Pre-Season Friendly: Boreham Wood 1 (1) Luton Town 0 (0)
Luton were forced to labour on the first day of their pre-season campaign as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Conference South Boreham Wood this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.
The Hatters employed two completely different line-ups on the day and, although they dominated in the second half, they couldn’t find a way through as Donovan Simmonds’ fifth-minute header proved decisive.
Town in fact twice hit the woodwork through new signings Mark Cullen and Shaun Whalley but utimately lacked that little bit of cutting edge on a sweltering afternoon.
Kick-off was preceded by a minute’s silence for former Luton Town youngster and ex-Wood star Ryan Moran who recently passed away due to cancer at the age of just 31.
On a roasting hot day with temperatures topping 30C young Town centre-half Alex Lacey was handed the captain’s armband for the first half against Wood.
Town’s only new signing missing on the day was Danny Fitzsimons, but it was Wood who made the perfect start, taking the lead after only five minutes.
Graeme Montgomery broke free on the left and swung in a perfect cross to the far post where Simmonds rose highest to force his header past Mark Tyler.
Wood almost got in behind straight after before Greg Morgan slipped Simmonds through on 16 minutes but his weak effort was easily saved by Tyler.
Boss John Still urged his backline ‘higher’ from the sidelines before injury forced the struggling Alex Wall off as he was replaced by Jon Shaw.
Town started to battle their way back into the game as Andy Parry’s header from David Martin’s free-kick flew over before Cullen and Shaw combined with the substitute stabbing tamely at James Russell.
Wood were always a threat though as Montgomery’s driven cross was well held by Tyler before bouncing a long-range effort into the keeper’s midriff.
The half stopped midway through for a mass drinks break before re-energised trialist Mark Stewart almost opened the hosts up with a jinking run and crossfield pass.
Cullen’s curler from the edge of the box was easily held by Russell as the Hatters started to create more and more chances as the half progressed.
Jim Stevenson’s first time pass left Cullen with just the keeper to beat on 35 minutes, but he could only tamely shoot straight at the keeper when he should have scored.
Seconds later JJ O’Donnell’s positive run and cross-shot was turned on to the bar from close range by Cullen and Stevenson’s powerful follow-up smashed off the head of Luke Garrard and away.
Town continued to press until the break with Stevenson seeing another good effort well blocked as the visitors trailed by just a goal at the break.
Luton started the second half brightly, Luke Guttridge’s howitzer drawing claims of handball and Whalley showing his undoubted skill as his cross went begging.
However, handbags broke out when Solomon Taiwo’s late challenge left Simmonds in agony and both sides clashed en masse with Steve McNulty careering upfield to clear away the incensed Mark Jones as order was finally restored.
Whalley fired over and Taiwo had an effort deflected behind before Russell pulled off a brilliant save to deny Andre Gray’s shapshot from Jake Howells’ header on 54 minutes.
Howells volleyed tamely at the stopper and Whalley curled just wide as Luton continued to strengthen their stranglehold on proceedings.
A bad miss by McNulty allowed sub Charlie Moone to skip through on 64 minutes, but Montgomery’s effort was straight at Elliot Justham before Whalley’s break at the other end was cynically ended by a foul and Taiwo’s free-kick was spectacularly turned over the bar by Russell.
Good footwork by Guttridge ended in him tamely rolling the ball too close to the keeper as Luton continued to promise much without being able to deliver the killer blow.
Chances were created at both ends in the closing stages as sub Calum Willock’s effort was well blocked and Ronnie Henry’s cross is well grasped.
Lady Luck seemed to be against the Hatters as Whalley’s near-post blast cannoned back off the upright with six minutes left and Russell scrambled across his line to save Guttridge’s follow-up.
A looping header by Guttridge was easily saved as well-drilled Wood held out to claim a hard-fought win.
Wood: James Russell, Ben Nunn (Calum Willock 46), Mark Jones, Mario Noto (C), Charlie O’Loughlin, Luke Garrard, Greg Morgan (Raheem Sterling-Parker75), Mark Bentley, Liam Enver-Marum (Charlie Moone 56), Donovan Simmonds (Karl Brown 72), Graeme Montgomery. Substitutes not used: Corey Whitley, Kyle Thompson, Jake Knight.
Hatters: Mark Tyler (Elliot Justham 46), Brett Longden (Ronnie Henry 46), JJ O’Donnell (Scott Griffiths 46, JJ O’Donnell 78), Andy Parry (Anthony Charles 46, Lacey 83), Alex Lacey (C, Steve McNulty 46), Jonathan Smith (Luke Guttridge 46), Mark Cullen (Andre Gray 46), Jim Stevenson (Solomon Taiwo 46), Alex Wall (Jon Shaw 17, Mark Cullen 81), Mark Stewart (Shaun Whalley 46), David Martin (Jake Howells 46).
Referee: J Busby.
Assistant Referees: C North and G Read.
Fourth Official: C Melinn.