UTTOXETER Town returned to action after five weeks without a match as they made the short trip up the A50 to Florence.
The visitors started 2014 at the summit of the Staffordshire County Premier League and other than the suspended James Curley and long-term injury victim James McCarron, they went to the Potteries with a fully fit squad, strengthened further by the addition of new signing Mark Hodson from Cheadle Town.
Mark Grimley and Andy O’Connor made only one change from the side which started against Ball Haye Green in early December, Matty Redshaw replacing the unavailable Curley.
The early signs were that the long lay-off had not affected Town as they enjoyed an excellent 15-minute spell at the start of the game.
The movement of the midfield and attack was simply too good for their counterparts and it was a fine move which brought about the first golden opportunity on 13 minutes.
Kyle Esplin, Liam Sowter and Jack Holley combined well on the left before Sowter rolled the ball into Martin Gadsby 20 yards out.
The skipper clipped the ball into the path of Redshaw inside the box and with the goal at his mercy the diminutive frontman was brought down.
The referee pointed to the spot but the hosts were spared by Holley’s errant spot kick which flew wide.
When Sowter thundered an effort against the bar moments later, Town became frustrated in their approach play and Florence enjoyed their best spell of the game.
Despite the improvement from the hosts, keeper Langridge was rarely troubled and another fine move broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark.
Alex Woods rolled a quick free kick into the tireless Tommy Smith, who in turn gave the ball to Esplin in space 30 yards out.
After striding forward a few paces the playmaker unleashed an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net to give the visitors the advantage.
The lead was doubled before the break when Chris Richards advanced down the left before crossing low for defender Nick Ward to poke home his sixth goal since arriving from Kidsgrove in November.
The second half was similar to the first, with Town completely dominant in terms of possession, but it took the introduction of Rob Collins and Glyn Douglas to act as the catalyst for Town to extend their lead.
Smith latched on to Gadsby’s through ball and played in debutant Hodson, who in turn gave Collins room to cross from the left of the area and the full back’s cross was met by a towering Esplin header, converted at the second attempt after a fine save from the Florence keeper.
The game was over as a contest and had Gadsby and Sowter had more luck when two booming efforts ricocheted off the bar then the game may have been further out of sight.
As it was, Langridge was called into action three times to deny the hosts with three pieces of fine goalkeeping.
Gadsby also had to be on hand to clear off the goal line after Langridge had finally been beaten.
There was time for Esplin to complete an excellent hat-trick when Gadsby and Collins combined to cross from the left and the midfielder made no mistake lashing home the loose ball after Hodson had missed the initial effort.
Town extended their lead at the top of the league to four points with the victory and they turn their attention to the Leek Cup on Wednesday, where they face Stapenhill reserves at Edge Hill, kick-off 7.45pm, before hosting Leek Town at Oldfields on Saturday, kick-off 2pm.
INFINITY IT MAN OF THE MATCH: Kyle Esplin – a fine hat-trick.
TOWN: Langridge, Woods, Ward, Bagley, Richards (Collins 57), Sowter, Gadsby, Esplin, Holley (Douglas 67), Smith, Redshaw (Hodson 71).