Hatters heroes vanquish Villains with encouraging victory

L13-895 LTFC v Aston Villa at Kenilworth road, Luton'Mark Wood'JR 30'23.7.13
L13-895 LTFC v Aston Villa at Kenilworth road, Luton'Mark Wood'JR 30'23.7.13

Friendly: Luton Town 2 (1) Aston Villa 0 (0)

Impressive Hatters turned in a superb performance as they beat Premier League Aston Villa 2-0 in a pre-season friendly at Kenilworth Road tonight, writes Mark Wood.

Jon Shaw gave Luton the lead midway through the first half with a predatory near-post strike and substitute Jake Howells made sure of a fine victory with his neatly-taken 78th-minute goal.

Spanish trialist Aitor Nunez, believed to be a 25-year-old right-back who has played almost 100 times for the likes of Atlético Madrid B, Tenerife and Rayo B, meanwhile, was an unused sub on the night.

Young defender Alex Lacey was again handed the captaincy as the Hatters named three summer signings in their starting XI, while much coveted multi-million pound striker Christian Benteke led the Villa line.

Town made a bright start as David Martin flashed wide on four minutes after breaking on to Gary Gardner’s misdirected backpass and Shaw slid Ronnie Henry’s cross just wide moments later after good work by lively winger Shaun Whalley.

Villa enjoyed plenty of ball but took 14 minutes to create a real chance as Yacouba Sylla found space and his shot from range was parried by Mark Tyler before he regathered.

At the other end Shaw threatened but was crowded out before Town deservedly took the lead on 23 minutes when Mark Cullen burst to the byline and squared for strike partner Shaw to smash home from close range.

Sylla and Cullen exchanged efforts from range and Gardner’s free-kick whizzed past the post on the stroke of half time.

Benteke was withdrawn by Villa at the break and they started the second half far more brightly, Steve McNulty doing well to block substitute Callum Robinson’s shot five minutes in and Gardner firing over.

Robinson flashed a header over moments later and Fabian Delph drove wide before Villa made wholesale changes on the hour.

It was all Villa as a great sliding challenge by Henry denied Daniel Johnson a shooting chance in the area on 65 minutes, Robinson fired wastefully over and McNulty produced a great block to again thwart Johnson in the box.

The Villains looked likely to get an equaliser as Luton started to roll the subs and Tyler came to Town’s rescue when he did well to hold on to Johnson’s heavily-deflected effort off McNulty.

Against the run of play Luton almost doubled their lead on 74 minutes when sub Andre Gray got free and crossed for Shaw whose crisp strike was superbly turned round the post by Brad Guzan.

But he was powerless to stop Luton’s second four minutes later when the ball broke for sub Howells on the edge of the box, who skipped through and calmly lifted it over the exposed keeper.

More great defending from Henry denied Jack Grealish, while JJ O’Donnell’s dangerous cross ran across the face of Villa’s goal late on as Town claimed a notable scalp.

Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Scott Griffiths, Alex Lacey (C), Steve McNulty, Shaun Whalley (Jake Howells 73), Solomon Taiwo (Jim Stevenson 69), Jon Shaw, Mark Cullen (JJ O’Donnell 76), David Martin (Andre Gray 73), Luke Guttridge (Jonathan Smith 69), Ronnie Henry. Substitutes not used: Aitor Nunez, Elliot Justham.

Villains (4-3-3): Jed Steer (Brad Guzan 60), Janor Donacien (Matthew Lowton 60), Nathan Baker (Ron Vlaar 60), Fabian Delph (C, Ashley Westwood 60), Josh Webb (Antonio Rodriguez Luna 60), Yacouba Sylla (Daniel Johnson 60), Christian Benteke (Callum Robinson 46), Graham Burke (Jack Grealish 60), Chris Herd (Ciaran Clark 60), Gary Gardner (Karim El Ahmadi 60), Samir Carruthers (Leandro Bacuna 60).

Referee: K Stroud.

Assistant Referees: D Robathan and A Aylott.

Fourth Official: J Smith.

Attendance: 4,304 (Villa 675).