Hatters youngsters win again
The Hatters' Under-18s made their longest trip of the Merit League 1 Campaign on Saturday when they visited Championship High Flyers AFC Bournemouth at Canford School in Wimbourne and returned with an excellent 2-0 win to keep up their challenge at the top of the table behind leaders Plymouth Argyle.
Paul Driver again fielded a very young side with four Under-16 players starting the contest and another five making up the bench with Luke Trotman and Isaac Galliford being the only second year scholars utilised against the winners of the South West Region's League.
AFC Bournemouth started the game the brighter and had the best of the early exchanges with Liam Gooch called on to make a fine save to stop the hosts from taking the lead.
The Hatters' best chances came from corners with Cameron McJannet firing over and having a shot blocked then the full back almost got on the end of a Frankie Musonda header from an Isaac Galliford corner.
The visitors were hit with an early blow when James Justin sustained a lower back injury in a tackle midway through the half and was replaced by Tyreeq Bakinson. Their best efforts leading into the break fell to Geo Craig who had two shots blocked at close range and the teams went into the break level.
The Hatters' started the second half better as Trotman and Galliford became more influencial in midfield and it was the former who opened the scoring when his 25-yard effort flew into the net off of the Keepers' arm.
Shortly after this, Galliford was removed with a stiffening in the back and was replaced by George Murray to bring the total of Under 16s on the pitch to six but this didn't deter the visitors from controlling things defensively and restricting the hosts to few opportunities to get level and the lead was extended in the 71st minute when Trotman burst down the wing and his cross was helped onto Geo Craig by Freddie Hinds and Craig chipped the ball into the net for his third goal in as many games.
Undeterred, Bournemouth looked to strike back and were only denied a goal by the heroics of Musonda who somehow stopped a goal bound chip over Gooch from entering the net with the attackers' follow up header going over the top. Gooch then pulled off another great block to keep the two goal lead and clean sheet intact.
James Verney replaced Hinds as the game came to a close and the Hatters won their fifth game out of six by a 2-0 margin to set up an exciting finish to the season with tough games against Barnet (the South East winners and conquerors of Driver's side twice in the regular campaign) and Stevenage to come.
Paul Driver said: "This was a superb away performance from such a young group and the fifth clean sheet in six games with three schoolboys playing in the Back Four is particularly encouraging going forward. Geo and Freddie were superb as a pair up top, with and without the ball, and this is looking like a really exciting partnership for next season with James Verney backing them up but also pushing hard for a place himself added to that.”
Luton Team: Gooch, Cotter, McJannet, Musonda (c), Famewo, Justin (Bakinson), Galliford (Murray), Trotman, Craig, Hinds (Verney). Subs Not Used. Bean, Harker (GK).