Grimsby Town powered into the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup with a 3-0 demolition of Luton Town on a magical night at Blundell Park.
After the teams drew 2-2 in the initial tie at Kenilworth Road, the Sky Bet Championship promotion-chasers again started as favourites to get past the Mariners in this fourth round replay.
But they had no answer to an inspired display from their hosts, who struck three first-half goals to reach the last 16 of the competition and set up a trip to Premier League Southampton.
Harry Clifton opened the scoring on nine minutes after a pass from Danilo Orsi, then the roles were reversed just before the half-hour when Clifton set up Orsi for Town’s second and Danny Amos made it 3-0 with a free kick deep into stoppage time before the break.
Luton were brighter in the second half but the home side held firm at the back to protect their commanding lead and secure a famous win under the lights in front of a 7,000-plus crowd.
Paul Hurst was again forced into changes with all three of the goalscorers from the Sky Bet League Two victory at Crewe on Saturday – John McAtee, George Lloyd and Tom Dickson-Peters – ineligible, along with Josh Emmanuel.
The Town boss made two alterations to the team that began the initial tie at Kenilworth Road, with Amos and Kieran Green coming in for Anthony Glennon and Alex Hunt.
Max Crocombe started in goal, with Michee Efete moving to the right wing-back position as Luke Waterfall, Niall Maher and Smith formed a back three and Amos kept his place on the left. Bryn Morris and Green sat behind Gavan Holohan and Clifton in midfield, with Orsi leading the line in attack.
The Grimsby substitutes were Glennon, Hunt, Shaun Pearson, Ollie Battersby, Evan Khouri, Edwin Essel and Sean Scannell.
Luton manager Rob Edwards made five changes to his starting XI from the last time the teams met, and six alterations following the Hatters’ 1-0 league win against Stoke City on Saturday. As he had been during the game in Bedfordshire on January 28, striker Elijah Adebayo was expected to be among the main threats, with Cauley Woodrow alongside him this time around.
Former Mariners loanee Bim Pepple was named on the visitors’ bench, which also included teenagers Axel Piesold and Joe Johnson.
Luton won the first corner of the evening on four minutes but Crocombe was not troubled from it as Elliot Thorpe’s delivery was headed wide for a goal kick.
Town’s first opportunity to attack came with a Maher long throw which was held up well by Orsi and led to another throw. This time, Morris battled well near the corner flag but was unable to keep possession.
The deadlock was broken on nine minutes and it was the Mariners who took the lead. Orsi took advantage of a mistake in the away defence to win the ball and take it into the penalty area before looking up and finding CLIFTON, who beat keeper Ethan Horvath.
A long throw from Maher was cleared by Woodrow as the hosts attacked again, before another one found its way through to Horvath.
A spell of Luton possession around the 15-minute mark led to Adebayo heading a left-wing cross back across goal, although nobody in the orange of the visitors was there to apply a finish and the ball was cleared.
An away corner was cleared on 19 minutes but another one followed soon afterwards, with Adebayo heading over the bar this time.
A foul on Luke Berry gave Luton an opportunity to put pressure on the Town goal with a free kick 30 yards out, although Thorpe’s delivery into the box was poor and the ball was cleared from danger.
Crocombe pushed a powerful low cross from Fred Onyadinma away after Amari’i Bell had brought the ball forward down the left, before a foul on Holohan gave Town a free kick in the centre circle and Crocombe’s ball was headed out for a throw-in, which was cleared.
The Mariners were not to be denied for much longer though as they doubled their advantage on 28 minutes. A throw-in from the right was flicked by Clifton into the path of ORSI and he drilled a low finish past Horvath and into the far bottom corner of the net.
Luton’s response came with a low cross from the left which was cleared by Green, before Waterfall was first to a ball into the box from Onyadinma.
Morris was shown the first yellow card of the night after bringing Thorpe down on the edge of the Town box. Louie Watson sent the free kick towards the far post but Efete was first to it and headed clear.
