Pre-season friendly: Luton Town 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 1
Luton Town produced easily their best performance of pre-season season to send a strong Brighton & Hove Albion side to defeat at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.
Jack Marriott was the star of the show once more with two excellent finishes against their Championship opponents, as although the likes of Alan Sheehan, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and Cameron McGeehan caught the eye, every single Hatters player involved could be content with their afternoon’s work.
The visitors’ side had a first team feel to it, with only two not having played for the senior XI, as the likes of ex-Premier League players Glen Murray, Steve Sidwell, Anthony Knockaert, plus Czech Republic international Jiri Skalak, in action at the recent Euro Championships, all started.
However, for a side who were just three games away from the Premier League last term, the Seagulls were made to look distinctly second best throughout the 90 minutes, as Hatters wrested the initiative very early on and never once looked like handing it back.
The fast tempo that boss Nathan Jones had called for was there for all to be seen, with Town ahead after a mere 30 seconds courtesy of a misplaced pass at the back, caused by some quickfire closing down.
Striker Marriott seized on the gift presented to him by Lewis Dunk, while although there was still plenty to do, the class he showed to take a touch before confidently rifling low past Niki Maenpaa into the bottom corner from 20 yards for his fourth goal in just 31 minutes of pre-season after a treble at Bedford last week, can only bode well for the season to come.
Boosted by the early strike, Hatters continued their excellent start as they pressed Brighton high up the pitch, with the Seagulls’ continually gifting the ball away in dangerous areas, leading to Mariott’s shot deflected away, before Cameron McGeehan, under heavy pressure from Gaetan Bong nodded over the top.
Brighton failed to test their on-loan keeper Christian Walton at all in the opening 20 minutes, with McGeehan close once more, after a lovely run into the box was spotted by Mpanzu, but he couldn’t beat Maenpaa at his near post.
Hylton dragged wide from 25 yards, as it took Albion a good 36 minutes to have their first attempt of note, with Knockaert’s wonderful free kick clipping the top of the bar.
Out of nothing though, Brighton were level on 42 minutes very much against the run of play, with what was their only shot on goal throughout the entire match, as Skalak’s deep free kick into the box was met by Dunk and he easily nodded beyond Walton.
Town boss Nathan Jones wouldn’t have been happy with the ease in which his side conceded, as both Dunk and Rohan Ince were left totally unmarked from the set-play, an issue that often hampered the hosts throughout last season.
Hatters should have been back on level terms moments later though, when Sheehan, whose set-piece delivery was outstanding, sent over a corner for Hylton, but he got his angles all arong and headed way wide.
With Jones looking to top up his squad’s minutes, he avoided making any changes for the second period as another fast start saw Luton almost re-take the lead in the opening seconds.
Sheehan’s deep free kick was prodded goalwards by Johnny Mullins, with Maenpaa saving with his legs and Dunk diverting Mpanzu’s follow up away from his own goal-line.
In an open game, Hatters were then indebted to the woodwork for remaining on level terms as Elvis Manu burst into the box and thundered his shot past Walton, only to see it cannon against the bar, the Dutch attacker failing to convert the rebound.
Town, who were getting the ball wide at every opportunity, with Dan Potts and O’Donnell constant threats on either side, were denied a second once more when Hylton’s firm downward header from the latter’s cross drew a brilliant save by Maenpaa’s legs.
However, Luton were ahead once more on 58 minutes when that man Marriott saw the net ripple yet again, as Sheehan and O’Donnell worked a short corner, with the full back’s cross converted by Town’s red hot striker
Luton were happy to look for more too, with O’Donnell flashing one cross just out of the reach of the lurking Marriott.
As the half wore on, Jones once again showed his faith in Hatters’ younger professionals, bringing them on in batches, and yet again, not one looked out of place, with Tyreeq Bakinson standing out as he so often has.
Playing in an attacking role, he eased away from the visiting midfield to slip in Zane Banton, who only marginally missed the bottom corner, but it mattered little as Albion never once looked like threatening what would have been a scarcely deserved leveller.
Hatters: Christian Walton, Stephen O’Donnell (Frankie Musonda 83), Dan Potts (Cameron McJannet 85), Johnny Mullins (Scott Cuthbert 62), Alan Sheehan (Akin Famewo 73), Jonathan Smith, Olly Lee (Glen Rea 65), Cameron McGeehan (Josh McQuoid 62), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Tyreeq Bakinson 78), Danny Hylton (Zane Banton 62), Jack Marriott (Alex Atkinson 83).
Subs not used: Craig King.
Seagulls: Niki Maenpaa, Gaeten Bong, Lewis Dunk, Steve Sidwell (Jason Molumby 68), Glenn Murray, Tom Cadman, Elvis Manu (Jesse Starkey 72), Jiri Skalak, Rohan Ince, Will Collar, Anthony Knockaert.
Bookings: McGeehan, Dunk
Attendance: 2,372 (193 Brighton).