Freddie's first-half strike sinks experienced Molineux side
Wolves Development 0
Luton Town Development 1
Town line-up: Craig King, Jack James (Joe Mead 65), Jack Senior, Tyreeq Bakinson, Frankie Musonda, Ciaren James, Kavan Cotter (Scott Belgrove 70), Zane Banton (Geo Craig 70), Freddie Hinds (George Murray 70), Alex Atkinson, Arthur Read (Kitan Sorunke 55)
Academy and development manager Andy Awford has told lutontown.co.uk of his delight at yesterday’s 1-0 Development Squad win at Wolves.
The young Hatters took on the Sky Bet Championship club’s Category 1 Academy side at the Sir Jack Hayward training ground and emerged with another creditable victory thanks to Freddie Hinds’ first-half goal.
Wolves fielded two different sides in each half with recent signings Ola John, the Dutch international on a season-long loan from Benfica – who paid nine million euros for his services in 2012 – and Moroccan international midfielder Romain Saiss, who joined from French Ligue 1 side Angers for a reported fee of £3m.
Zane Banton was the most experienced player in the Hatters line-up, with recent signing from Huddersfield, Jack Senior, making an impressive first appearances in a Town shirt at left-back.
Awford said: “Wolves play in a Cat One development league – an Under-23 league – so with it being a friendly they used it as an opportunity to experiment with one or two things, and I knew they might use one or two first-team players coming back from injury to give them game time.
“It gave our young players another great opportunity to go up against a Cat 1 Under-23 side sprinkled with Championship players. They came through it and won the game again, which I was delighted about.”
Following on from the Checkatrade Trophy win at Gillingham a fortnight ago, in which goalkeeper Craig King, Frankie Musonda, Tyreeq Bakinson, Kavan Cotter, Banton and Alex Atkinson all featured, and last week’s competitive 2-2 draw with an experienced Northampton Town side, Awford saw yesterday’s trip to the Midlands as another crucial part of the youngsters’ learning curve.
“What we are trying to do is give them a real rich experience, so next week we play Barton Rovers, which with respect, is a totally different game at a totally different venue,” said Awford.
“As you can imagine, yesterday we travelled on a coach, where normally the lads are used to a mini-bus, and played at the Wolves training ground which is very nice, with big spacious dressing rooms and the pitch was like Wembley.
“Everything about it was very good, but the mentality next week will be a very different one, and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. We played at Hitchin last week. The week after Barton we host Birmingham Under-21s, which will be another good game for them, then we play Leyton Orient, which is pretty similar to where we’re at. So we are trying to get our balance right.
“It’s no good them playing experienced pros every week because eventually they’ll run out of steam.
“A lot of them played against Swindon on Saturday in the Under-18s as well, so they are getting a good variety of football at the moment – at training grounds and stadiums – to help with their overall learning, which is the aim of all the games in the Under-21s this year.
“At the moment they are doing very well and we are pleased with what we are seeing.”
That is especially the case on the pitch, where Hinds’ 29th-minute goal gave the boys another cracking result.
“In terms of the game, we were excellent,” said Awford. “In the first half we were by far the better team. We looked very compact, we didn’t have too many troubles defensively and we looked a threat when we had the ball.
“Every time we had it, the front two, the midfield support and the full-backs joining in looked really good and I was really pleased with what I saw. We deservedly got the lead and maybe deserved a little bit more than 1-0.
“In the second half, they changed the whole team and our lads flagged a little bit – we’ve had a lot of games lately for them, which is why we put five subs on and made the changes around 60-70 minutes to get the lads off who’ve had a lot of football lately. Then you’re even younger than when you started.
“At the end of the game we had five first-year apprentices on the pitch, so it was really good. Fair play to Wolves, they had the upper hand for the last half-an-hour and had a couple of chances.
“Kingy made one very good save, but we saw it out and I was pleased we managed to hold out for the win. Away from home, you’ve got to dig in sometimes, and we did. There was all the nice stuff in the first half, and then afterwards they showed real good character to see the game out.”
Hatters chief recruitment officer Mick Harford travelled north to watch the game, and Andy broke into laughter for his final summing up: “The icing on the cake was Mick Harford came to watch without a waterproof and without a brolly, and the heavens opened properly.
“Then he had to travel to watch an evening game – doing the fantastic scouting job for the club that he does – absolutely soaking wet through. I’ll be buying Mick an umbrella for next week!”