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5 August 2013

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Final pre-season victory for Hatters.

The Hatters clocked up their eighth win in 10 friendlies this summer with a victory over Thurrock in their final pre-season match before the start of the Skrill Premier season.

The Town led 1-0 through a Brett Longden thunderbolt but trailed at the break thanks to a quick-fire double from the hosts’ Lewis Perkins shortly before half-time.

However, the Hatters stepped it up after the break with substitute Zane Banton levelling seven minutes after the restart.

And youth team striker Banton – who fired the winner against Histon last Thursday – then teed up a third goal for trialist Ollie Hughes which made it 3-2, as well as a late fourth for midfielder Matt Robinson.

The Town had the perfect start after just four minutes when right-back Longden rushed up-field to intercept the ball 30 yards out and belted the ball home over the home goalkeeper’s reach to give the visitors the lead.

Longden, buoyed by that strike, tried it again on 12 minutes but his low shot from 25 yards was deflected behind from a corner.

The opening exchanges were dominated by the Hatters and centre-forward Alex Wall warmed the hands of Thurrock goalkeeper Reece Ottley with a firmly-struck free-kick that crept towards the bottom corner.

Wall was making a nuisance of himself in attack, getting his fair share of ill treatment from enthusiastic Thurrock defenders attempting to pinch the ball off of him. He struck a weak shot goalwards that was comfortable for Ottley on 21 minutes before twice going down injured. Eventually he was withdrawn, clutching an injured hip, on 32 minutes and on came Banton.

With Wall now off of the pitch, Thurrock woke up and levelled three minutes after the striker’s substitution. The Hatters failed to clear a corner and Perkins hammered a low shot from the edge of the penalty area beyond the unsighted Ben Barnes for the equaliser.

All of a sudden it was all the hosts, and Thurrock completed the turnaround on 37 minutes to take the lead when a deft finish from Perkins following a left-wing cross left the Town trailing.

It could have been worse for the Hatters two minutes before the interval when the faintest of fingertips from Barnes turned a goal-bound effort from Louis Hazelwood around the post.

Forty seconds after the restart the Town should have levelled when Robinson blazed high over the Thurrock goal when found with time and space in the Thurrock penalty area.

But, not to be denied, the Hatters did equalise on 52 minutes. Trialist Jake Hall did well to eke out a cross from the right flank which found Banton and the teenage striker composed himself well before rifling home from six yards to make it two apiece.

Hurt by being pegged back, Thurrock almost stole back the advantage on the hour only for Barnes to keep out Charlie Stimson’s low drive at the back post with a firm stop.

The Hatters stepped it up after that close call and should have gone ahead following three chances in the space of 60 seconds in the 73rd minute. Hall’s low drive from the edge of the penalty area was saved by Ottley with O’Donnell – in the book two minutes earlier for a nasty challenge on the Thurrock right-back – saw his follow-up deflected behind. From the resultant corner swung in by O’Donnell, Danny Fitzsimons planted a header from six yards wide of the target.

But, with 12 minutes left on the clock, the pressure did tell as the Town got their noses in front for the second time. This time Banton was the creator, laying on an inch-perfect right-wing cross for Hughes to turn home with a fine first-time finish into the bottom corner past Ottley.

With Thurrock pushing forward looking for an equaliser they were caught short at the back and the Town made sure of another pre-season victory when Robinson arrowed a low left-foot shot into the bottom corner following Banton’s pass to seal victory.

Town: Barnes, Longden, Jibodu, Fitzsimons, Charles, Sammoutis (sub Cibwabba 63), Hall, Robinson, Hughes, Wall (sub Banton 32), O'Donnell (sub Rees 79).
Subs not used: Chabata, Mendy, King.

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