Luton Town 7 Arsenal XI 0
Luton Town spanked seven past a shell-shocked Arsenal XI as they ended their home pre-season campaign in some style this afternoon, writes Mike Simmonds.
Mark Cullen, Jake Howells and second half substitute Andre Gray all notched doubles, while Shaun Whalley was on target from the penalty spot in what turned out to be a demolition job.
Hatters had named what could well be close to their starting line-up for next Saturday’s opening Conference fixture at Southport, with the exception of goalkeeper Mark Tyler, as Elliot Justham took the gloves.
The early stages gave no indication of what was to come either as the Gunners youngsters looked full of life and were incredibly composed in possession, especially the likes of Nico Yennaris and Thomas Eisfeld.
It was Arsenal who came closest to taking the lead too when Scott Griffiths lost the ball and Isaac Hayden dragged his shot narrowly wide.
Yennaris had the next chance, driving forward and playing in Eisfeld, as his shot was well held by Justham.
Hayden sent another effort off target, before Luton had their first real attempt on goal as Jake Howells’ quick free kick saw Deyan Iliev scrambling across and thankful it flashed wide.
Hatters took the lead almost out of nothing on 19 minutes though when Jon Shaw and Cullen linked up well, with the ball breaking inside the penalty area for Howells.
His first time effort was briliantly saved by Iliev, only for Cullen to tap home the rebound for his third goal of the pre-season campaign.
Shaw was forced off soon afterwards, with David Martin entering the fray and Howells moving just behind Cullen, before the second arrived when the Gunners youthful defence switched off once more.
An errant backpass saw Cullen in the clear and he steadied himself before expertly blasting past Iliev.
Swedish Youth international Kris Olsson shot narrowly wide, but Gunners’ heads were now down and gone was their youthful exuberance and swagger from the opening moments.
It was 3-0 when Howells slipped in Whalley with a lovely one-two and the winger was chopped down in full fight for an obvious penalty.
Despite Solomon Taiwo and Cullen both wanting the spot kick, Steve McNulty intervened and it was given to Whalley who made no mistake in rifling into the net.
Taiwo did get his hands on a free kick 25 yards from goal with Iliev flying to his left to tip over, but from the corner, three became four.
Martin swung over the set-piece and some dreadful marking allowed Howells to head home from almost on the goal-line.
Justham was called upon to save smartly from Eisfeld, but Luton’s dominance was almost extended when Cullen sent a downward header narrowly wide from another corner.
The second half started almost in the exact same manner as the first, with Arsenal having all the possession and Town being forced to chase once more.
John Still’s side then showed their cutting edge though as a poor ball across the visitors’ backline was seized upon by Howells who deftly lifted his chip over the exposed Iliev.
Hatters rang the changes on the hour mark with Gray, Anthony Charles, Alex Wall and Danny Fitzsimons all coming on and within four minutes, Gray had his name on the scoresheet, picking up Howells’ pass and firing through the legs of Iliev.
As Luton continued to make substituions in the second period, they still easily kept Arsenal at arms length.
Alex Iwobi’s low curler was easy for Justham, while Hector Bellerin sliced through Town’s backline but slipped at the vital moment, with Anthony Jeffrey’s ambitious curler straight into Justham’s gloves.
In the cosing stage, substitute Wall could have added a seventh after a dogged run, but with players well placed, shot straight into Iliev’s midrift.
There was time for one more goal though with Gray serving notice of his claim for a starting berth, sent clear once more to confidently pick out the bottom corner, as Town’s first team finished off their pre-season campaign in real style.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Alex Lacey (Anthony Charles 62), Steve McNulty, Shaun Whalley (Andre Gray 62), Solomon Taiwo (Jonathan Smith 75), Jon Shaw (David Martin 27), Jake Howells (Matt Robinson 75), Scott Griffiths (Danny Fitzsimons 62), Mark Cullen (Alex Wall 62), Luke Guttridge (Andrew Parry 75), Ronnie Henry.
Sub not used: Mark Tyler.
Gunners: Deyan Iliev, Hector Bellerin, Tafari Moore, Nico Yennaris (Daniel Crowley 78), Julio Pleguezuelo, Tom Dallison (Leander Siemann 61), Thomas Eisfeld, Kris Olsson, Alex Iwobi, Isaac Hayden, Wellington (Anthony Jeffrey 61).
Subs not used: Josh Vickers, Glen Kamara, Daniel Crowley, Ramy Bensebaini.
Attendance: 2,411 (138 away).