Town sparkle against Diamonds after Kempston defeat

HATTERS: Two youthful Luton Town teams enjoyed mixed friendly results last week, losing 3-2 at AFC Kempston last Tuesday before Dan Walker’s hat-trick gave them a 3-1 victory at newly-formed AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Friday.

Both matches gave the youngsters the chance to test themselves against physically stronger opponents at the type of grounds and pitches that they will encounter in the early rounds of the FA Youth Cup or if they go out on loan.

Boss Paul Driver said: “While the Rushden game was obviously a way better game all round for us – the Kempston game was equally useful in the development of the boys.

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“We clearly learnt from the first half of that game and performed much better for the rest of that game and the entire match at Rushden where I felt we were superb.

“We moved the ball well and found spaces all over the park which forced them into a formation change and we showed great energy throughout the 90 minutes in closing them down.

“These games are great for the players. After playing against Academy sides, this teaches them how to play against older and bigger players which is exactly what they will come up against when they move to play in reserve and first team fixtures.”

Town got off to a great start at Kempston when Arel Amu was blocked when going through on goal and, from the resulting free-kick, which in a competitive game would have been followed by a red card, Jerome Jibodu’s shot was parried on to the post by the keeper and Zak Stephens bundled in the rebound.

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Unfortunately, Stephens badly twisted his ankle in scoring and had to be replaced. He was quickly followed off by Nick Burtenshaw who was withdrawn after just 20 minutes with a groin problem.

AFC Kempston hit back and scored two goals from set-pieces before half time to take a narrow lead into the break.

The Hatters performed excellently after the restart, creating a number of chances, with Amu striking the bar, and deservedly levelled when the impressive Ian Rees burst through the middle to receive a pass and put the ball past the advancing keeper.

Further problems struck when Brett Longden was injured in a 50-50 challenge and was withdrawn, and a frustrating evening was completed when Kempston got a late winner from another set play in the last five minutes.

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A slightly older team travelled to AFC Rushden & Diamonds with Alasan Ann, Matt Robinson and Walker coming into the side to add experience to the group.

An excellent all-round performance ended with a Walker netting a hat-trick in the 3-1 victory against their previously unbeaten hosts.

The Hatters youngsters started brightly, dominating possession and creating the most chances, but it was not until the 40th minute that they took the lead when Walker broke clear to finish.

A second goal midway through the second half from Walker looked to have settled the game but Rushden hit back quickly to score from a long throw.

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Rushden applied some pressure with some well-worked set-peices and a superb save by Ben Barnes and a block on the follow up by Nick Burtenshaw kept Town’s lead intact.

Having survived the scare, the Hatters closed the game out well and Walker completed his hat trick at the death.

Hatters v AFC Kempston: Carpenter, Jibodu, Longden (Stanley 78), Stephens (Galliford 15), Chabata, Rees, Nash, Maguraushe, Burtenshaw (Banton 20), Woolley, Amu.

Hatters v AFC Rushden & Diamonds: Barnes, Burtenshaw, Galliford, Rees (Amu 60), Ann, Chabata, Nash (Smith 67), Cobb, Woolley, Walker, Robinson.