Woeful Hatters suffer Spireites defeat
League Two: Chesterfield 2 Luton Town 0
Luton Town fell to their third successive away defeat in all competitions, after a thoroughly inept performance at struggling Chesterfield this afternoon.
If the Hatters needed a stark reminder that promotion isn't a foregone conclusion yet this season, then they certainly got that with a display to forget against a side struggling at the wrong end of the table.
The hosts had not won in six matches to slip into the relegation zone, but were just too good for Luton on the day, as the Hatters produced a second half display not seen this term, looking anything but a table-topping side as they barely laid a glove on their hosts.
Trailing 2-0 it took until the latter stages to even get close to Aaron Ramsdale's goal, and when they did, the on-loan Bournemouth keeper was never seriously tested, the hosts picking up only their second clean sheet since mid-November.
All the talk before kick off was surrounding the absence of leading scorer Danny Hylton from the starting line-up, with news filtering through of a tight hamstring for the striker, who was at the Proact Stadium in a watching brief.
That meant Elliot Lee came in, while young centre half Akin Famewo made his first league start since September 2016, Glen Rea pushed up into the holding midfield role in place of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu.
After the hosts made a bright start, snapping into their tackles, Luton created the best chance on 15 minutes, James Collins spying Andrew Shinnie's run into the area, his low left-footed shot from a tight angle saved by Ramsdale.
The hosts then went ahead on 19 minutes, Luton cut open on their left hand side and Robbie Weir's low cross emphatically swept home first time by Joe Rowley, ending his side's run of four matches without a goal.
Chris O'Grady swivelled to shoot wide, while referee Carl Boyeson then opted to take centre stage, not giving a clear free kick on Elliot Lee when he was blatantly shoulder charged over by Sid Nelson as the ball ran out for a goal kick.
Then when possession was transferred up the other end, Zavon Hines went past Justin before appearing to just fling himself over en route to the area, with Boyeson whistling instantly for the spotkick.
It was despatched with ease by Jak McCourt to give Luton an uphill battle after just 25 minutes.
Visiting boss Nathan Jones acted quickly, withdrawing an unhappy Olly Lee for Harry Cornick, as Marek Stech saved McCourt's attempt from far further out this time.
With 34 minutes gone, Town had a great chance to get back in it, Elliot Lee doing superbly to wriggle free, putting the chance on a plate for Andrew Shinnie, who skied over from close range.
The midfielder set off on another purposeful run, before shooting weakly at Ramsdale from 20 yards, while Town screamed for a handball on the edge of the box, official Boyeson waving the appeals away.
Although managing to give Premier League Newcastle a real scare from 3-0 behind at half time last week, there were no immediate signs of a repeat this time, Stech needing to parry Louis Reed's snapshot from 25 yards.
Town then offered literally nothing in terms of an attacking sense for the next half hour, not remotely resembling a side who had hammered Swindon Town 5-0 on their travels just a few weeks ago on Boxing Day, in what was easily their worst half of the season.
Glen Rea's header from a Luke Berry free kick skimmed wide with 12 minutes to go, while Johnny Mullins dispossessed O'Grady and crossed for Lee to loop a header that Ramsdale gathered.
Jones threw on Jordan Cook and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu with 10 to go, the former at least testing Ramsdale, who pushed his 25-yarder behind, while in stoppage time, Cornick summed the afternoon up, shanking rashly over.
It was then a case of seeing how much damage had been done to Town's lead at the summit, and the answer was thankfully not too much, nearest rivals Notts County cutting the gap to three after holding Lincoln to a 2-2 draw, with Wycombe, in fourth, now eight behind after defeat Colchester.
Spireites: Aaron Ramsdale, Drew Talbot, Sid Nelson, Laurence Maguire, Robbie Weir (C), Louis Reed, Jak McCourt (Conor Dimaio 90), Josh Kay, Zavon Hines (Jerome Binnon-Williams 82), Chris O'Grady, Joe Rowley.
Subs not used: Dylan Parkin, Diego De Girolamo, Andy Kellett, Ify Ofoegbu, Charlie Wakefield.
Hatters: Marek Stech, Jack Justin, Dan Potts, Johnny Mullins (C), Akin Fameow, Glen Rea, Luke Berry, Olly Lee (Harry Cornick 29), Andrew Shinnie (Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu 84), Elliot Lee, James Collins (Jordan Cook 84).
Subs not used: James Shea, Jack Stacey, Lawson D'Ath, Jack Senior.
Booked: Kay 17, Maguire 35, Elliot Lee 87.
Referee: Carl Boyeson.
Attendance: 5,715 (1,244 Luton).