Dunstable Town strikers Matt Nolan and Lee Roache struck in each half as the Blues overcame neighbours Luton Town in a hard-fought pre-season friendly this evening (Thursday), writes Mark Wood.
A healthy crowd packed into Creasey Park as the hosts showed more of a cutting edge than a youthful Luton Town team on the night, made up of youth teamers, fringe first-teamers and three trialists.
As expected Spanish full-back Aitor Nunez was given the chance to impressed. Nunez, 25, who has played almost 100 times for the likes of Atlético Madrid B, Tenerife and Rayo B, showed some neat touches as he played 90 minutes at right-back, while the Hatters also cast their eye over much-travelled striker Moses Ashikodi and midfielder Jake Hall.
Controversial striker Ashikodi, 26, has spent time at Millwall, West Ham United, Gillingham, Rangers, Watford, Bradford City, Swindon Town, Hereford United, Shrewsbury Town, Kettering Town, Ebbsfleet United and York City, scoring 33 goals in 136 appearances for those sides, but left Millwall at the start of his career in February 2004 when he allegedly pulled a knife on team-mate Mark McCammon in the players’ canteen.
He has also represented England at U19, U18 and U16 levels and has two caps for Antigua and Barbuda, while Hall, 22, is a combative midfielder, formerly of Dagenham & Redbridge, who trialled with Sheffield United and has also played for Grays Athletic and Conference South side Bromley.
Dunstable, meanwhile, named former Hatter Adam Watkins in their starting XI with the prolific Roache leading the line.
Ashikodi threatened for Luton on 13 minutes as his cross-shot ran across the face of goal to Jake Woolley but his near-post effort was well saved by Jamie Head.
An even encounter ensued and it was the Blues that took the lead on 24 minutes. Watkins’ free-kick from the right was headed back across goal by Roache and with Luton’s defence failing to react strike partner Matt Nolan was allowed to bundle the ball past Elliot Justham at the far post.
The Hatters gradually came back into the encounter with Jake Woolley, playing on the right, to the fore. First Jerome Jibodu’s cross cross from the left picked him out on 33 minutes and his fizzing volley was well turned over the bar by Head.
And he went close again six minutes later when the ball again came in from the left and he controlled neatly on his chest before swivelling and firing just wide.
The Blues always looked dangerous on the break, but Luton enjoyed the majority of the possession as captain Matt Robinson’s snapshot flashed over the bar on 41 minutes.
Hosts Dunstable almost made it 2-0 in the opening seconds of the second half when Roache broke on the right and his brilliant half-volley across goal cannoned off the far post and out with Elliot Justham beaten.
Luton looked to respond and went close moments later when Nunez’s free-kick bounced across the area and Jim Stevenson’s header looped on to the roof of the net.
Dunstable twice went close on 54 minutes as Watkins’ effort was deflected wide before Roache did well to control another shot in the box and turn, but his effort swerved just wide of the post.
A Dunstable free-kick was easily saved by Justham on 66 minutes, while Luton went close two minutes later when Hall headed down a long ball forward for Zane Banton, but the nippy striker’s low shot was straight at the keeper.
Substitute Alex Wall, on for Ashikodi, then did well to win a challenge on the edge of the box as he strode through on goal but, with only Head to beat, he clipped wide when at the very least he should have worked the keeper.
And just when it looked like Luton were set for an equaliser Dunstable doubled their lead on 72 minutes as Roache got the better of Harry Tamplin and fired powerfully into the roof of the net from a narrow angle.
Head’s heroics then preserved Dunstable’s lead as he first dived low to his right to turn aside Robinson’s firm low drive from the edge of the area and, when Jibodu stood a great cross up to the far post, he reacted instinctively to keep out Stevenson’s his powerful point-blank range header.
Hall then had a great chance moments later when Banton’s jinking run was turned on to the trialist at the far post by Stevenson, but the young midfielder shot straight at the replacement keeper.
A Dunstable substitute then headed wide at the other end, while Stevenson flashed a header wide from Woolley’s cross when he should have hit the target with six minutes to go.
Wall then showed what he can do from dead ball situations when he lasered a 25-yard free-kick inches over the bar with the keeper motionless.
Roache should have made it three in the last minute but overran the ball when clean through and Banton shot straight at the keeper as the Blues held on for a hard-earned win.
Blues: Jamie Head (76), Wayne Mills (66), Danny Murphy (58), Joe Bruce (56), Marc Leach (76), Leon Cashman (56), Nathan Frater, Adam Watkins (58), Lee Roache, Matt Nolan (58), Chris Marsh (17 76).bstitutes used: Danil Mead, Tony Burnett, Damen Pickering, Curtis Shaw, Moses Olaleye, Tai Griffiths, Tony Fontanelle, Rory McGuigan, Lewis Pacelli.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Aitor Nunez, Jerome Jibodu, Jim Stevenson, Zak Stephens, Harry Tamplin (Tinashe Chabata 78), Jake Hall, Matt Robinson (C), Zane Banton, Moses Ashikodi (Alex Wall 61), Jake Woolley. Substitutes: Ian Rees, Charlie Smith, Arel Amu, Lee Hawkes.