The Hatters opened their pre-season match programme with a 9-0 win at Southern League Division One Central side Berkhamsted this afternoon just 24 days after the 2019-20 campaign ended.
Little more than three weeks since that final day win over Blackburn that completed the Great Escape to maintain Sky Bet Championship status, manager Nathan Jones gave minutes to 25 players on a welcomingly wet day at Broadwater.
The Welshman fielded two completely different teams in either half, then introduced Jake Peck, Sam Beckwith and 16-year-old Tyrelle Newton in the closing stages for some valuable experience for the youngsters, who joined first-year pro Avan Jones who was already on the pitch.
Two of the players they replaced, Eunan O’Kane and Brendan Galloway, had come on at half-time to make their first return to match action following serious injuries suffered in the past two seasons.
Another academy graduate, Josh Neufville, had opened the scoring on 11 minutes with a jinking run past two defenders before bending the ball low past home keeper Xavi from the edge of the area.
Danny Hylton was soon on target, dinking the ball over the onrushing keeper after a lovely move involving Matty Pearson, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu and Luke Berry, before Sonny Bradley headed in the third.
Hylton completed a first-half hat-trick with a penalty dispatched powerfully into the top corner after he had been fouled himself, then a close range finish.
After the break it was James Collins’ turn to help himself to a hat-trick, but not before George Moncur had made it six a few minutes in.
O’Kane signalled his return with a wonderful pass inside the left-back for Cornick to put Collins’ first tap-in on a plate for him on the hour. The two forwards combined for the same outcome seven minutes later, Collins sweeping the ball into the bottom corner from close in.
Then O’Kane set Cornick free once more with six minutes remaining, and the former Bournemouth man squared unselfishly again for Collins to blast home and complete his treble.
We thank Berkhamsted for being great hosts and wish them and their manager, lifelong Hatter and season ticket holder Chris Devane, the very best for 2020-21.
The Hatters meanwhile look forward to further friendlies against Stevenage, Wealdstone and Northampton Town before returning to competitive action in the Carabao Cup first round, scheduled for September 5th, ahead of the Championship return a week later.
FIRST HALF HATTERS: Sluga, Kioso, Pearson, Bradley, Panter, Tunnicliffe, Berry, Mpanzu, Neufville, LuaLua, Hylton.
SECOND HALF HATTERS: Shea, Jones, Cranie, Rea, Galloway (Beckwith 87), O’Kane (Peck 85), Shinnie, Moncur, Lee (Newton 88), Collins, Cornick
Hylton 16, 39 (pen), 40
Collins 60, 67, 84