TOWN striker Andre Gray netted twice as Hatters romped to a resounding 7-1 victory over AFC Dunstable to win the inaugural David Preece Memorial Trophy this afternoon, writes Mike Simmonds
Town named a strong starting XI for the second pre-season friendly against their opponents from the Molten Spartan SML Premier Division, with the match played in honour of their legendary former midfielder, who died in July 2007 at the age of 44.
There was still no Jon Shaw, reduced to a watching brief once more, while neither Danny Spiller or Garry Richards were risked either.
The large crowd, making the most of the glorious weather, saw Town utterly dominant in the first half, attacking at will to score six times, before the hosts made a better fist of things after the break.
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In fact, Luton were ahead inside the second minute after some incisive passing was finished by Greg Taylor’s 20-yard blast into the net.
Scott Rendell, who had a fine game, linking the play intelligently all afternoon came close to a second on two occasions, one effort shanked wide, he would have expected to score from.
Midfielder Adam Watkins was quick to notch number two though, as he advanced on 14 minutes to beat Nick Gardner with an angled drive.
Former Leicester youngster Matt Robinson, who penned a two-year deal at Kenilworth Road in the week, showcased his battling qualities, winning a fine sliding tackle in the midfield and Dan Walker nipped in to feed Gray, but his drive was wayward.
Walker was denied by an excellent block tackle from James Baldry, while Gray headed over a clever corner routine involving Alex Lawless, but AFC weren’t quite as lucky on the 28th minute when the unmarked striker powered home JJ O’Donnell’s inswinger.
Gray’s second of the afternoon wasn’t long in coming either as he tucked home a first time effort past the despairing Gardner.
Walker, as usual so full of running and attacking endeavour, was doing his utmost to hit the target and tried his luck again with a rasping drive that Gardner fumbled but claimed at the second attempt.
He did somehow get his name on the scoresheet moments before the break though as O’Donnell, another who impressed with his range of passing and inventiveness, skipped past his man and slid in the forward, who’s deflected effort trickled apologetically over the line.
No sooner had AFC kicked off, it was 6-0 as Lawless was picked out by a diagonal pass, advanced into the box, and with no striker available, blasted past the now hapless Gardner to find the top corner from the tightest of angles.
Hatters boss Paul Buckle made three changes in the second half as Stuart Fleetwood, Yaser Kasim and trialist Harry Crawford came on for Gray, Walker and Taylor.
The hosts had one back immediately though as Lawless was caught napping by a long ball over the top and BJ Christie took advantage to easily beat Lewis Kidd.
Stung by the goal, Fleetwood took Rendell’s cute header in his path and his curler was saved by Gardner, who tipped behind for a corner.
The striker tried his luck again after Kasim had danced his way into box, but this time his radar was well off.
Crawford’s header nestled on to the roof of the net, but the seventh wasn’t long in coming when Jake Howells’ first touch after replacing Watkins found Rendell, who produced another crafty lay-off, allowing Fleetwood to hammer into the roof of the net.
With the hosts a much-improved outfit after the break, Town were content to work on their fitness, although still carried the greater goal threat.
Crawford came close, dragging a shot narrowly wide, while Kasim showed a real calmness in possession, happy to receive the ball in tight spaces and more often than not, finding a Town shirt.
It was almost 8-1 when O’Connell’s delicious chip from just outside the area cannoned off the bar and the rebound evaded a posse of Town players.
Fleetwood then was close to his second after easily beating his marker for speed, but bearing down on goal, Gardner saved with his legs and then fisted the rebound clear.
It mattered little though as a host of Town’s players got another 90 minutes in their quest for match fitness, while Gray in particular will have sent notice of his potency as Buckle looks to settle on a starting 11 for the new campaign.
AFC Dunstable: Nick Gardner, Wayne Mills, Dan Ryan, James Baldry (C), Michael Moss, Gareth Harnaman, Steve Hawes, JJ Billy, Richard Harker, BJ Christie, Lee Burgoyne.
Subs: Lance Gentle-King, Jack Walker, Jamie Irons, Courtney Massey, Henry Mungiwra, Felix Kyremhi, Alex Butler.
Luton Town: Lewis Kidd, Alex Lawless, Greg Taylor © (Yaser Kasim 46), Dean Beckwith, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Matt Robinson (Ronnie Henry 67), Dan Walker (Harry Crawford 46), Adam Watkins (Jake Howells 60), Andre Gray (Stuart Fleetwood 46), Scott Rendell, JJ O’Donnell.
Sub not used: Dean Brill.
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