O’Donnell’s error gifts Saddlers victory

Hatters' defence challenge match-winner Simeon Jackson for an aerial ball
Hatters' defence challenge match-winner Simeon Jackson for an aerial ball

Pre-season friendly: Luton Town 0 Walsall 1

Luton Town ended their pre-season campaign in disappointing fashion with a 1-0 defeat against League One Walsall at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.

The visitors had been second best in the opening 45 minutes, as Luton dominated possession, without ever hitting the heights of their victory over Brighton the previous weekend, before moments after the restart, full back Stephen O’Donnell’s wretched back header was seized upon by Simeon Jackson.

The experienced striker showed the predatory instincts that earned him a move to Premier League Norwich City earlier in his career, to confidently slide the ball beyond keeper Christian Walton for what turned out to be the game’s only goal.

Hatters went into the match with a starting 11 that could quite conceivably be walking out at Home Park next weekend for the League Two opener with Plymouth, as summer signings Johnny Mullins, Jordan Cook, Alan Sheehan and Walton all started in a 4-4-2 diamond formation.

A quiet opening 15 minutes saw Hylton stand out in terms of an attacking sense for the hosts, with his hold up play impressive throughout, the ex-Oxford man showing signs of a good partnership already foraged with strike partner Jack Marriott.

Hatters pressed well when possible, Alan Sheehan’s raking ball from the back met by the instep of O’Donnell with Hylton volleying over the top.

Marriott then showed the confidence currently flowing through his veins, fashioning a yard of space in the area and instantly shooting goalwards, although this time, Neil Etheridge awkwardly parried clear.

Luton should have been in front on 27 minutes when after a long period of keep ball, they finally worked an opening, as Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu broke into the area and his cross was missed by Hylton, but fell perfectly for Cook who sidefooted badly over from eight yards against the club he left in the summer.

Chances were at a premium from then, Sheehan once again with another fine block at the back and Kieron Morris dribbling one wide, while McGeehan shot into the stands.

Immediately after the break though, the visitors were in front after O’Donnell’s head in hands moment, with Walton voicing his displeasure over the mistake, administering an almighty rollicking to his full back.

The Saddlers then appeared content to protect what they had, as Hatters struggled to click in the final third, Marriott dragging across goal, while Hylton rounded Etheridge after Cook’s excellent vision spotted his run, only to see his celebrations cut short by the linesman’s flag.

Jones brought on Josh McQuoid and Zane Banton, as Luton huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser, but for all of their monopoly on the ball, Town never fully extended Etheridge during a largely mundane second period.

In fact it was Walton who had the harder work, claiming the diminutive Erhun Oztumer’s swerving blast from range.

McQuoid and Glen Rea both sent tame attempts at Etheridge as Luton brought their curtain down on their warm-up games with defeat, but although disappointing, this result will soon be forgotten if Town are celebrating their third win in three seasons at the Pilgrims come 4.45pm next week.

Hatters: Christian Walton, Stephen O’Donnell, Dan Potts, Johnny Mullins (Scott Cuthbert 77), Alan Sheehan, Olly Lee (Glen Rea 67), Cameron McGeehan (Isaac Vassell 83), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Jordan Cook (Zane Banton 83), Danny Hylton (Josh McQuoid 77), Jack Marriott (Jonathan Smith 62).

Subs not used: Craig King, James Justin, Akin Famewo, Cameron McJannett, Tyreeq Bakinson.

Saddlers: Neil Etheridge, Joe Edwards, Rico Henry, James O’Connor, Jason McCarthy, Adam Chambers (C), Flo Cuvelier (Isaiah Osbourne 67), Simeon Jackson (Ama Bakayoko 81), Erhun Oztumer (Maz Kouhyar 90), Kieron Morris, Josh Ginnelly (Franck Moussa 81).

Subs: George Dobson, Craig MacGillivray, Liam Kinsella, Matt Preston, Ama Bakayoko, Maz Kouhyar.

Attendance: 1,651 (87 Walsall fans).