Adebayo had an opportunity to halve the deficit when he met a cross from Thorpe on the right but the striker’s header lacked power and Crocombe got down to stop it and keep the score at 2-0.
Watson was booked for bringing Orsi down from behind near the halfway line and Amos followed him into the referee’s notebook soon afterwards for a foul on Thorpe.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the half and in the first of them, Efete won a corner after Orsi had again done well to hold the ball up on the edge of the penalty area. Amos’ flag-kick lacked height and eventually went out for a goal kick.
A foul on Clifton to the right of the penalty area gave the Mariners another opportunity as the seconds ticked down before half-time and this time, it was a chance they took as AMOS’ inswinging free kick hit the far post and bounced down into the net to make it 3-0.
It had been a dream opening 45 minutes for the men in black and white and as the referee’s whistle blew, the fifth round was coming into view.
Alfie Doughgty and Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu were sent on in place of Watson and Thorpe as Luton made a double-substitution before the restart.
Adebayo won the first corner of the second half two minutes in but Doughty’s flag-kick was cleared by Morris.
A clash of heads between Efete and Holohan led to a brief stoppage before both were passed fit to continue.
Luton had the first good chance of the half when a cross from Doughty was headed towards goal by Woodrow but an instinctive save from Crocombe kept the striker out.
The keeper claimed a comfortable catch from an Adebayo header as the away side continued to look for a way back into the game but as the hour-mark neared, the home side remained in complete control.
Jordan Clark replaced Allan Campbell and Carlton Morris came on for Bell as Luton made a further two changes on 60 minutes and Morris’ first involvement was to hold the ball up for Luke Berry to hit a 20-yard first-time shot which Crocombe got down to stop.
A low cross from Onyadinma was cleared for a corner but the away side were unable to make the flag-kick count as the ball from it was headed clear, before Doughty fired harmlessly over the bar.
Morris was stopped by Waterfall on 63 minutes, then the striker headed straight at Crocombe as Luton continued to toil, with the Mariners looking comfortable in their 3-0 lead.
Hunt came on for Green in Grimsby’s first substitution, before a Doughty free kick from midway inside the home half was caught by Crocombe.
Clark sent a low shot just wide, then a long throw from Maher at the other end was headed on by Smith but the ball was then cleared.
Woodrow side-footed tamely wide on 72 minutes as Luton kept attacking but without showing any serious threat.
Town attacks had been fewer in number since the interval as thy looked to see the game out but they went close to a fourth goal on 74 minutes when a low effort from Morris went just wide of the target.
Woodrow hammered an ambitious volley well over the bar from 25 yards soon afterwards, then Smith was the man to stop another attack after Adebayo had made his way into the box from the left.
A cross from Clark on the left was put behind for a corner by Waterfall and it was eventually headed out for another one, this time on the right. Again though, it did not lead to a chance in front of goal.
Soon afterwards, Hunt played a ball through the middle for Clifton to start a counter-attack and the midfielder made progress towards the edge of the penalty area but the Mariners were unable to turn the position into a goalscoring chance.
Glennon replaced Morris with 10 minutes to go, then Efete was booked after bringing Clark down on the left edge of the Town box. Woodrow’s free kick was poor and his shot bounced off the two-man Town wall to safety.
Ruddock-Mpanzu side-footed wide after a neat move, before a nice moment came as Orsi was substituted with three minutes to go and was able to savour a standing ovation after a superb performance up front. He was replaced by Essel, who was given his own moment to shine after impressing this season for Town’s youth team and on loan at Grimsby Borough.
Gabriel Osho was shown the yellow card after dragging Glennon down as the game moved into three added minutes.
And the hosts comfortably saw out the remainder of the contest to seal a clean sheet, a brilliant victory and a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup.
They will now look forward to heading down to Southampton on Wednesday, March 1 but before that, attention turns back to the league programme and Saturday’s home game against Colchester United.