Alfreton Town found themselves four goals adrift by the 18th minute at the Impact Arena on Saturday after Luton Town had given their hosts a clinical lesson in finishing with a mesmerising spell of slick football.
And it was only when manager Nicky Law had chance to change the formation in the 21st minute that the Reds were able to stem the flow of goals, with club skipper Darran Kempson stepping in to bolster central defence at the expense of midfielder Alastair Taylor.
Injuries to Josh Law and Dan Bradley had already disrupted midfield options, there was still no recovery by key defender Nick Fenton and the influential Lathaniel Rowe-Turner was unable to play as he is on loan from Luton Town.
Job Ayo Akinde was able to resume up front after missing the F.A.Trophy tie against Nuneaton Town, which meant a place on the bench for on-loan striker Jonathan Hooper, while Danny Wishart’s recovery allowed him to play a part later in the gam
Alfreton had started brightly with Taylor heading over from Daniel Meadows’ first minute cross, but Luton’s immediate response saw Andre Gray hook over from eight yards from a Paul Benson pass.
With five minutes elapsed Ronnie Henry headed over from an Alex Lawless cross and then Luke Guttridge fired wide from a Gray delivery, but Alfreton appeared to be unruffled at that stage and Paul Clayton turned neatly before going close from Tom Shaw’s tee-up.
However a 30 yard pass from Guttridge led to the opening goal in the tenth minute, allowing Gray to whip the ball past Reds’ keeper Ross Atkins from the edge of the area, then three minutes later another Guttridge pass put Benson through to fire home from six yards.
Benson then turned provider for Gray to score Luton’s third goal in the 14th minute from close range and the early scoring rout concluded with Guttridge squeezing the ball home from the tightest of angles after being sent to the by-line by Gray.
John McGrath had managed to scuff a shot wide from the edge of the area after Akinde had laid back a Taylor cross just seconds before the fourth goal, but a combination of the Reds’ new formation and Luton taking their foot off the pedal allowed the remainder of the game to be more evenly contest.
Taylor fired over from eight yards moments before being substituted, Clayton screwed his shot behind from an unlikely angle, Daniel Meadows’ shot was stifled from a Bradley Wood cross and Kempson’s header from a deep McGrath free-kick went as close as its predecessors as Alfreton tried to reduce the huge deficit.
Atkins held a 29th minute Gray header and Alex Lawless headed wide from a Henry cross as Alfreton were reminded of their improbable task, but the first half concluded with Akinde’s driven cross wasted after a promising run down the left.
A neat Alfreton move six minutes into the second half, which had involved Michael Wylde, John McGrath and Connor Franklin in the build-up, ended with Wood’s deep cross being headed marginally wide by Akinde.
Wood was in action at both ends around the 55th minute mark, having to scamper back to halt Gray’s progress from a swift break after seeing his shot from McGrath’s free-kick blocked by Joe Davis, which had led to the Reds’ first corner of the game.
Sammy Akinde replaced Clayton on 60 minutes to partner his brother up front, and almost succeeded with his first touch when his driven by-line cross was held by Hatters’ keeper Mark Tyler.
Kempson then needed to block after Davis had cut in from the left and Meadows fired over from distance as play swung rapidly from end to end, then the fifth goal arrived in the 67th minute when Gray played Lawless through to slot home from 12 yards after a Shaw error.
Guttridge headed Steve McNulty’s cross over from five yards in the 68th minute and Gray fired wide from 25 yards after Guttridge had teed up an 85th minute free-kick, but a difficult afternoon for Alfreton concluded with Job Ayo Akinde’s shot being blocked by Davis following good approach work from Franklin.
ALFRETON: Atkins; Wood, Wylde, Westwood, Franklin, McGrath, Taylor (Kempson 21), Shaw (Wishart 72), Meadows, Clayton (S.Akinde 60), J.Akinde.
Subs not used: Hooper. Att: 1,279 (649).