Sluga's errors hand Derby victory as Luton fall to Rams defeat
Championship: Derby County 2 Luton Town 0
Two howlers from Town's record signing Simon Sluga saw the Hatters fall to a 2-0 defeat at Derby County this afternoon.
Although the first will go down as a own goal by defender Matty Pearson, the Croatian international has to shoulder the blame, letting his backpass roll under his foot and in on 11 minutes, before he was beaten by Tom Lawrence's cross in the second period.
Luton chief Graeme Jones made two changes to his side from the 1-1 draw with Millwall, Callum McManaman rewarded for his goalscoring appearance off the bench on Wednesday night with a start, while Andrew Shinnie returned after missing the last two league games.
The duo came in for Jacob Butterfield, who was on the bench against his former side, joined by on-loan Chelsea midfielder Izzy Brown.
Shinnie was facing his younger brother Graeme, given his first league start by Derby, as the pair were engaged in a early battle, pitted against each other in the middle of the pitch, Graeme getting the better of the opening exchanges.
After dominating the early stages, without really testing Sluga, the hosts then took the lead on 11 minutes with a calamitous goal handed to them on a plate by the stopper.
He completely failed to control a routine backpass from Pearson, the ball rolling under his boot and into the net, with the embarrassed keeper's attempts to scramble back proving unsuccessful.
The distraught-looking stopper did recover his composure to palm away the dangerous Jayden Bogle's cross and get enough behind Graeme Shinnie's 25-yarder, as County pressed for a quickfire second.
Despite being on the back foot, Luton should have levelled on 18 minutes as James Bree sent over an excellent cross from the right which a stretching James Collins, from a matter of yards out, could only divert over the bar.
The visitors, to their credit, improved after the early error, finally gaining some territory, as the goal appeared to drain some of Derby's intensity.
Once chance saw Martin's pass get away from Florian Jozefzoon, before in the closing stages of the first half, Collins flicked wide while under pressure from McManaman's right wing cross.
After the break, Lawrence was off target from the edge of the box after turning Sonny Bradley well.
However, Town then started to get on top, Harry Cornick's cross shovelled away by Kelle Roos and then Ryan Tunnicliffe rifling over on his left foot as the visitors started to look more and more capable of getting something from the contest.
With the home fans getting increasingly frustrated by County's persistence to go backwards, boos rang out when Scott Malone once more picked out his keeper.
However, that led to a move which saw Jozefzoon scuff wide, before Lawrence was inches away from putting the result beyond Luton from 20 yards.
Boss Jones introduced Brown for McManaman midway through the half, but just as Town started to push men forward to rescue a draw, another error from the increasingly forlorn Sluga sealed the points for Derby.
There seemed little on when Lawrence received the ball out wide, but his cross appeared to catch out the keeper at his near post, flying past him and into the back of the net.
Town still pressed for a leveller, Dan Potts glancing into the net, but the offside flag had been raised while sub Kazenga LuaLua's effort was easy for Roos as ultimately Town just couldn't recover from those two mistakes.
Rams: Kelle Roos, Graeme Shinnie, Krystian Bielik (Andre Wisdom 89), Jamie Paterson (Duane Holmes 84), Tom Lawrence, Florian Jozefzoon, Matthew Clarke, Chris Martin (Martyn Waghorn 72), Curtis Davies (C), Jayden Bogle, Scott Malone.
Subs not used: Ben Hamer, Kieran Dowell, Max Lowe, Jason Knight.
Hatters: Simon Sluga, James Bree, Dan Potts, Sonny Bradley (C), Matty Pearson, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Andrew Shinnie (Luke Bolton 81), Harry Cornick (Kazenga LuaLua 73), Callum McManaman (Izzy Brown 64), James Collins.
Subs not used: James Shea, Lloyd Jones, Elliot Lee, Jacob Butterfield.
Booked: Graeme Shinnie 76.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham.