A number of Luton fans chose to stay in the pub on hearing the experimental Hatters’ line-up for this game. However they missed a spirited second half comeback as Hitchin and Luton shared four goals in this first pre-season friendly.
Despite recent departures, the Canaries began with a strong line-up which featured Connor Roberts from Frome as part of a back three with Dan Webb and Josh Bickerstaff. The visitors’ side surprisingly contained a number of trialists and boasted very few first team appearances.
On a beautiful sunny evening, Michael Johnson was the first keeper to be tested as Luton Trialist 7 forced a save. Hitchin looked dangerous with Lucas Kirkpatrick energetic in central midfield and Jay Dowie covering plenty of ground on the right flank. Early season fitness was again good thanks to David Bass’ coaching although set pieces looked a bit rusty as a Callum Donnelly cross was cleared and Ben Walster’s effort struck the Luton wall.
Dowie fired wide after advancing into the Luton box but the Canaries’ first pre-season goal did arrive on 20 minutes. A delicate pass from Brett Donnelly put Liam Brooks ahead of the defence and he coolly ran on to tuck the ball past the trialist keeper.
Luton posed questions in attack as Trialist 10 and Connor Tomlinson tried to set up tall front man Michael Shamalo. The striker skipped past Webb to get in a shot but it lacked power and was easy for Johnson to gather.
However Hitchin extended their lead on 34 minutes when Kirkpatrick, some 25 yards out and in front of goal, let fly. The effort went just inside the post, beating the despairing keeper’s right hand.
Luton again put on pressure just before the break but the Canaries went in with a comfortable advantage.
HALF TIME Hitchin Town 2 Luton Town 0
The second half saw Jack Green and Connor Vincent make their debuts in place of the Donnellys. The two combined with Walster to create an early half chance, while Arthur Read and Trialist 10 got the better of Roberts – who had otherwise looked very sound – but could not take advantage.
Hitchin made another batch of substitutions just before the hour and, whether it was coincidence or not, Luton found a way back into the match as the Canary defence tried to reorganise. Shamalo threaded the ball through for the lively Tomlinson and, like Brooks earlier, he kept his cool to thread past Johnson.
As both sides continued to make substitutions, Hitchin’s attacking threat receded with only one run from Josh Coley, who cut back to Kirkpatrick before Luton cleared the danger.
Martin Bennett came on for Johnson but the first thing the keeper had to do was pick the ball out of the net. Luton pushed men forward and overwhelmed Hitchin’s defence. Callum Stead played in Jack James – although he had other options too – and the defender lifted the ball past Bennett on 75 minutes to equalise.
Scott Belgrove then fired wide for Luton before being denied by the best save of the night. Stead again beat the defence down Luton’s left and played the ball to Belgrove at the far post. However his effort was blocked superbly by Bennett.
Neither side could muster a decisive goal before the final whistle, although that came with Alasan Ann received extended treatment on the touchline. While Hatters’ fans might have wanted to see their star names, they will have been pleased with the efforts of their second string while Canaries fans will have enjoyed at least the first half of this encounter.
FINAL SCORE Hitchin Town 2 Luton Town 2
Hitchin Town – Johnson (Bennett), Roberts (unnumbered sub), Walster (Ann), Dowie (Riley), Webb (Budden), Rolfe (unnumbered sub), Kirkpatrick (Charles), Callum Donnelly (Green), Brett Donnelly (Vincent), Brooks (Coley), Bickerstaff
Luton Town – Trialist (Parker), James, Panter (Byron), Cotter (Richardson), Musonda (Mead), Famewo (Jones), Trialist, Tomlinson (Neufville), Shamalo (Stead), Trialist, Read (Belgrove)
Hitchin Town – Brooks (20), Kirkpatrick (34)
Luton Town – Tomlinson (59), James (75)
Attendance – 1332
Colin, match action by Peter Else