Michael Shamalo struck late to ensure the Hatters youth team reached the semi-finals of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup as they beat Swindon Town 1-0 at Ely Way yesterday afternoon.
Deep into second half injury time, substitute Shamalo saw his deflected effort from 30 yards loop over the Swindon stopper, as the game looked set to go straight to penalties after a hard fought, but goalless 90 minutes.
Town had the better of the chances, as both Connor Tomlinson and Arthur Read missed good opportunities in the first half.
Jake Peck thought he'd given Inigo Idiakez's side the lead 11 minutes after the restart when he received the ball on the edge of the box and curled an effort looking for the bottom left corner, but it drifted just wide.
Shamalo's introduction on the hour mark gave the Town another dimension, as his height and speed caused the visitors' defence problems.
The striker was very nearly through on goal within ten minutes of coming on, but the pass from Peck bounced agonisingly off his ankles after a brilliant counter for the Hatters.
With 15 minutes to go he came close to breaking the deadlock in emphatic fashion, hammering an effort from the right from 25 yards out looking for the top left, but the Robins' keeper was equal to it, palming the ball over from a corner.
The striker finally got the better of the Swindon number one in slightly fortunate circumstances – with the game in its final stages, the second-year scholar went for goal from range, it took a huge deflection off the back of Swindon defender and loop over the keeper to secure the Hatters' place in the next round of the competition.
Idiakez was pleased with his side's performance as they created a number of opportunities in the second half: "I think the first half was quite even, but in the second we created four or five chances, one-against-one with the keeper. They were excellent to be honest, playing as a team, working as a team.
"Michael definitely deserved that. The last two or three weeks he has scored two or three, he has been injured for a week but showed really good attitude coming off the bench and he scored a fantastic goal.
"So I am more than happy with the result to be honest. Even with the players who came off the bench, sometimes it's difficult to come on and do something special, today Michael was the one."
The Spaniard believes he is now starting to see his influence rub off on his players, with results in recent weeks favouring the Hatters after a difficult start.
"I am trying to do that [have an influence on the players]. I think now they understand me, I understand all of them now. We are now playing as a team, we are trying to play good football as well. In the last two or three weeks we have improved a lot.
"I think they have had a good reaction after the FA Youth Cup exit. It was quite hard for all of us, but I am expecting good things for this team. Today was a good example of what we can do."
Town line-up: Parker, James, Mead, Panter, Byron (Jones 61), Sorunke (Richardson 85), Peck, Read, Tomlinson, Neufville, Belgrove (Shamalo 65).
Subs: Richardson, Shamalo, Jones, Beckwith.