Luton Town’s development side came from a goal down to beat Leyton Orient 3-2 in their match at Hitchin Town FC on Tuesday afternoon.
With Craig Mackail-Smith starting and playing another hour in his bid to regain full match fitness, Hatters also gave valuable minutes to Jonathan Smith, Josh McQuoid, Zane Banton and Isaac Vassell.
Hatters had the first effort of note when Josh McQuoid was brought down just outside the box, as his resulting free kick was saved by Sam Sargeant, with the keeper also claiming Isaac Vassell’s header from a Jack James cross.
However, O’s were in ahead with eight minutes of the first half left when Victor Adeboyejo fired beyond Liam Gooch and into the top corner.
Gooch then saved well from Josh Koroma’s volley at the far post and made a superb save in the second period, preventing Freddy Moncur’s curling from going in.
Luton levelled on 55 minutes though when Banton teed up Smith eight yards out, and he smashed into the bottom corner.
Academy and development boss Andy Awford took off Smith, McQuoid, Vassell and Mackail-Smith after an hour, replacing them with Freddie Hinds, Jack Snelus, Kitan Sorunke and Arthur Read.
The introduction of 17-year-old Hinds proved key as he hit the woodwork within four minutes of coming on he hit the woodwork, as Luton then led 2-1 when Tyreeq Bakinson skipped past a defender to curl beyond Sargeant.
Orient restored parity when Adeboyejo picked out Steven Alzate who made it 2-2, but Luton won it with five minutes to go as Hinds beat Sargeant to Frankie Musonda’s pass and slotted into the empty net.
Speaking after the game, Awford told the club’s official website said: “Obviously it’s always nice to win, but for me we dropped below our normal standards and it could have been better in lots of areas.
“As a collective, first half we were miles away in everything we want to do as a football club. I said to the boys, ‘it doesn’t matter who you are playing for, whether it’s our Under-16s, our Under-18s, our development squad or the first team, there is a level of working hard’, and I didn’t think that we worked hard in that first half.
“They were told and we got a bit of a reaction in the second half, it was a little bit better. Still, for me, off where we want to be, but they reacted a bit better.”
There were a few bright moments for Awford to enthuse about though, as he said: “Tyreeq has that in his locker to break forward on occasion from midfield, and it was a lovely finish on his wrong foot as well – it was a great goal and credit where it’s due.
“The first goal from Jonathan was a good one as well, good link play and we’ve worked it well and got him inside the box.
“I was disappointed that we let them back into it at two each. I wanted us to shut the game down then, because we haven’t been great.
“Then there is a decent ball over the top from Frankie Musonda for Freddie, who finished it well to win it for us.
“It was slightly better second half, but it’s not one I’m going to go over the top with. It was a poor first half in my opinion.”
Luton had to make two late alterations to their team, with goalkeeper Craig King (ill) and Akin Famewo (hamstring) dropping out, replaced by Gooch and James as Awford said: “Craig turned up and he looked white as a sheet. He’d been sick this morning but he wanted to play, so fair play to him, but he was in no position to.
“The medical staff had a look at him and we needed to get him out of the way because we didn’t want him spreading a virus or something that he might have.
“So we put the call in for Liam to come down, then in the warm-up Akin felt the top of his hamstring, so there was no point in risking him, aggravating it and making it worse.
“It happens. It’s happened at first team level recently, at Plymouth on the opening day and then with James Justin at Orient. You just have to get on with it, and that was nothing to do with anything.”
Hatters: Gooch, Bean, Jones, Bakinson, Musonda, James (Murray 75), Smith (Snelus 60), McQuoid (Sorunke 60), Vassell (Hinds 60), Mackail-Smith (Read 60), Banton.