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Match Reports


Hatters record highest-ever opening day victory against the Glovers

5 August 2017

Match Reports


Hatters record highest-ever opening day victory against the Glovers

5 August 2017

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The Hatters produced a stunning performance to come from behind record what is believed to be the highest-ever opening day victory in the club’s history at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.

Nathan Jones’ side smashed eight goals past his old club Yeovil – who had opened the scoring through Otis Khan’s early free-kick and grabbed a second consolation in the second half through Francois Zoko – to usurp the 6-1 first-day win over Oldham Athletic in 1978-79.

Jones picked five of his eight summer signings to start and brought another one as a substitute – with three of them opening their accounts for the club and another, goalkeeper Marek Stech, saving a penalty against the club he last played for in English football three years ago.

An old face opened the scoring with the equaliser in 12 minutes, Olly Lee volleying home. But James Collins – bought from Crawley – walked away with the matchball after netting a hat-trick, while Alan McCormack scored a stunner and Elliot Lee nodded in the eight on his second Town bow.

The Lee brothers became the first Hatters siblings to appear in a competitive game since the Steins at Wembley in 1988 when Elliot came on as a substitute in the second half.

In amongst all of that, another familiar face, Isaac Vassell, tormented the visiting defence and scored twice in as many minutes to give the Town a 5-1 half-time lead.

The other two to make their debuts were right-back Jack Stacey and on-loan Birmingham man Andrew Shinnie, who was outstanding at the tip of the midfield diamond and provided four assists for the seven goals that flew in while he was on the pitch.

As a sign of what was to follow, the Town almost had the perfect start with just 18 seconds on the clock when Collins found himself in the clear after Glovers centre-half Keston Davies let Alan Sheehan’s ball go over his head, but visiting keeper Artur Krysiak did well to keep his right-footed shot out.

We were just two minutes in when the man who netted 22 for Crawley last term was presented with another chance, Shinnie slipping a fine ball into the box for Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, who toed it to the side of the sprawling Krysiak, but Nathan Smith got back to clear his side-footed effort off the line.

The Hatters were made to pay in the seventh minute when Zoko was brought down 20 yards out and Khan curled his free-kick into the top corner past Stech.

As responses go, Jones couldn’t have asked for any better. First Shinnie shot from 20 yards, which was spilled by Krysiak, but the keeper gathered as Mpanzu looked to pounce.

Then, from a lightning quick break that began in the Town penalty area with Mpanzu curling a beautiful ball down the left channel for Vassell to stretch his legs, Olly Lee produced a perfect volleyed finish to the striker’s far-post cross to bring the Town level by the 12th minute.

In the 14th minute Stacey crossed from the right and Collins saw his header saved by Krysiak, but five minutes later he had his first competitive goal after a prolific pre-season.

Vassell won the ball for Shinnie to play another incisive pass through the centre of the Glovers’ defence, and Collins bided his time to slip a cute finish past the onrushing Krysiak.

McCormack had a quiet word in the striker’s ear as the players celebrated, but by the 24th-minute he was leading them himself – and how he deserved to!

Sheehan’s left-wing corner was headed clear by a Yeovil defender, but only as far as his fellow Irishman McCormack, who was waiting 25 yards out to smash a stunning right-footed volley into the top corner.

The Hatters were playing some wonderful one-touch football with McCormack, Shinnie, Lee and Mpanzu controlling proceedings, and just after the half-hour the latter got hold of a lay-off from Shinnie, but this time Krysiak got down low to his left to save his shot comfortably.

Collins soon had the ball in the net again, but on this occasion was penalised for a foul on the Glovers keeper.

We didn’t have to wait long for more to cheer as by the 36th minute Vassell had his deserved first goal, latching onto a fine through ball from Shinnie to finish low into the bottom left corner.

Two minutes later the Cornishman had his second, making it 5-1, when Collins picked him out from wide on the right and he clipped another low shot past Krysiak, this time low into the opposite corner.

McCormack was shown a yellow card for tripping Ryan Dickson in the box, but Stech produced a great save to keep out Khan’s penalty and preserve the four-goal advantage going into half-time – not before Olly Lee had struck a post however, after more good link play between Shinnie and Collins.

The elder Lee brother was first to try his luck after the break too, and why not after his first-half display? This time, however, his left-foot 25-yarder went just wide.

Stech was proving his worth at the other end against his former employers, pulling off a brilliant one-handed save to claw a Zoko volley away in the 52nd minute.

But it was six for the Hatters just before the hour when Olly Lee picked the pocket of Yeovil sub Omar Sowunmi 30 yards from goal, and Shinnie laid the ball off for Collins to rifle another fine finish into the roof of the net.

McCormack left the pitch to a standing ovation – and the fans singing his name to the same tune they used to reserve for Cameron McGeehan – in the 64th minute, replaced by Glen Rea, and by the 66th it was seven, Collins completing his hat-trick from 25 yards after Shinnie set him up again.

Yeovil grabbed their second within a minute, when Zoko headed in a left-wing cross from Dixon, and Collins and Shinnie – who had provided four assists, including all three for the hat-trick man – were quickly taken off to the same deserved ovation that McCormack received.

There was a worrying spell when Stech came to punch a cross clear and collided with Sowunmi, both men staying down for treatment for several minutes with the big Czech keeper left with a bloodied lip.

And when play restarted, Vassell went in search of his own treble when he cut in from the right onto his left foot, only this time the former Truro City man sliced high and wide.

Former Hatter Jake Gray tested Stech’s recovery five minutes into nine added on for the stoppage, but the keeper tipped the midfielder’s effort over the bar and then came and punched the resulting corner clear.

And in the 99th minute of a thrilling afternoon, Elliot Lee rose at the far post to nod in his brother’s pinpoint cross from a free-kick by the left corner flag to make it eight and put the Town on top of the infant Sky Bet League Two table!


HATTERS: Stech, Stacey, Cuthbert ©, Sheehan, Potts, McCormack (Rea 64), Olly Lee, Mpanzu, Shinnie (Mullins 75), Collins (Elliot Lee 69), Vassell. Subs: Cook, Senior, Gambin, Shea (GK)

GOALS: Olly Lee 12, Collins 19, 58, 66, McCormack 24, Vassell 36, 38, Elliot Lee 90+9

Yellows: McCormack, Mpanzu, Rea


YEOVIL: Krysiak, Alfei, Davies (Sowunmi 46), Nathan Smith, Dickson, Gray, Bailey ©, Connor Smith (Santos 64), Khan, Zoko, Olomola (Surridge 71). Subs: Browne, Maddison (GK), James

GOALS: Khan 7, Zoko 67

Yellows: Connor Smith, Olomola, Alfei


REFEREE: Gavin Ward

ATT: 8,101 (258 away)

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