LUTON Town suffered a 2-1 defeat against Southern Premier League newboys Arlesey Town in the Bedfordshire Premier Cup Final on Tuesday night, writes Mike Simmonds.
The match took place at Arlesey’s Armadillo Stadium, with Hatters managed by Alan Neilson, fielding an extremely youthful side, including first year scholars Brett Longden and Jerome Jibodu.
Striker Danny Crow wore the captain’s armband, while trialist Nathan Elder was given another chance to earn a contract, completing 90 minutes up front.
Town didn’t start too well as Ryan Frater’s shot from a corner was well blocked by Jibodu, but the visitors soon had a marvellous chance, breaking forward at speed.
Jean-Philippe Yamfam strode clear, but with a completely unmarked Crow screaming for the ball in the area, he dithered in possession and was eventually tackled.
Arlesey made Luton pay in emphatic fashion on 10 minutes as Chris Marsh took aim from 25 yards and curled his shot past Lewis Kidd and into the top corner.
Hatters tried to fight back immediately as JJ O’Donnell’s deft chip sailed just over, while Crow then hit the post with a side-footer from inside the box.
Yamfam came close too, cutting inside Frater, before his low bobbling drive was saved by Richard Hayward.
Hatters young defence didn’t exude confidence throughout the evening and terrible defending from centre halves Alex Lacey and Ash Deeney, who both ducked a long ball forward, saw Chris Dillon’s snap shot straight into Kidd’s midriff.
Dillon should have made it 2-0 but put his free header wide from 10 yards as Town’s defence didn’t pick up from a free kick.
Godfrey Poku took aim from 30 yards, only to rifle wide but Hatters levelled on 30 minutes when Crow nipped in between the defence to tuck home from close range.
Luton started to gain in confidence with Poku seeing plenty of the ball and good battling play from Yamfam teed up a shooting chance for O’Donnell, but he shanked well wide.
Arlesey lost both goalscorer Marsh and imposing central defender Frater to injury during the first half, but were back in front just before the break after a dubious penalty was awarded after Longden was penalised for an innocuous challenge on Dillon.
Lee Allinson stepped up to coolly beat Kidd, who guessed the right way, but couldn’t lay a glove on the low drive.
Jason Blackett, brother of Town defender Shane, who was in the 282 strong crowd, replaced Frater and was cleverly linking play upfront, setting up Allinson, whose chipped pass was smashed just over the bar by Joel Mason.
In the second period, Arlesey were forced to make a third change as James Gray hobbled off, while Elder came close to levelling, only to put his header from close range over the bar.
Kidd was alert to gather Dillon’s deflected drive, while at the other end, Crow came off the left flank and his low shot was palmed behind by Hayward.
Crow and Jibodou were replaced by Ryan Dasilva and Dan Walker, tasting his first action of pre-season with the exciting youngster having an immediate impact, driving forward and seeing his fierce blast blocked.
Lacy almost came a cropper again, leaving a long ball for Kidd, as Blackett nipped in and thundered into the side-netting, when he really should have scored.
Walker, eager to make up for lost time, was enjoying quite a cameo, bursting past his man once more, but had a shot blocked and then played a superb ball inside the full back for the mightily impressive Longden, who couldn’t keep his effort down.
Arlesey were still dangerous as Allinson’s shot hit a defender and flew just wide, while Dasilva sent a left-footer that crept past the post.
Poku then tangled with Allinson as tempers flared with the young midfielder having to be pulled away by team-mates, before both players received stern talkings too from the official.
Allinson tested Kidd once more from distance, while with time running out, O’Donnell burst into the box and saw a shot cleared, while Hayward bravely collected a cross off the head of Elder.
Five minutes of injury time were played and Arlesey almost killed off the match when Blackett fired a glorious shot against the inside of the post and out again.
Hatters continued to pressurise and dominate for large periods in the closing stages, but despite seeing plenty of the ball, they never seriously looked like breaking down a sturdy Arlesey defence, as it was they who lifted the trophy.
Arlesey Town: Richard Hayward, Cameron Mawer, David Perpetuini, James Gray (Jordan Brown 50), Fabio Buffano, Ryan Frater (Jason Blackett 40), Lee Allinson, Dave Deeney, Chris Dillon, Chris Marsh (Joel Mason 23), Liam McGovern.
Subs not used: Tom Peverall, Mark Osborn.
Luton Town: Lewis Kidd, Brett Longden (Paul Carden 74), Jerome Jibodu (Dan Walker 63) , Godfrey Poku, Ash Deeney, Alex Lacey, Christian Tavernier, Jean-Philippe Yamfam, Nathan Elder, Danny Crow (Ryan Dasilva 63), JJ O’Donnell.
Subs not used: Jack Carpenter.
Referee: Mr Flanagan.
Assistant referees: T Ratheram, J Aldous.
Fourth official: P Wilkinson.
Star Hatter: Brett Longden. Looked full of beans coming forward from right back.