Shamola strike sinks Shrimpers
The Hatters’ Under-18s opened up a 14-point gap at the top of the Youth Alliance as a much-changed side edged past Southend United with a 1-0 win on Wednesday afternoon.
Under-16 striker Michael Shamola netted the winner on the hour to give the Town, who were crowned champions last week, another victory – their 17th win in 20 league matches this season.
Boss Paul Driver made six changes to the side that beat Bournemouth at the weekend, which saw the Town reach the Southern League Cup final.
With next Wednesday’s FA Youth Cup tie at Oldham in mind, there were starts for under-15 Jake Peck and three players from the Town under-16 squad.
In contrast, Southend fielded a much stronger side and could have gone in front in the first half only for Town goalkeeper Liam Gooch to claw a way a top-corner-bound effort.
Shamola also came close for the Town when spurning a decent opportunity having raced clear one-on-one with the visiting goalkeeper, but the young striker made amends on the hour when latching onto Akin Famewo’s left-wing cross and finishing from 12 yards.
Southend pushed for an equaliser in the final half-hour but, despite threatening from set-pieces the visitors failed to seriously test Gooch, and the Hatters held to record another win and a 16th clean sheet in 27 matches in all competitions this season.
A happy coach Driver told lutontown.co.uk: “It was a very pleasing result given we rested a lot of the boys who will be involved in next weekend.
“As has been the case so often this season, we edged it because we defended resolutely and were clinical in front of goal.
“Given the amount of changes we made, it took a little while for the players to settle and get used to playing with one another but it was a game full of positives.
“It’s important to introduce younger players, and for someone like Jake Peck to play 90 minutes as an under-15, it is very encouraging – especially given the quality of who we were up against.”
Another young side is expected to take on Stevenage on the Creasey Park astroturf on Saturday before attention turns to Oldham next Wednesday.
Town: Gooch; James, Bean, Jones, McJannet; Brown, Peck, Justin (sub Bakinson 46), Snelus (sub Atkinson 46); Shamola, Verney (sub Famewo 50).