Macaulay Langstaff hit his first ever EFL hat-trick as we rounded off 2023 with a sensational performance against Morecambe.
The number nine hit all three before the break, adding to a Dan Crowley header against his former club, with Jodi Jones rounding off the scoring early in the second half.
Luke Williams sent out the same side that produced an excellent display in our Boxing Day win over Doncaster.
That meant Aidan Stone was protected by a back three of Kyle Cameron, Aden Baldwin and Richard Brindley, with Jones and Aaron Nemane out wide.
In midfield, John Bostock and Sam Austin provided the base for Crowley and Langstaff to support David McGoldrick, who continued to lead the line.
We assumed early control of the game and there were half-chances for Langstaff from almost-identical Crowley crosses, the forward turning the first one wide on the stretch before, minutes later, being well marshalled by his marker for the second.
But any concerns that it was going to be a frustrating night for the forward were quickly quelled as he scored twice in quick succession to put us well in the ascendancy.
The first came from the penalty spot after Nemane had been pulled back inside the area when chasing a one-two with Crowley. The forward dispatched the ball low into the bottom corner.
And two minutes later Langstaff doubled it up, lashing the ball home from six yards following neat build-up involving McGoldrick, Austin and Jones.
It was proving to be a first half of complete dominance and Crowley soon got in on the act against his former club, scoring yet another header at the back post thanks to an excellent Cameron cross.
Morecambe boss Ged Brannan made a double change on 30 minutes but it did little to slow our flow as Langstaff sealed a first-half hat-trick in sensational style, sweeping a loose ball majestically into the top corner from 20 yards.
McGoldrick sent a snapshot narrowly wide and Jones landed a cross-shot on the roof of Morecambe’s net before the referee called time on a first half in which Morecambe’s only threatening moment came in the form of a deflected cross which came back off Stone’s crossbar.
And, within seconds of the match resuming after the interval, we showed there was to be no let up as Langstaff turned provider this time – robbing Yann Songo’o of the ball and laying it off for Jones, who picked out the bottom corner with his shot from the edge of the area.
McGoldrick saw a goalbound effort blocked inside the area before Williams made a double change, sending Jim O’Brien and Dan Gosling on for Langstaff and Bostock.
And McGoldrick was denied again on 72 minutes after receiving the ball from the marauding Baldwin and dancing his way through on goal. Adam Smith made an excellent save to keep it at five.
Shortly after Austin had been replaced by Tobi Adebayo, Gosling was unable to continue and made way for Lewis Macari in a double switch which also saw Connell Rawlinson replace Brindley.
In the aftermath, Morecambe forward Michael Mellon chased a channel ball and looped it over the onrushing Stone but narrowly wide of his near post.
Our response came from Jones, whose 20-yard piledriver flew comfortably over Smith’s crossbar.
But, after JJ McKiernan curled an effort just wide of the far post, the referee called time on a wonderful night.
STARTING XI: Stone; Cameron, Baldwin, Brindley; Jones, Nemane; Bostock (Gosling 64'), Austin (Adebayo 74'); McGoldrick, Crowley, Langstaff (O'Brien 64')
UNUSED SUBS: Rawlinson, Macari, Mahovo, Sanderson
BOOKINGS: Brindley 17'
ATTENDANCE: 9,786 (179)