The Hatters youth team rediscovered their shooting boots this afternoon at Ely Way – hitting eight past Barnet as their EFL Youth Alliance League Cup campaign got off to a flying start.
After two successive blanks in the league, losing to both the Bees and Southend by a solitary goal, the Town Under-18s returned to form with a bang – following in the first team’s foot-steps by becoming the second Town side this season to hit eight!
Just like the senior squad on that opening day of the season against Yeovil, the youngsters had to come from behind to do so after the visitors from north London took a second-minute lead.
But once Arthur Read had levelled matters with a stunning volley with his right-foot in the 18th minute, and Connor Tomlinson tucked a lovely finish inside the near post from Corey Panter’s cross after a flowing move down the left eight minutes later, it was one-way traffic.
Jack James was rampant down the right in the early stages of the second half and it was from his delivery into the six-yard box that Tomlinson touched in his second on 50 minutes.
Then Josh Neufville rifled in to the roof of the net from just inside the area to make it 4-1 just after after hour.
Read was enjoying revelling in the space afforded him on both flanks, and his quick feet in the box – which should have won a penalty in the first half – finally did so with ten minutes to go as he was chopped down again, skipper Joe Mead stepping up to net the spot-kick for five.
Barnet hit the crossbar with seven minutes to go to serve a reminder of what they were capable of, but despite being down to ten men after a limping Tomlinson went off as a precaution with all substitutions made, the Hatters rattled in another three late goals.
First, Kitan Sorunke produced a neat 87th-minute finish when he worked his way from the right byline to slam home at the near post, then fellow substitute Avan Jones – an Under-16 – got up from right-back to meet a Michael Shamalo cross with an emphatic volley at the far post on 89.
A minute into time added on, Panter got in on the act as a lovely one-two with Drew Richardson took him into the box to produce a tidy finish for number eight.
Head of academy coaching Jordan McCann said: “On the whole the standard of play when we had the ball wasn’t too dissimilar to the last two games, especially against Southend when we were decent in our build-up, but just failed to convert and be clinical in the final third.
“So it was pleasing today to do that and grab a few goals, which has been coming. I’m delighted for the lads because their all-round play has deserved some end product.
“In all the cup competitions we want to progress as far as we can. The further you get the more varied experience the boys get of playing different types of teams and different grounds and venues, and in stadiums where there’s a bit more of an atmosphere and a bit more on it.
“We don’t hide that. We want to get as far as we can in cup competitions and give the boys that experience of playing.
“We’ve had some brilliant times in the last couple of years with Paul Driver – the FA Youth Cup runs, winning this competition two years ago and last year getting to southern final, so that’s something we want to keep going.
“While winning is not the most important thing in youth team football, we want to have a winning mentality.
“It’s really important that the boys have that and hopefully when they have a chance to go into Nathan’s first team, they have that mentality about them to go and try and win games of football.
“It’s always about trying to find the balance, but certainly in the cup competitions we want to win as many games as we can to progress, and we’ve done that well today.”
TOWN LINE-UP: Parker, James (A Jones), Mead, C Jones, Panter, Swindells (Belgrove), Peck, Read (Sorunke), Richardson, Neufville (Shamalo), Tomlinson. Sub not used: Ellis (GK)
GOALS: Read 18, Tomlinson 26, 50, Neufville 63, Mead 81 (pen), Sorunke 87, A Jones 89, Panter 90+1