Jim Stevenson scored a hat-trick as Luton began their Final Third Development League Southern Division campaign with a 5-0 win over AFC Bournemouth on Tuesday afternoon.
The midfielder struck three times in the second period with some assured finishes as Hatters, who had striker Alex Wall sent off late on, eventually proved too strong for the youthful opponents.
Luton were captained by Jonathan Smith and had the likes of Wall, Ross Lafayette, Charlie Walker and Curtley Williams starting, while none of the Cherries XI had played first team football.
Watched by John Still and Terry Harris, Luton fielded three trialists too, former Dagenham midfielder Matt Saunders, ex-Norwich defender Ewan McNeil and full back Jordan Brown, who started his career at West Ham.
It was Saunders, signed by Still signed when at Daggers, who was without doubt the most impressive though, sending in a number of dangerous crosses, particularly in the second period.
The hosts as expected started stronger as Williams was off target from Saunders’ free kick, Wall hit the bar with an attempted cross, while Stevenson was denied by the flying Pat O’Flaherty.
Bournemouth had the most clear-cut chance though, Harry Cornick escaping in the box only to drag his shot wide.
Importantly, Smith, who completed his first 90 minutes since December last year, was showing no ill affects from his double leg break, throwing himself into one bonecrunching challenge in particular.
Wall then had two good opportunities in quick succession, as his goalbound shot was blocked by Ben Whitfield, with the rebound fired off target.
Hatters thought they had the lead on 40 minutes, when Stevenson crashed home Wall’s run and shot, but the offside flag was raised.
In the second period, Town were in front after just three minutes when Saunders’ dangerous cross was miscued at the back post by Wall, with the loose ball fired home by Lafayette.
The Cherries could have levelled immediately when Joe Quiqley sized up a shot, but curled past Elliot Justham’s post.
It was 2-0 on the hour mark when Lafayette beat O’Flaherty to a cross and Stevenson chested down before rifling the loose ball into the net.
The goalscorer then came close to a second twice, both times shooting straight at the keeper, while the post came to Justham’s rescue.
Wall was denied by a fine save, but Hatters did have a third with 15 minutes to go as Smith crossed and U18s centre half Frankie Musonda delightfully diverted his header into the far corner.
Wall continued his efforts to score, denied once again by the reaches of O’Flaherty as Justham preserved his clean sheet with an excellent low stop from Aly Coulibaly.
As Bournemouth tired, Walker missed a sitter, blazing over after a poor clearance fell into his path, but the goals soon started to flow.
McNeil’s cross was met by a stooping header from Stevenson as he found the bottom corner and the midfielder then had his hat-trick in the 82nd minute, drilling an angled drive into the net.
The only sour point was in time added on, when Wall was given his marching orders for what appeared to be dissent.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Ewan McNeil (Luke Trotman 81), Jordan Brown, Harry Tamplin (Frankie Musonda 18), Curtley Williams, Matt Saunders, Jim Stevenson, Jonathan Smith (C), Ross Lafayette (Daril Ngwala 82), Charlie Walker, Alex Wall.
Subs not used: Craig King, Isaac Galliford.