Harry Bean scored a late equaliser in what was a thrilling match against the Gills
Harry Bean scored a late equaliser as the Hatters Youth team gained a creditable draw against Gillingham in the EFL Youth Alliance League on Saturday morning.
Paul Driver made a host of changes to the side that beat Swindon Town in the Cup last week, with Jack James, Kavan Cotter, Jack Snelus, Arthur Read and Freddie Hinds being replaced by Harry Bean, Kitan Sorunke, Geo Craig and Under-16s Connor Tomlinson and Jake Peck, to give a much younger look to the start line-up.
The game didn't start well for Town, with Gillingham asserting an early authority, which proved costly for the visitors as the Gills took the lead in the fifth minute. A cross deceived Ciaren Gordon-Stearn in the Hatters’ goal, with the ball beating the keeper and finding the net.
Driver’s side fought back and Sorunke opened his account for the season in the seventh minute with a dribble and left-footed strike from 20 yards to level the scores.
Craig and Scott Belgrove combined well as the game settled down. The pair created the best chance for the rest of the half for the Hatters, as Belgrove was put through by Craig after 27 minutes. The forward cut back outside the defender and his shot from 15 yards was palmed away by the hosts’ keeper.
Gillingham's best chance of the half came as their striker got free in the box but pulled his left footed shot just wide.
The Hatters started the second half quickly, and they took the lead for the first time in the match in the 47th minute. Bean joined an attack, cut inside and crossed, which Belgrove got to first and headed home.
Having worked hard for the lead, some poor play by Town in possession helped Gillingham to get their noses in front with two goals in the space of five minutes to make the score 3-2.
Changes were made from the 60th minute with Drew Richardson (the fifth U16 player involved in the game) replacing Peck. James came on for Ciaren Jones and a final double substitution in the 69th minute seeing Hinds and Cotter coming on for George Murray and Sorunke as the Hatters went to a front four to look to get back into the game.
Gillingham missed a great chance in the 71st minute to kill the game as their striker shot wide from close range and they paid the price for this in injury time.
Bean got forward as he joined yet another attack. He rode a couple of tackles and hit a shot from distance which struck a defender and caught the home keeper wrong footed, levelling the score at 3-3.
The Hatters nearly grabbed all three points from a free-kick in the 94th minute which fell to Corey Panter just inside the box, but his volley went agonisingly wide of the upright.
Luton Town Team: Gordon-Stearn, Bean, Panter, Murray (Cotter 69), Mead, Jones (James 65), Sorunke (Hinds 69), Peck (Richardson 60) Tomlinson, Craig, Belgrove
After the entertaining contest, Paul Driver spoke to Lutontown.co.uk: "It's always a good game when we play Gillingham and they generally end in draws!
“We have to be pleased from the result perspective, as we had a much younger team out there today and they battled well and snatched a deserved draw at the end.
“Development-wise, as well, it's been a great week. A lot of the group got great experience at Wolves on Tuesday which has allowed five of the U16s to play against a strong Under 18s outfit early in the season.
“We did this two years' back with the likes of Famewo, McJannet, Bakinson and Cotter, that worked well enough!
“There are things to learn and work on from today, though, and these mainly revolve around decisions in possession especially under pressure in danger areas.
“We'll look at this with the boys during the week and hopefully they will learn from today and improve on the ball - especially the 16s who are new to things at this level.”