By Gavin Willacy at Kenilworth Road:
Two almost identical goals in the space of seven minutes before half-time proved the difference between Luton Town and Colchester United at a misty Kenilworth Road.
In the build-up to the game Paul Driver, the Luton youth-team coach had hailed his squad as his “best ever crop” of players and this victory continued their remarkable run of form that has seen them record 12 wins and one draw from their last 14 fixtures.
Kevan Cotter was the catalyst for much of the Hatters best play and he instigated their second and third goals.
Lovely interplay between Cotter, Alex Atkinson and Jack Snelus released Cotter down the right and his cross was slashed past his own keeper by desperate Colchester centre-back Joe Tennent for 2-0.
Seven minutes later, Cotter was again set free down the right flank and his hard low cross was steered into the net by Atkinson at the Kenilworth Road End.
A 3-0 lead at the break reflected Luton’s superiority as the half went on, but it was the Category Two visitors who had started the game the brightest.
Hatters keeper Liam Gooch was forced into a 3rd minute save from the lively Tariq Issa, while George Brown looked dangerous down the right for the Us. But once the game settled down, Luton – with six first years in their starting XI – began to play their exciting, swift passing game that has seen them win almost every game this season and score bucket loads of goals in the process.
Striker Freddie Hinds opened the scoring on 20 minutes when he took a lay-off from Snelus, dribbled in the box and shot low past Callum Robinson. That goal was typical of the way Hinds and hard-working strike partner George Murray connected with an attacking midfield of Cotter, Atkinson and Snelus, leaving Kyran McGhan-George to shield the back four.
Colchester’s best chance of the half came after 30 minutes when Luton skipper Frankie Musonda passed straight to Eion McKeown who raced into the box to confront Gooch only to find the side-netting with the goal at his mercy.
Colchester had to respond in the second-half in the face of a hefty defeat and they did so impressively.
Two minutes before the hour mark changed the game. First Hinds’ fine dribble and drive nicked the top of the cross bar after a superb passing move by Atkinson and Snelus. Then at the other end, Louis Dunne – son of first team manager Joe – beat the offside trap to tuck the ball past Gooch to make it 3-1.
As belief in the Colchester ranks grew an incident at either end, in quick succession defined the outcome. On 68 minutes, Robinson made a great one-on-one save with a strong hand when Murray had latched onto Atkinson’s through ball. Seconds later, Brown’s wonderful dipping cross from the right was volleyed past Gooch by substitute Ryan Clampin only for celebrations to be muted by the linesman flagging for offside.
Luton survived that let-off and could have made it four late on when Cotter volleyed inches over the bar at the far post.
The Hatters will now face the winners of AFC Hornchurch v Leyton Orient tie which is scheduled to be played this evening.