Match report by Stuart Hammonds from Luton Town, followed by a further perspective from Roy Izzard.
The Hatters made it three pre-season wins in a row with second-half goals from Glen Rea and James Collins in a hastily arranged game at Hitchin tonight following the postponement in tragic circumstances of the scheduled match at St Albans City.
A minute’s silence preceded kick-off in memory of Saints supporter and volunteer Clive Churchhouse, whose passing as a result of serious injuries suffered in an accident at Clarence Park earlier in the day was confirmed by St Albans on their website as the Luton squad arrived at Top Field.
Town manager Nathan Jones used the fixture to up the game time in his starting ten outfield players’ legs to around an hour.
In front of goalkeeper James Shea – the only man to play 90 minutes – was Frankie Musonda, Rea, Johnny Mullins and Jack Senior, with Tyreeq Bakinson, Olly Lee, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu and Luke Gambin in midfield and a front two of Jordan Cook and Elliot Lee.
With the Lee brothers starting together, it was the first time brothers had appeared in the same Luton Town first team since Brian and Mark Stein in the Littlewoods Cup final win at Wembley in 1988.
The Hatters started brightly but it was Hitchin’s Liam Brooks and Ben Walster who had the first sights of goal, the latter with a 20-yard free-kick that Shea got his body right behind.
Elliot Lee had Luton’s first real effort in the 20th minute – a minute after a 20-yard free-kick of his own went straight into the Canaries’ wall – when a sharp break by Cook saw the striker played into the area, but his shot flew just over as a Hitchin defender closed him down.
Olly Lee was next to have a go, first with a volley that flew high over the bar after Cook picked him out with a pinpoint cross, then with a 40-yard chip that had Hitchin keeper Martin Bennett back-pedalling to claim inside his six-yard box.
Hitchin midfielder Jack Green tested Shea again just before the half-hour, but the Hatters were looking dangerous on the break without creating a real clear-cut chance.
Musonda whipped a couple of quality crosses in from the right, before Elliot Lee stood a cross up from the left byline for Mpanzu to head back across goal, only for Hitchin captain Dan Webb to hook clear as Olly Lee prepared to pull the trigger.
Manager Jones did not make any changes at the break, and the Lee brothers were soon making a nuisance of themselves in the Hitchin box again – Elliott teeing up Olly for a shot that went just wide of the post.
Cook was next to have a go, but his chip was deflected wide for the corner that led to the opening goal, Olly Lee controlling the deep delivery at the far post and laying it back for Rea to slam past Hitchin’s sub keeper Michael Johnson for the 50th-minute opener.
Luton Town were playing some lovely football – not least Olly Lee who was pulling the strings with some subtle touches on the right wing and in and around the Hitchin area – and Gambin was next to have a crack, his low 25-yarder whistling just past the post, before Jones made wholesale changes.
All ten outfield players went off just before the hour with Jack Stacey, Scott Cuthbert, Akin Famewo, Dan Potts, Alan McCormack, Lawson D’Ath, Kavan Cotter, Andrew Shinnie, Isaac Vassell and James Collins all coming on.
It was a Hitchin sub however, Trey Charles, who reminded the Hatters the Canaries could be a threat on the break in the 76th minute, but Shea once again saved comfortably.
Collins latched onto a lovely lofted pass from Cotter but Hitchin’s third keeper of the night, Sam Swanton, plucked the ex-Crawley man’s attempted lob out of the air.
The striker soon had his fourth goal in three appearances for Luton, capitalising on some good work in midfield from McCormack to fire home right-footed from the edge of the penalty area in the 86th minute.
Shinnie went close to making it three two minutes later with a surging run from midfield and a low shot that flew just wide, but it finished 2-0 on a night when football came second to the sad events elsewhere in Hertfordshire.
Hitchin Town – Bennett, Dowie, Walster, Bickerstaff, Webb ,Rolfe, Kirkpatrick, McCaffrey, Vincent, Brooks, Green
Subs – Johnson, Smith, Charles and B Donnelly for Bennett, McCaffrey, Vincent and Brooks at half time; McDonald for Green after 71 minutes; Bailey, Swanton and Coley for Dowie, Johnson and Kirkpatrick after 80 minutes.
Luton Town (to 58 mins) – Shea, Musonda, Rea, Mullins, Senior, Bakinson, O Lee, Mpanzu, Gambin, Cook, E Lee
(58 mins onwards): Shea, Stacey, Cuthbert, Famewo, Potts, McCormack, Cotter, D’Ath, Shinnie, Collins, Vassell
Luton Town – Rea 50, Collins 86
Many thanks to our ex player Stuart Hammonds for his report on the game. I will add the Hitchin perspective.
Mark Burke was very pleased with this workout and thought we did really well against the full Luton first team squad. Fitness levels were really tested especially when Luton manager Nathan Jones brought on 10 new outfield players after 59 minutes. The defence was really tested and the central defensive partnership of Dan Webb and Josh Bickerstaff were outstanding.
It was hard work to create chances but as ever Hitchin played some excellent football and Jones was very complimentary of Hitchin’s performance after the game.
Hitchin used three goalkeepers in the game with Martin Bennett playing the first half and Michael Johnson taking over for 35 minutes of the second half before he was replaced by Sam Swanton.
Incredibly 533 supporters turned out despite the very short notice and it was another successful “pay what you want” game. I will give the inside story of how Hitchin staged the game at such short notice in Friday’s bulletin. On Thursday Hitchin will take a mixed team to Letchworth for a game against LGC Eagles, with more trialists likely to feature.
Stuart Hammonds / Roy Izzard