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TOWN UNDER-18s: JOURNEY TO THE FIFTH ROUND

9 February 2016

The Hatters youngsters face Preston North End at Deepdale for a place in the FA Youth Cup last eight

The Hatters Under-18s are set for their first FA Youth Cup fifth round appearance since 2003 when they travel to Preston North End on Wednesday evening.

Paul Driver’s side have impressed in both league and cup this year, with his team growing in confidence and skill with each game across all competitions.

With a last-eight trip to Blackburn Rovers awaiting the winners, we look back at the Town youngsters’ incredible performances in the Youth Cup so far ahead of their visit to Deepdale.

Round 1: Hatters 3-1 Colchester United

Driver’s team were 3-0 to the good by half-time against the U’s, despite facing a Colchester side one level above the Hatters at Category 2.

Freddie Hinds and Alex Atkinson scored, while the visitors’ Joe Tennent put through his own net to give the Town a commanding advantage. Colchester had started the game slightly on top, but the hosts grew in 
confidence as the match developed to book their place in the second round.

Hinds also hit the post in the second half, but Colchester pulled a goal back through Louis Dunne to set up a nervy finale. 

But the Town held on, even coming close to netting a fourth through Kavan Cotter, to surprise their higher-tiered opponents for a 14th win in 16 games in all competitions.

Round 2: Leyton Orient 0-1 Hatters

The Town were forced to grind out a dogged win at Leyton Orient, with Freddie Hinds’ goal enough to see Driver’s outfit through to the last 32.

The striker coolly slotted home from Kavan Cotter’s through ball, netting his 11th goal of the season to set up a third round meeting with Notts County.

Youth team manager Driver was delighted with his side’s display, praising central defenders Frankie Musonda and Akin Famewo, who nullified any Orient danger all night.

Goalkeeper Liam Gooch was rarely tested between the sticks for the Hatters, dealing aptly with the little that did come his way to secure the young side’s 11th clean sheet of the campaign.

Round 3: Notts County 1-3 Hatters

Town teams at all levels never do things the easy way, and that mantra continued at Notts County when captain Frankie Musonda was sent off after just half an hour for a foul in the area.

By that time the Hatters were already two up through Freddie Hinds and Jack Snelus netting in the space of five minutes, but the penalty was converted to half the advantage and set a tough second half.

Paul Driver kept faith in the team from the previous two rounds, and the move paid dividends as George Murray restored the two-goal cushion with a header in the area.

And Murray had a chance to net again for 4-1 when missing with the goal at his mercy, but the ten men kept marching on with yet another impressive performance to stretch their unbeaten run to 22 matches.

Round 4: Oldham 0-1 Hatters

Another trip northwards and another solid display from the young Hatters in round four, this time with a 1-0 victory away at Oldham.

The Latics toppled AFC Bournemouth on penalties to reach Round Four, and it looked as though the game would be goalless at half-time until Cameron McJannet’s wonder strike saw the Town take the lead

The left-back struck a sweet volley after his free-kick rebounded back to him on the edge of the area, firing the unstoppable strike past the Oldham goalkeeper just a couple of minutes before the break.

And it could have got better for the Hatters when Alex Atkinson stepped up to the penalty spot, but his miss mattered very little as the Town booked their place in the last 16 for the first time in 13 years.

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