Steelmen show their mettle to see off young Hatters

Pre-Season Friendly

Corby Town 2 (1) Luton Town 1 (0)

A FIRECRACKER from Christian Tavernier wasn’t quite enough as a young Hatters side were overpowered by Corby Town 2-1 this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.

At times it was a case of men against boys as Town’s green backline was bullied by Steelmen frontman Matt Rhead all afternoon, and his opener, coupled with former Hatters Andy Burgess’ winner, proved too much for Town.

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Less than 24 hours after beating Premier League Queens Park Rangers, Luton named a mixed starting team, with a number of first team regulars, development squad players and trialists getting the nod. In fact, manager Gary Brabin went for an entirely trialist strikeforce, consisting of long-term hopeful Nathan Elder, formerly of Shrewsbury, and Southend United striker Matt Paterson.

However, while the new Steel Park ground itself is well appointed, the pitch has no yet settled and the bouncy and sandy surface made good football difficult throughout.

Corby, meanwhile, named former Hatter Burgess in their starting XI, as the hosts played only their third-ever game at their new home.

Stephen Towers drove wide for Corby in the opening seconds, while youngster Tavernier dragged an effort wide.

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The hosts looked dangerous going forward and they got their reward on nine minutes when a cross was stood up to the back post by James Ozman and Rhead outjumped Luton’s young backline to put the Blue Square Bet North side ahead.

On a slow pitch Town’s passing football lacked the zip it needed to trouble the hosts too much, but a searching JJ O’Donnell cross found Paterson lurking at the far post and his effort was deflected across goal with the impressive Adam Watkins unable to force the ball home.

The Steelmen went close to doubling their lead though moments later when Rhead headed a Burgess corner back across goal and Nick Rogan’s header clipped the bar on its way over.

Captain for the day Ed Asafu-Adjaye seemed to be unusually struggling at centre-half and, with him out of position, Burgess’ canny pass over the top released Tower on 24 minutes and his low cross was ballooned over the bar by Rhead, who should have found the net.

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The bobbly pitch was making for no end of individual errors, but a twinkle-toed run by Watkins just past the half-hour mark saw him unlock the Corby defence, but Amari Morgan-Smith’s first-time curler flashed just wide.

An incisive run by Morgan-Smith then bought him space in the box, but his effort was blocked.

Some wild challenges were flying in, but Watkins avoided another as he jinked his way to the edge of the box before firing wide with Tavernier in space incensed at the lack of a pass.

Nice skill by substitute Sam Ives saw him flash an effort wide for Corby and Andy Hall had an shot deflected over.

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Luton withdrew Watkins and their front two at the break, introducing all three of their subs.

Godfrey Poku sent a thumping effort just wide and Rogan sent a tame effort right at Lewis Kidd as neither side were able to boss proceedings.

Jean-Philippe Yamfam impressed following his introduction and Town equalised out of nothing on 59 when Corby failed to properly clear a corner and a 20-yard cracker from Tavernier flew through the crowded box and into the top left-hand corner.

Some nice play by Corby ended in Rogan prodding wide, while Matthew Barnes-Homer could only head O’Donnell’s powerful cross over the bar.

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The Steelmen though went close to retaking the lead on 66 minutes though when Burgess’ deep free-kick eventually fell to substitute Leon Hibbert and Paul Malone was unable to connect with his deft lob as the ball trickled wide.

Malone then came to Corby’s rescue at the other end as clever play from Barnes-Homer resulted in his putting the ball on a plate for Yamfam from just three yards out but his strike was straight into the body of Malone and the hosts were able to scramble the ball away.

Yamfam threatened again but his low effort was turned aside by a defender before self-confessed Luton fan Burgess netted against his former club with 17 minutes to go. Rhead again made a nuisance of himself and the ball dropped for Burgess who stroked home via a slight deflection.

The Hatters struggled to cope with Rhead all afternoon, with Lacey hacking another of his efforts off the line and Kidd pulling off a brilliant diving stop to beat away his powerful header from a corner.

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Town’s play grew scrappy towards the end, Lacey getting caught in possession while a number of Luton passes went astray and clearances lacked purchase.

Yamfam again produced some neat footwork to set up Ryan Dasilva on the edge of the box and his sweet strike smacked an upright and rebounded away.

And despite huffing and puffing Town couldn’t find an equaliser as the Steelmen stayed strong to net victory with the start of the season just a week away.

Steelmen: Chris Mackenzie (Will Jones 27), Aynsley McDonald, Paul Mayo, Paul Malone, Philip Gulliver (C), James Ozman (Sam Ives 36), Andy Hall ((Leon Hibbert 60), Stephen Towers (Jordan Smith 60), Matt Rhead (Tom Land 85), Nick Rogan, Andy Burgess.

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Hatters: Lewis Kidd, Ash Deeney, JJ O’Donnell, Godfrey Poku, Ed Asafu-Adjaye (C), Alex Lacey, Adam Watkins (Jean-Philippe Yamfam 46), Amari Morgan-Smith (Matt Paterson 74), Nathan Elder (Ryan Dasilva 46), Matt Paterson (Matthew Barnes-Homer 46), Christian Tavernier.

Referee: Martin Dexter (Leicester).

Assistant Referees: Mark Connelly (Market Harborough) and James Johnson (Loughborough).

Attendance: 484.

Star Hatter: JJ O’Donnell. Got the full 90 minutes under his belt and looked at his best in advanced positions.

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