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19 October 2016

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Andy describes striker’s return as “boost for everybody”

Academy and Development manager Andy Awford last night paid tribute to striker Craig Mackail-Smith, after the former Brighton & Hove Albion man returned to match action for the first time since breaking his leg at Plymouth in March.
The 32-year-old played the first half of the 3-0 Beds FA Senior Cup first round win at Barton Rovers, stretching the Non-League side’s defence with his pace and supplying the cross that led to the award of a penalty for the Town development squad’s second goal, scored by Zane Banton.
Speaking immediately after the victory at Sharpenhoe Road, Awford told “It was quite interesting because Craig was telling me the last time he came here was for Arlesey Town ten years ago, when he played Non-League.
“It’s amazing how his career has gone that way, and it’s just great to see him back out there. For us as a club, it’s a boost for everybody.
“As we all know, he’s been out for a while with his injury and the plan was only ever to play him for 45 tonight. That was always going to be the way, however he played. But it’s just great to see him back out there tonight. Hopefully he can contribute into the first team group and get some more minutes now.”
The Hatters youngsters won 4-2 at Barton last month in the Beds FA Premier Cup final, but found themselves pegged back that night to 2-2 at one stage by the Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central side’s set piece propensity.
Awford was especially pleased with how they coped with the physical nature of last night’s game.
“I thought we controlled the game from start to finish, so from that point of view I was really pleased,” he said.
“We set the boys a couple of challenges tonight in terms of the experience we had here a few weeks ago, where they scored from two set pieces. The long throw is a different experience for the younger players because in academy football, you don’t get that too often.
“Barton are going to put the ball in the box at every opportunity from a throw-in and deep free-kicks, and things like that, so we had to make sure that we were switched on to that tonight.
“We kept a clean sheet, so they’ve obviously learned, which is great. From a learning curve point of view, that’s been good and I was pleased with the overall performance.
“The young players train every day with the first team now, the majority of them anyway, so they do get it in training, but obviously it’s not as physical as playing against it in a game.
“They’ve stood up to that tonight and they’ve matched it. They’ve shown that they can handle it.”

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