The Hatters first team got their pre-season campaign underway with victory this afternoon – but they were made to work hard for it by Non-League neighbours Bedford Town.
The Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central side were a completely different proposition to the team who had nine put past them by the Town last July, and they took a tenth-minute lead through Lee Roache.
But a first goal in a Luton shirt from recent signing James Collins and a second-half penalty from Dan Potts was enough for the Nathan Jones’ men to come out on top in front of a crowd of 1,279 at a sun-baked Eyrie.
The Hatters boss went for two different line-ups in each half – with six of his seven new signings starting the first period.
Bedford took a surprise lead when winger Kyjuon Marsh-Brown dispossessed one of them, Alan McCormack, on the Bedford left and raced to the byline, to cut back for Roache to fire home from close range.
Home midfielder Ryan Auger then tried his luck from the halfway line, although his effort flew inches over the bar as new keeper Marek Stech back-pedalled.
The Town had already created good early headed chances for Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu and Scott Cuthbert, with Andrew Shinnie – signed on a season-long loan from Birmingham – delivering both set-pieces.
And Jones’ side were level by the 22nd minute when Collins pounced on a loose ball in the box after Elliot Lee had challenged the two home centre-halves. The recent singing from Crawley needed no second invitation to tuck the ball past Eagles keeper Adam Harpur.
Former loanee Lee – signed permanently from Barnsley – had three half-chances, first a shot from the edge of the box that Harpur got his body behind, before a looping header that the keeper plucked from the top corner preceded a snap-shot on the turn that flashed past the woodwork.
Centre-half Johnny Mullins headed a 34th-minute Arthur Read corner down into the ground and over the bar in between as the Town finished the first half strongly.
After the break, Jones brought on a completely new team – one that was more familiar to Town fans with keeper James Shea the only new signing left to be introduced.
Luke Gambin came close to grabbing the lead within five minutes, but Harpur got a hand on his attempted chip and his defence managed to prevent Lawson D’Ath putting the ball into an empty net.
Bedford reminded the Town they could still pose a threat on the break as Roache latched onto a long clearance from the back four to crossed for Kyjuon Marsh-Brown, who hooked his effort over Shea's crossbar.
Then Auger attempted to catch Shea out at his near post with a 61st-minute free-kick, but by the 72nd minute the Hatters were in the lead – Potts winning and coverting a penalty after his surging run down the left was halted by Paul Cooper.
Isaac Vassell, with a powerful turn and burst to the right byline, set Gambin up for a chance to extend the advantage with ten minutes left, but the Malta international couldn’t connect cleanly with his shot.
A single goal advantage was enough to secure victory, but more importantly it was a tough test with Jones’ squad emerging injury-free before flying out to Slovenia tomorrow morning for a week-long training camp and next Saturday’s match with NK Bravo.
FIRST HALF TEAM: Stech, Stacey, Cuthbert, Mullins, Senior, McCormack, Mpanzu, Read, Shinnie, Collins, E Lee
SECOND HALF TEAM: Shea, Musonda, Rea, Sheehan, Potts, Bakinson, O Lee, D'Ath, Gambin, Cook, Vassell. Subs: Famewo, Shamalo, James, Cotter