Marriott double downs the Seagulls at Kenilworth Road
Luton Town 2
(Marriott 1, 58)
Att: 2,372 (193 from Brighton)
Fresh from signing a new three-year contract in midweek, Jack Marriott fired a double as the Hatters recorded a fine 2-1 win over manager Nathan Jones’ former club Brighton in the first pre-season friendly at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.
The 21-year-old striker missed Tuesday’s trip to Boreham Wood through illness, but he was back quick as a flash today, registering his first goal after just 25 seconds of the game against the team who finished third in the Sky Bet Championship last term.
Marriott, partnering Danny Hylton in attack, picked the ball up around 25 yards from goal and and made space for himself to fire a left-footed shot low past Niki Maenpaa into the bottom corner.
The bright opening continued with Marriott having a second shot blocked, before Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu opened his legs to race down the right, whipping in a dangerous cross that Albion captain Lewis Dunk had to head behind.
Playing at the tip of the midfield, Cameron McGeehan was looking very lively. He got his head to Dan Potts’ ninth-minute corner, but couldn’t keep it down, then he cracked a low shot from just outside the area that Maepaa got down low to his right to gather.
The Hatters enjoyed the majority of possession early on and soon after Jiri Skalak had sent his 25-yard free-kick into the Town’s strong defensive wall, Jones’ lads were on the attack again.
Marriott was a toenail away from latching onto a knockdown from strike partner Hylton, before McGeehan burst into the box in the 23rd minute and tested Maepaa's handling at his near post from a tight angle.
Three minutes later it was Hylton’s turn to have a go at goal, picking the ball up 25 yards out and fizzing a right-footed shot inches wide.
Just before the half-hour, the Hatters defended an Albion free-kick well after Johnny Mullins had tripped a flying Anthony Knockaert just outside the area, Alan Sheehan blocking Steve Sidwell’s shot comfortably after Knockaert had played it short.
McGeehan was soon into referee Keith Stroud’s notebook for a foul on Sidwell in the centre circle, and from a second free-kick in quick succession, Knockaert then clipped the Town crossbar as Christian Walton flew through the air at full stretch to cover it against his parent club.
Albion had begun to gain control and the Championship side were level with captain Lewis Dunk meeting a cross from the left with a firm header at the far post.
The Hatters were keen to regain the upper hand, however, and Mpanzu reached the right byline and cut back for McGeehan to rain another effort in on goal, this one deflected wide for a corner.
Potts once again delivered a fine inswinger that found Hylton's head, but the ex-Oxford man couldn’t direct it on target and the players headed off for half-time level at 1-1.
The Hatters came back out for the second half in exactly the same line-up, and front-foot style, as they started the game.
Sheehan delivered a lovely free-kick to the far post, where it was turned back towards goal by Mullins at full stretch. Maepaa saved with his feet, but only as far as Mpanzu whose 15-yard shot was blocked on the line by Dunk.
On 53 minutes, Elvis Manu sent a shot crashing against the Town crossbar, then another low effort in after regaining the loose ball, but Walton saved well low to his left.
Within a minute, the Hatters were on the attack again, O'Donnell sending a great cross in from the right byline and Hylton climbing highest at the far post, but his downward header was saved by Maenpaa with his feet.
At the other end, Walton had to be on his guard – receiving a round of applause for being so – after reading an Albion ball over the top and racing out of his box to head clear of sub Henrik Bjordal.
Then, Marriott struck again. Sheehan took a short corner to O’Donnell, who helped the ball round the corner towards goal and the in-form hitman turned it in from close range for his fifth goal of pre-season so far to put the Town 2-1 up.
Jones started to ring the changes soon after, Scott Cuthbert tasting his first action of the season after his hamstring strain, replacing Mullins, and Zane Banton on for McGeehan at the tip of the diamond, and Josh McQuoid taking Hylton’s berth up front.
O’Donnell was quickly rampaging down the right flank again, zipping a dangerous low ball across the Seagulls’ six-yard box, before Jones brought Glen Rea on to face the club he’s just left to join the Hatters, as Olly Lee’s replacement in the midfield holding role.
Newly-turned pro Akin Famewo was introduced with just under a quarter-of-an-hour left for his first taste of senior action at Kenilworth Road, after appearing as a second-half sub in the three away games against Paksi FC, Bedford Town and Boreham Wood so far.
Tyreeq Bakinson was soon joining him, repacing Mpanzu, who had enjoyed a good afternoon’s work in midfield, and two of the subs – Banton and McQuoid – came close to unlocking the visitors’ defence again, but the former’s lobbed pass just eluded the latter as he made his way into the box.
Two more recent youth teamers were introduced in the final ten minutes, with Alex Atkinson replacing Marriott – who left the pitch to a rousing ovation – and Frankie Musonda coming on for O’Donnell at right-back.
Atkinson was soon into the action, setting up Bakinson for a low shot that went just wide of the Albion goal, and Banton then went close as the game drew to a close.
All in all, a thoroughly impressive afternoon for Jones and his team. Next up, Woking away on Tuesday night!
The Hatters: Walton, O’Donnell (Musonda 82), Mullins (Cuthbert 62), Sheehan (Famewo 73), Potts (McJannett 86), Lee (Rea 65), Smith, McGeehan (Banton 62), Mpanzu (Bakinson 78), Hylton (McQuoid 62), Marriott (Atkinson 82). Unused subs: King (GK)