Town fight-back to beat Hornets
The Hatters youngsters returned to league duty on Saturday with a visit to leaders, Watford and returned with all three points thanks to an excellent, hardworking performance against the former academy side.
Watford started the game the stronger with most of the play in the first 10 minutes in the Hatters’ half but Ben Barnes wasn't troubled and the first proper chance of the half came to the Town following a move that found Jemale McKenzie-Lowe in space in the box but he could get away a telling strike to open the scoring.
Brett Longden, playing a centre back in the absence of Tinashe Chabata through injury, had a good run at shot from a Charlie Smith corner but his effort was blocked. Another Smith corner found Zak Stephens but his header went wide.
But it was Watford who took the lead after 35 minutes when they intercepted a pass out of the Hatters backline and took advantage to bundle the ball over the line.
The second half continued at the same high tempo as the first with both teams working hard to get the vital next goal in an even contest.
It was the Hatters who got that goal when a Barnes drop-kick was flicked on by McKenzie-Lowe and Zane Banton beat the Watford defence to the ball to tuck his finish into the bottom corner of the net and even things up at 1-1.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes, Darill Ngwala replaced Jordan Davis and Under-16 Zac Jules came on for the injured skipper Zak Stephens at centre half.
With a very inexperienced back line now in place - usual skipper Jerome Jibodu was also missing due to illness and replaced by Kyle Davison from the club's Cedars Group - it was very much backs to the wall with a couple of brave blocks and two excellent saves by Barnes keeping things level.
The Hatters still possessed a threat going forward on the break though, and, in the 87th minute, Charlie Smith picked up the ball out wide and his cross into the box found McKenzie-Lowe who showed great composure with his touch and finish into the bottom corner to put the Hatters in front for the first time.
Further determined defending from all 11 players saw out the remainder of normal time and almost five minutes injury time to give the Hatters a deserved win over their local rivals.
Coach Paul Driver was understandably delighted with the teams' performance.
"This was our best all round performance this season,” said Driver. “We defended well all around the pitch and that was the most pleasing thing for me.
“Kyle Davison and Zac Jules came in and did their bit well for the team, Ian Rees had his best game for a while, getting around the pitch well which I am also happy about, and Jemale and Zane up front were excellent as a pair and deserved their goals.
"We have set the benchmark of how we have to play now and we need to build on it."
Luton Team: Barners, Burtenshaw, Davison, Rees, Longden, Stephens (Jules 81), Davis (Ngwala 76), Smith, McKenzie-Lowe, Banton, Amu.