Hatters kick-off pre-season with five goals at Hitchin
Whalley 12, Wall 31, 51, 57 (pen), Cullen 78
A hat-trick from Alex Wall helped the Hatters ease to a comfortable victory in their first pre-season friendly of the summer.
The striker netted his impressive treble in a 26-minute spell either side of half-time and was joined on the scoresheet by Shaun Whalley and Mark Cullen in front of over 1,000 Hatters fans at Top Field.
On a balmy evening the Town began brightly and came close in the 10th minute when Luke Wilkinson saw his header from Jake Howells’ corner cleared off the line by Garry Jones.
However, two minutes later the Hatters were in front in fine style. Howells’ flick sent Whalley racing away down the left. The winger cut inside and fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner giving Hitchin keeper Tahj Bell no chance.
With Town tails up, Howells came close to making it 2-0 two minutes later when Bell did well to get down at his near post to tip the shot away.
Southern League Premier Hitchin had rarely threatened going forward but Elliot Justham was on hand to make a simple catch from Gary Wharton’s shot from the edge of the area on 15 minutes.
A minute later Wall smashed a wild effort way high over Bell’s crossbar before the hosts’ Robbie Burns curled a free-kick from 20 yards narrowly wide of Justham’s right-hand post.
Centre-back Wilkinson came close once more on 20 minutes when his header from another Howells corner hit the side-netting.
Wall came mighty close on 29 minutes with a firm, low effort that Bell did well to tip away but two minutes later the striker wasn’t to be denied when he doubled the Town’s lead. Whalley’s inch-perfect free-kick curled dangerously into the box and Wall was free to glance a header past Bell inside the six-yard box.
As half-time approached the Town continued to hunt more goals with Howells the closest to making it 3-0 when his fierce effort flashed wide.
After the restart the Hatters wasted no time in adding to their lead when Wall scored his second and the Town’s third six minutes into the second period. Howells was the architect, swinging in a lovely cross from the left and Wall flicked home a wonderfully-controlled volley.
Wall then grabbed his hat-trick in slightly easier fashion six minutes later. The striker ran onto Fraser Franks' pass but was upended in the penalty box by David Corran and Wall stepped up to roll home from 12 yards.
After 63 minutes the Hatters made wholesale changed with 10 substitutes joining the fray and only Stephen McNulty remaining on the field from the team that began the game.
One of those changes, Alex Lawless, was first to test Bell following the substitutions with his low drive kept out well by the Canaries keeper on 68 minutes.
Four minutes later Lawless almost supplied Alex Lacey with the Town’s fifth from a right-wing corner but the defender’s header dropped inched wide of the post.
But the Town did find a fifth with 12 minutes left when Cullen’s deflected shot from just inside the D flat-footed Bell giving the home stopper no chance.
Luke Rooney and Ricky Miller, twice, both went close to adding a sixth goal in the closing stages but the Town declared five in their first friendly fixture of the summer. Next stop for the first team: Barnet on Sunday.
Town: Justham, Franks, McNulty, Wilkinson, Onyemah, Ruddock, Robinson, Whalley, Lafayette, Wall, Howells.
Town from 63rd minute onwards: Town team now: Tyler, Connolly, McNulty (sub Miller 73), Lacey, Griffiths, Stevenson, Rooney, Lawless, Walker, Cullen.
Subs not used: Fitzsimons, Trotman.