Maidstone United 0 Luton Town 2
Luton Town produced a battling display to run out 2-0 winners at Ryman Premier League side Maidstone United this evening thanks to goals from Jake Woolley and Matt Robinson, writes Mike Simmonds.
Hatters picked a mainly youthful side for the clash, although did include transfer-listed duo Scott Rendell and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, for their first taste of first team action since the season ended.
Trialist Jake Hall got another chance to impress too in a side captained by Matt Robinson against the club that Town boss John Still managed earlier in his career.
It was the deliveries of JJ O’Donnell that caused the most danger early on, as one cross saw Rendell flick a header into the arms of Lee Worgan, before from a corner, Zak Stephens powered an effort wide from six yards.
Maidstone created a chance of their own when after a bout of pinball in the area, Frannie Collin’s acrobatic volley deflected just behind off Robinson.
Luton threatened again as a corner was punched clear by Worgan where Stevenson took a good touch but dragged wide from the edge of the box.
O’Donnell continued to be at the heart of all of Town’s creative moments, with a lovely dinking run saw him produce a lovely flighted cross and Stevenson’s header drew a flying save from Worgan.
In the latter stages, Hall somehow didn’t open the scoring, as Jibodu’s raking ball was headed back across goal by Woolley, and with Worgan stranded, the former Grays man lifted his effort over from just a yard out.
After the break, Town made a strong start as Stevenson’s shot was parried away, with Rendell’s follow up cleared off the line.
Hatters did score from their next attack though with Rendell’s touch from a shanked clearance falling perfectly into the path of Woolley and his instinctive left-foot effort wrong-footed Worgan.
Town really started to show their dominance, with O’Donnell’s crosses from the left a real menace and Hall almost atoned for his earlier miss, beating two challenges and firing narrowly wide.
Maidstone should have had a penalty on 68 minutes when a nice passing move released Alex Flisher and he was clearly tripped by Jerome Jibodu as he went to shoot, but referee Paul Howard waved play on.
As the game became more stretched, Woolley almost had his second, as his close-range volley produced a wonderful tip over the bar from Worgan.
The keeper was to prove a real thorn in Town’s side during the second half, denying Robinson twice in quick succession.
First the midfielder’s low blast was destined for the bottom corner until Worgan showed stunning reactions to get down in time. He then spread himself well to block from Town’s skipper once again after a flowing exchange involving Rendell and O’Donnell.
Somehow, the Stones didn’t make it 1-1 in the final stages as three Maidstone players got in a muddle virtually on the line and a relieved Elliot Justham grabbed the ball.
Robinson finally gained his revenge over Worgan with almost the last kick, as he broke clear and coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
Stones: Lee Worgan, Richard Davies (Lea Dawson 75), Tom Mills, Steve Watt (Billy French 46), Jerrome Sobers, Danny Lye (Paul Booth 75), Orlando Smith, Fabio Saraiva (Alex Flisher 60), Ian Draycott (Charley Robertson 66), Frannie Collin (Tommy Osbone 75), Rory Hill (Alex Brown 60).
Subs not used: Dan Johnson, Mitch Hart.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Brett Longden (Zane Banton 80), Jerome Jibodu, Jim Stevenson, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Zak Stephens, Jake Woolley, Matt Robinson, Scott Rendell, Jake Hall, JJ O’Donnell.
Subs not used: Charlie Smith, Tinashe Chabata,, Craig King.