Luton Town 4 Doncaster Rovers 0: Analysis – Absences only part of the excuse as McCann’s men are thoroughly thumped
One, rather innocuous moment, summed up this clash between two sides desperately looking for a way into the Championship.
John Marquis backpeddalled, anticipating taking on and charging forward with a smart ball by James Coppinger only for Luton Town full back Jack Stacey to race in front of him to intercept.
In short, Luton left nothing to chance while Rovers' approach was driven by hope rather than craft.
The hosts, who seemed destined to add the League One title to the automatic promotion which is surely theirs, showed tremendous work rate to match their undoubted quality.
Rovers showed very little of either on a rare off day which ended in catastrophic defeat.
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Goals from Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Danny Hylton, Kazenga LuaLua and Luke Berry saw Luton through to a comfortable triumph that could easily have been even more so.
That was down to a perfect storm of a day for the Hatters where they delivered a brilliant performance while Rovers were arguably the poorest they have been all season.
Though beating a side on a 25 game run without defeat was always going to be a tough task, the manner of the loss hardly helped Rovers’ on-going attempts to shake themselves out of their winless form.
For 90 minutes they endured their own sloppy passing, which prevented them from mounting any real threat after the opening ten minutes and also invited on the opposition.
It was a horror show that ended their hold on sixth place and one which they must forget quickly if they are to wrestle the spot back.
THE KEY ABSENCES
If Rovers were going to have two players ruled out at the same time, there could hardly have been a worst combination than Ben Whiteman and Herbie Kane.
Arguably the two strongest performers this season, they can both fulfil the deeper lying midfield role which so few of their team mates are adept in.
As they were ruthlessly outplayed by a rampant Luton, the shortcomings without such a key duo were laid bare.
Though Matty Blair and Ali Crawford have both been impressive this term, those two plus Tommy Rowe made up a midfield trio that failed to get any control on the game.
In contract, Luton’s Mpanzu held the midfield battle in the palm of his hands, allowing his team mates to run riot.
The area of the side that has been the driving force behind Rovers’ success this season became the source of their weakness overnight.
Possession play was rushed and panicked, with no fluency and poor movement, ensuring no connection to the front three.
And without the ball they simply lacked the bite and determination to halt Luton’s rampant advances.
In wide areas, they were woefully exposed, particularly when the brilliant Jack Stacey was in possession
It said plenty that 16-year-old debutant Lirak Hasani looked Rovers’ most accomplished and composed midfielder when he came off the bench, showcasing simple passing and a determination to push forward from the sitting position.
While awaiting the returns of Whiteman and Kane, Grant McCann needs to find a solution – and fast.
Hasani may be very young and inexperienced but he did his chances of selection little harm.
A HORROR SHOW
Despite the wide scoreline, Rovers had started the better in a cagey opening and Marquis really ought to have put them ahead after bringing down Aaron Lewis’ good cross.
Yet, while Luton grew into the contest, Rovers did not, leaving them with a mountain to climb when Mpanzu latched onto a backheel from LuaLua and curled a low effort in at the far post from 20 yards.
Well organised and determined, breaking down Luton always looked a tough ask without Rovers’ failings on the ball.
But Luton were in no mood to simply soak up toothless pressure and looked to put the game beyond doubt as soon as possible.
Just 12 minutes into the second half the lead was doubled when Hylton turned in on the line from what appeared to be a shot from Berry.
Elliot Lee rattled the bar with a first time strike while Hylton saw an effort ruled out for offside as Luton continued to push.
Rovers’ attempts to put some doubt on the result were minimal, so they game was over eight minutes from time when LuaLua finished smartly after being played into the box.
And impressive substitute Berry smashed in from the edge of the area to equal Rovers’ worst result of the season and compound the misery.