TOWN Juniors were left to rue a string of missed chances as they dropped out of the FA Youth Cup 1-0 at Luton last night.
Graham Mitchell's side dominated large chunks of the third round tie at Kenilworth Road but fell to a 73rd-minute strike from Luton substitute Russell Preston.
Town had controlled the second half up to that point but a lucky bounce when a clearance was hooked back into the Town box favoured Luton and Preston was able to dink the ball over keeper Simon Eastwood.
Academy manager Gerry Murphy admitted: "It was a real sickener for our lads because they deserve credit for working their socks off.
"But sometimes you don't get what you deserve in football and this was one of those games.
"I feel sorry for the lads and I feel sorry for Graham Mitchell, because it's his first Youth Cup campaign and he has prepared the lads superbly.
"Graham is gutted because he felt we were in for a good run this year and so did I, but we've got to get over it now and get on with the rest of the season."
Town's Under 18s were the livelier side throughout but just couldn't put the ball in the net.
James Berrett was agonisingly close with an 11th-minute header from Dave Pickering's cross, while the pace of Lucas Akins caused Luton plenty of problems.
When Eastwood was called upon, he made fine stops from Ian Houghton and Jake Howell, but Town couldn't believe they were not ahead by half time as Alex Hallam, Luke Malcher, Pickering and Berrett all tested home keeper Ross Foulds.
Berrett twice went close in the opening minutes of the second half before Foulds made a fantastic save to keep out Hallam's blistering shot from the edge of the box following a short corner move.
The chance of the game, however, fell to Malcher on 67 minutes when Pickering's accurate ball across the six-yard line left him with an open goal, but he somehow headed wide.
Preston soon made Town pay and, while Dave Heagney was sent on to make a three-man front line with Akins and Daniel Broadbent, increasing late pressure failed to deliver an equaliser for Mitchell's men.
Town - Eastwood, Pickering, Codman (Roberts 85), Berrett, Killock, Skarz, Malcher (Heagney 77), Bailey, Akins, Broadbent, Hallam. Subs not used: Jackson, Harris, Smithies.