Craig makes comeback as Development Squad progress
Barton Rovers 0
Luton Town 3
Banton (pen) 40
The Hatters’ development squad progressed to the second round of the Beds FA Senior Cup tonight with a convincing 3-0 win at Evo-Stik League Division One Central neighbours Barton Rovers.
Craig Mackail-Smith made his long-awaited comeback after seven months out with a broken leg, looking lively in the opening 45 minutes before being substituted at half-time for Freddie Hinds, who netted the third goal after Jack Snelus and Zane Banton had put Andy Awford’s lads two goals to the good.
Mackail-Smith’s strike partner Isaac Vassell didn’t waste any time registering the first attempt on goal, curling inches wide with just 30 seconds on the clock.
The ex-Truro City man had the Hatters' second chance too, his left-foot cross almost catching backpedalling keeper Aaron Fulton out, but the Rovers man pushed it away.
Vassell was proving a real threat and just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark he beat the Rovers centre-half in a foot race to get onto Musonda's ball over the top, but his lob over the onrushing Fulton bounced over the crossbar.
The Town had the lead on 18 minutes when the home defence failed to deal with a low cross from Vassell and Snelus pounced on the loose ball to fire in from the edge of the area right footed.
Mackail-Smith was looking lively, and showed he’s lost none of his pace when latching onto a long pass from Tyreeq Bakinson, but his attempted lay off to put Vassell clear was intercepted.
Barton reminded the Hatters defence they carried a threat themselves when their front two of Connor Calcutt and Josh Bamford combined in the 27th minute, but the latter’s volley didn’t dip enough to creep under Craig King’s bar.
Up the other end, Vassell was determined to get on the scoresheet – as he did here in the 4-2 Beds FA Premier Cup final win last month – and he fired in another effort from just inside the area on 36 minutes, but this time Fulton saved low.
The lead was doubled by Banton, however, five minutes before half-time from the penalty spot, after the 20-year-old forward started the passage of play that led to the spot-kick.
Banton picked up the ball on halfway and spread it wide to Mackail-Smith on the right. As the returning striker cut into the box, his attempted cross hit centre-half Darren Locke on the hand and ref Chris O’Donnell – brother of former Town midfielder JJ O’Donnell – didn’t hesitate in pointing to the spot, with Banton confidently stroking home.
Two-nil at half-time, as it was on our last trip to Sharpenhoe Road, Barton came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half – again, just like last time when they soon levelled the scores at 2-2.
Mackail-Smith had made way for Hinds, with 45 minutes’ hard graft in his legs, and Bamford should have reduced the arrears inside the first minute, before Calcutt curled over from long range.
Barton skipper Steve Gentle became the third Rovers player to be shown the yellow card for a foul on for Hinds, but Banton’s 20-yard free-kick was only troubling the cars parked behind the goal.
On 64 minutes Arthur Read did likewise, firing over after a great move down the right involving Bakinson, Harry Bean, Snelus and Hinds, who two minutes later made it 3-0 to the Town with a neat finish from just inside the box.
Snelus, Banton and Geo Craig – brought on for Vassell on the hour – were soon peppering the Barton goal as the Town went in search of further goals, and Hinds looked certain to score when he went through with ten minutes left, but his attempted pass across the six-yard box was just too far in front of Craig.
The hosts were reduced to ten men in the closing stages when winger Rod Orlando-Young was shown a straight red card for a poor challenge on Bean, and the Town saw the game out to inflict Barton’s first defeat in this competition since 2014.
TOWN: King, Bean, Musonda, Famewo, James, Bakinson, Snelus, Read (Sorunke 71), Banton, Mackail-Smith (Hinds 46), Vassell (Craig 60). Subs: Gooch, Mead.