superb save by Jon Stewart that prevented the Hatters from taking a sixth minute lead, Scott Rendell’s volley from a Jake Howells free-kick seemingly destined for the top corner of the net until the keeper stretched and parried. Andre Gray ran the loose ball into the side-netting.
Two minutes later, the scene was set as Gray whipped a wicked cross through the goalmouth, where both Rendell and JJ O’Donnell tried but failed to make the slightest of contact that would surely have yielded the first goal.
Gray then played Lathaniel Rowe-Turner to the by-line but a timely tackle by Quinn saved the day for the Reds, and it was only when Alfreton eventually pushed forward in the 19th minute that they gained their first corner and at last some forward momentum.
A minute later, Nathan Arnold’s flick through enabled Paul Clayton to run at goal before drawing a good save from Luton keeper Mark Tyler, but nine minutes later the home side pressed again and Stewart had to save Rendell’s header at the back post before Darran Kempson cleared the danger.
Arnold’s extravagant volley was only just off target from wide left on 33 minutes, then eight minutes later as Alfreton gained confidence it needed two important stops by Tyler to prevent the Reds nicking an interval lead.
First of all Josh Law’s free-kick was heading for goal when Tyler appeared late on the scene to turn it behind at full stretch, then from the resultant corner Franks’ header was again parried by the home keeper.
Law was inches off target with a further free-kick that again beat the defensive wall, but the half ended with Stewart needing to save again from Rendell after Gray’s shot had looped up menacingly off Kempson.
Alfreton were still in contention until three goals between the 53rd and 57th minutes put paid to their aspirations, a byline cross from Alex Lawless opening the floodgates as O’Donnell swept the ball past Stewart from close range.
Three minutes later, after Franks had excelled in intercepting a Gray shot, the ensuing corner allowed Jonathan Smith to score from eight yards with a diving header.
Then almost straight from Alfreton’s restart, Luton skipper Ronnie Henry embarked on a run down the right before setting up Gray with a volley from ten yards and this Blue Square Bet Premier encounter was effectively over.
Another Stewart save prevented Lawless from scoring a fourth on 77 minutes, then Stewart was committed to an attempted clearance before spotting O’Donnell goal side of him, but the Luton striker failed to capitalise.
Harriott’s low drive from the Reds’ only second half corner was comfortably saved by Tyler six minutes from time, then at the other end Jon Shaw – the scourge of Alfreton when he was a prolific scorer with Gateshead – failed to make contact with Stuart Fleetwood’s cross.
One further point of interest was that unfortunately some of the game may well have been captured for posterity in a documentary that was being filmed about the legendary Eric Morecambe - a Luton Town fanatic - and presented by comedienne Miranda Hart.
ALFRETON: Stewart; Law, Quinn, Kempson, Franklin, Franks [Killock 71], Harriott, Bradley [Meadows 82], Arnold, Clayton [Denton 71], Tomlinson. other subs: Brown, Streete.
Att: 5648 [inc. 58 from Alfreton]