Under-18s now aiming for top 13 finish
The Hatters Youth put in a tour best performance on Wednesday and were desperately unlucky not to progress to the quarter final knock out stage of the Gothia Cup as Swedish opposition Brommapojkama held them to a 1-1 draw to mean they finished above the young Town side in second place with Danish outfit Ejsberg coming out on top of the group.
The Hatters started the game on the front foot and kept good possession throughout the early exchanges, chipping away at the Swedes who seemed happy to drop off and invite pressure. Good pressing from the front by Zane Banton, Arel Amu and Leeroy Maguraushe meant the opposition were restricted to hitting the long ball forward only to find Brett Longden and Zak Stephens at the heart of the defence dominating things.
It was against the run of play that the Swedes took the lead from a cross and close range finish in the 16th minute of the half. An immediate response led to a corner from which Kai Walters was fouled on the edge of the box. Charlie Smith's resulting free-kick was curled around the wall, striking the post and bouncing to safety.
Within three minutes, though, the scores were level when a precise Maguraushe pass found Osamu Allman's run and the schoolboy showed great composure to tuck the ball past the oncoming keeper and into the net. Allman was put clear again five minutes later but the keeper came out to deny him a second goal.
The second period continued the theme of the Hatters looking to win the game with Amu and Ollman a constant danger down the flanks, forcing a run of corners and free kicks in Brommapojkarma's half. Another Smith free kick from 25 yards required a neat save from the keeper in the best chance from these and Maguraushe burst through the middle only to pass when a shot from the edge of the box seemed the best option.
An Ian Rees shot was held onto by the Keeper as Banton looked to pounce on the rebound and a Jerome Jibodu goalbound shot was deflected wide as the Swedes held on to secure second spot in the group.
Paul Driver told lutontown.co.uk afterwards: "The lads were excellent. This is the best we have played over here by far and against, in our opinion from watching all the games in the group, the best team in our section - they pulled Gothenburg apart for large periods of their game yesterday but were never allowed to get on top against us or be able to take the game to us at any stage. Even when they scored, it was against the run of play and we hit back pretty quickly to even things up.
We now go into the 13 - 16th place competition which, given the high standard of teams out here, we would probably have been fairly pleased with beforehand but we are quite disappointed now because we know our performances warranted better than a third place in the group."
Next up for the youngsters on Thursday is a game against Danish Superliga outfit, Midtjylland from where West Ham's Winston Reid recently progressed.
Team: Carpenter, Jibodu, Perry (sub Chabata), Smith, Stephens, Longden, Rees, Maguraushe, Banton, Amu, Walters (sub Allman). Subs not used: Barnes, Stanley.