Town brush aside Belgians at Kenilworth RoadLuton made an impressive start to the first of three home pre-season fixtures this week with a convincing 4-0 win over Royal Antwerp.
Alex Lacey and Fraser Franks took advantage of Antwerp’s frailty from set–pieces to power in headers from corners in each half, before new boy Ross Lafayette and Alex Lawless added a late gloss to the result.
With over 800 Antwerp fans flooding into the Oak Road end the game was played before a noisy atmosphere thoughout with both sets of supporters swapping their favourite songs.
After Guvenc fired a volley over in the third minute, Town weren’t so forgiving in their first attack. A neat combination between Whalley and Rooney saw the former Swindon man put in a dangerous cross which Antwerp had to tuck behind. From the resulting corner Lacey powered home Rooney’s inswinger, stunning the vociferous Antwerp supporters.
Antwerp’s defending from set pieces was leaving a lot to be desired and Lacey should have made it two on ten minutes when he again met a corner unchallenged, only for his header to sail wide.
With Benson ploughing a lone furrow upfront, Luton were setting up with five in midfield. Rooney playing the ‘Guttridge role’, was getting a lot of space and linking play to the wings, where the pace and trickery of Whalley and Howells kept the Belgian full-backs guessing.
However, it was in the air where the Hatters were doing the most damage. Half way through the half Benson flicked a header just wide after Howells had delivered a teasing diagonal ball, before trialist Fry was then the next to nearly profit from Howells’ service. The left-back rose highest in the area but couldn’t test the keeper.
Both sides then had penalty shouts. Whalley appeared to be clipped in the area after Benson’s header had sent him through on goal, but the referee was not convinced. He was no more generous on 27 minutes, waving away Antwerp claims after Guvenc’s shot was blocked by a mass of bodies at close range.
Pelly Ruddock was at his atheltic best and after good approach play from Howells and Rooney, he wriggled into space on the edge of the area. His finish though lacked the raw power of his equaliser at Dartford in April, leaving a comfortable stop for Brondeel in the end.
With five minutes of the half left, and the play beginning to slow in the summer heat, Rooney beat his man down the right, with Brondeel forced to punch his cross out to Robinson. Robinson headed on to Howells who fed Benson, put the front man couldn’t turn before Antwerp snaffled the ball away.
The players gratefully dashed off for fluids at half time, but most of them didn’t emerge for the second half as John Still made eight changes.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, this reshuffle temporarily threw Town off their stride as Antwerp enjoyed the better of the half’s opening exchanges. Di Lallo fed Guvenc in the 56th minute, meaning Tyler had to be alert to take the ball onto his chest from a half-volley.
However, the Hatters didn’t take long to hit back, with Griffiths denied by a flying stop from Brondeel two minutes later.
Antwerp’s fans continued to roar their team on and Jorem Dom was unlucky just after the hour mark when his powerful shot shook the stanchion.
Yet their hard-work was undone in the 65th minute as they again failed to deal with a Hatters’ corner. Brondeel appeared to be blocked off but there was no whistle from the referee as Franks headed in.
Subsitutes Cullen and Lafayette were causing problems, with Brondeel on his toes to beat the former’s stinging shot away.
Any chance of Antwerp getting back in the game disappeared with fifteen minutes left when Lambrecht scuffed his shot from six yards out after being set up by Dom.
Luton were in no mood for mercy though and with Antwerp’s left-back absent without leave Lafayette danced his way in from the right touchline before smartly finishing into the net, aided by the slightest of deflections.
The best was yet to come though. Wall picked the ball up on the right and slid a pass into Drury. Drury then played in Lawless with an inch perfect pass, and the Welshman had time and space to curl in for number four.
TOWN: Justham (Tyler, 46), Connolly (Williams, 61), Fry (Griffiths, 46), Lacey McNulty (Williamson, 46), Ruddock-Mpanzu (Franks, 46), Rooney Cullen, 46), Robinson (Drury, 46), Benson (Lafayette, 61), Howells (Lawless, 46), Whalley Wall, 46).
ANTWERP: Brondeel, Iboma, Martens, Vansteenkiste, De Decker (Dos Santos, 21), Dom, Bostock, Guvenc, Di Lallo (Tano, 70),Lambrecht, Berends.
Attendance: 3,199 (802 away)
Man of the match: Luke Rooney