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13 July 2013

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Hatters go down to opening friendly defeat

The Hatters hit the bar and post on their first pre-season outing of the summer but fell to defeat at Conference South Boreham Wood.

New signings Mark Cullen and Shaun Whalley both struck the woodwork but Donovan Simmonds’ early header proved to be the difference on a baking hot day in Hertfordshire.

Wood went ahead with the first chance of the game on five minutes when Graeme Montgomery was allowed to cross from the left and Simmonds was free to head past an exposed Mark Tyler.

It was almost 2-0 10 minutes later when Tyler needed to stop Simmonds’ low shot from 12 yards when he was allowed to sneak through ahead of the Town defence.

Slowly but surely the Hatters were finding their passing rhythm in the Hertfordshire heat as half chance after half chance came their way.

Andy Parry sent a thumping header over the crossbar from Dave Martin’s left-wing free-kick before substitute Jon Shaw – on for Alex Wall – sent a tame effort at home goalkeeper James Russell.

With manager John Still screaming for him to push further up the pitch, Jim Stevenson combined well with fellow new face Cullen that saw the latter have a low shot saved by Russell from close range on 35 minutes.

By now it was all the Hatters as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser, and Cullen rattled the Boreham Wood crossbar in the 37th minute with a first-time shot from JJ O’Donnell’s cross. The rebound fell to Stevenson who thundered a half-volley goalwards that hit defender Luke Garrard and bounced to safety.

Stevenson again got forward to have the Town’s final chance of the first half when he found space 15 yards and saw a left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area blocked by a home defender.

The Hatters made 10 changes at half-time and 30 seconds after the restart Luke Guttridge tried his luck from 25 yards with a shot that appeared to strike the arm of Mark Bentley, but nothing was given by the officials.

A Solomon Taiwo tackle on Simmonds sparked an angry melee between both sets of players before the Hatters came close to levelling when a low shot from Taiwo – after two headers from Steve McNulty and Anthony Charles – fizzed wide with the aid of several deflections.

The Hatters had been in complete control of the opening 10 minutes of the second period and on 54 minutes they were denied an equaliser when Andre Gray’s close range shot was superbly tipped away by Russell.

On the hour, as the Town continued to push forward, Guttridge’s cross was met by Jake Howells at the back post before Whalley’s curling effort narrowly cleared the crossbar moments later.

Half chances came and went for the Hatters and they almost got an equaliser their dominance deserved with six minutes left when Whalley showed great trickery to beat his man and drill a shot that came back off the post with Russell beaten. Cullen, back on for Shaw, then saw the rebound saved by the keeper.

With four minutes left Guttridge’s looping header was kept out by Russell and that proved to be the last action.

Town 1st half: Tyler, Longden, O'Donnell, Parry, Lacey, Smith, Cullen, Stevenson, Wall (sub Shaw 17), Stewart, Martin.

Town 2nd half: Justham, Griffiths (sub O’Donnell 79), Charles (sub Lacey 83), McNulty, Henry, Guttridge, Taiwo, Whalley, Shaw (sub Cullen 81), Howells, Gray.

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