Town youngsters see off Colchester to book second round place
The Hatters Under-18s made it 16 games unbeaten this season with an excellent 3-1 win over Colchester United in the first round of the FA Youth Cup at Kenilworth Road.
Paul Driver’s side were 3-0 up at half-time thanks to goals from Freddie Hinds, Alex Atkinson and an own goal from the visitors’ Joe Tennent.
Colchester pulled a goal back shortly before the hour through Louis Dunne, but the Town held on well to impressively book their place in the second round of the competition.
The visitors, playing a level above the Hatters as a Category 2 academy side, had the first chance of the game only for Town goalkeeper Liam Gooch to deny Tariq Issa with a smart save.
Colchester had shaded the opening 15 minutes but slowly but surely the Town grew in stature and on 20 minutes they took the lead. Atkinson seized on a poor defensive clearance to slide a clever pass through to Hinds who held off the attentions of several Colchester defenders to fire home a composed finish.
All of a sudden the confidence began oozing through the Town youngsters with George Murray and Kavan Cotter testing the visitors’ defence.
But then came a turning point just after the half-hour. Colchester striker Eion McKeown fired a decent opportunity into the side netting on 31 minutes and 30 seconds later the Town raced up the other end and doubled their lead. A terrific passing move led to Cotter delivering a teasing low cross from the right and Colchester centre-half Tennent could only divert the ball past his own goalkeeper.
It then got even better for the Hatters five minutes before half-time when it Atkinson made it 3-0. Cotter was the architect, racing down the right flank to deliver a pass into the dangerzone and Atkinson was there to sweep home from six yards.
As the break approached the Town almost made it 4-0 on 43 minutes only for the Colchester keeper to keep out a Jack Snelus effort from the edge of the penalty area.
Colchester came out intent on reducing the deficit early in the second half but the Hatters came close to scoring a fourth goal on 53 minutes when Kyran McGhan-George’s header flashed wide.
Five minutes later Hinds rattled the woodwork for the Town when fashioning a chance by himself, but on 59 minutes Colchester got one goal back when Dunne raced through and slipped the ball past the onrushing Gooch to make it 3-1.
The Town almost restored their three-goal advantage on 68 minutes when Murray’s low left-foot drive was well-saved and, three minutes later, the Hatters were relieved to see the offside flag raised when Colchester substitute Degarrey Sheriff volleyed home.
But as time ticked down the more the Town dug in, and Driver’s side almost scored a fourth with six minutes left when Cotter volleyed over at the back post from six yards.
Colchester couldn’t find another goal and the Hatters comfortably held on to record yet another win – their 14th in 16 games this season – to book a second round date with either Leyton Orient or Hornchurch.
Town: Gooch, Justin, McJannet (sub Bean 81), Famewo, Musonda; Snelus, Atkinson, McGhan-George, Cotter; Hinds, Murray.
Subs not used: Verney, Jones, Read, Bakinson.