Hatters make solid start with Canaries victory

Pre-Season Friendly

Tuesday, 17th July 2012, 12:54 pm

Hitchin Town 0 (0) Luton Town 1 (1)

NEW-LOOK Luton eased to a 1-0 victory at Hitchin Town in their opening pre-season friendly this evening, writes Mark Wood.

Adam Watkins’ cracker at the end of the first half proved decisive as a disciplined and organised Hatters side were too strong for the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division outfit.

Four of Town’s seven summer signings were in the squad at Top Field, three in the starting XI, with trialist ex-Town stopper Dean Brill a familiar face between the sticks.

Former Stevenage skipper Ronnie Henry wore the captain’s armband while Yaser Kasim and Scott Rendell also started with Lathaniel Rowe-Turner on the bench, although new signings Jon Shaw, Garry Richards and Danny Spiller were all missing.

Meanwhile, ex-Leicester City youngster Matt Robinson and former Southend striker Harry Crawford were named on the bench as manager Paul Buckle looked at other options.

Luton almost made a calamitous start when Dean Beckwith played the ball straight to John Frendo in the opening moments, but the Hitchin forward could only pull his shot wide.

A Stuart Fleetwood cross was glanced over by Rendell on 12 minutes and the pair combined again moments later with Dean Gilbert denying the ex-Wycombe man.

Frendo took a tumble under the close attention of Janos Kovacs but nothing was doing, before the visitors should have taken the lead on 19 minutes. Andre Gray’s chip to the back post met with headers by Jake Howells and Rendell and the ball eventually fell to Gray at the far post, but his point-black header was somehow blocked by Gilbert.

Howells couldn’t divert Taylor’s shot soon after, Gray stroked tamely at Bartolomiej Pedrycz and Watkins fired over as Luton dominated.

Greg Taylor turned the stumbling Tony Fontenelle inside out but could only curl at the keeper on 26 minutes before Hitchin should have snatched the lead seconds later when the off-the-pace Beckwith slipped as Ieuan Lewis skipped by and unselfishly squared for Frendo but, with only Brill to beat, the keeper pulled off a fine save to keep the score goalless.

Nice skills by Rendell ended in him curling over before Fleetwood’s long-range effort was well kept out by Pedrycz seven minutes before the break and he did well to smother Howells’ close-range follow-up.

And Luton finally took the lead three minutes before the break when Howells’ deflected cross fell kindly for Watkins who smashed an unstoppable shot into the top left-hand corner.

Zak Burke then blasted a free-kick well over as Town led 1-0 at the break.

Hatters made nine substitutions at the interval with Crawford and Dan Walker both having early attempts before the winger crossed well but the trialist could only head over.

Alasan Ann teed up Walker on 58 minutes but his curler was easily saved as the game lulled.

Aaron O’Connor was lucky to escape a booking when his flying lunge thankfully flew past a Hitchin sub, before a Walker pull-back found him at the far post but he curled wide.

Alex Lawless fired over and JJ O’Donnell’s daisycutter took a nick on 76 minutes as the keeper did well to usher the ball round the post.

Seconds later Crawford’s improvised curler clipped the bar before Robinson showed good feet but his low curler was well pushed round the post with nine minutes to go as Town scored a well-deserved win.

Canaries (4-4-2): Bartolomiej Pedrycz, Tony Fontenelle, Kyle Lincoln (Josh Bickstaff 59), Dean Gilbert (C), Marc Leach, Louis Lee, Richard Howell (Trialist 59), Callum Donnelly (Daniel Delderfield 59), Zak Burke, John Frendo, Ieuan Lewis, Aaron Morgan, Michael Johnson. Substitutes not used: Stuart King, James Edgerley, James Cutler.

Hatters (4-3-3): Dean Brill, Ronnie Henry (C, Alasan Ann 46), Greg Taylor (Alex Lacey 46), Yaser Kasim (Matt Robinson 46), Dean Beckwith (Lathaniel Rowe-Turner 46), Janos Kovacs, Stuart Fleetwood (Dan Walker 46), Adam Watkins (JJ O’Donnell 46), Andre Gray (Aaron O’Connor 46), Scott Rendell (Harry Crawford 46), Jake Howells (Alex Lawless 46). Substitutes not used: Lewis Kidd, Jake Woolley, Jerry Nash, Nick Burtenshaw.

Referee: C Scott.

Assistant Referees: C Lowry and S Crowhurst.

Attendance: 1,409.

Star Hatter: Janos Kovacs. Solid at the back for the full 90 minutes.