Ex-Hatter Stockley scores late on as Luton lose on the road again
Championship: Preston North End 2 Luton Town 1
Former Hatter Jayden Stockley scored a late winner as Luton fell to a seventh straight away defeat in the Championship, beaten 2-1 at Preston North End this afternoon.
The visitors looked like they had picked up a valiant and hard-fought point at Deepdale, frustrating their hosts for long periods, but as has proved so often this season, they just couldn't keep the back door shut.
This time, with just six minutes to go, Stockley, who spent time on loan at Kenilworth Road in the 2015-16 season, tapped home from close range after Town were unable to clear the danger.
It was a harsh result for Graeme Jones' side, as the manager's less adventurous formation and tactics appeared to have paid off, Hatters sitting deep and having just 32 per cent possession, until Stockley came off the bench to win it.
The Hatters made four changes to the team that lost 3-0 at Stoke on Tuesday night, with Jacob Butterfield returning, along with Kazenga LuaLua, Callum McManaman and Luke Bolton.
Ryan Tunnicliffe missed his first league game of the season, on the bench, joined by Harry Cornick, Andrew Shinnie and Alan Sheehan.
Town's pre-match plans were soon up in smoke though as they fell behind for a 10th straight fixture on just five minutes, as Preston forced two early corners, the second of which saw Matty Pearson penalised for holding in the area.
Paul Gallagher stepped up and saw his blast well saved by James Shea, who stood his ground, the keeper unable to prevent Gallagher notching the rebound.
The visitors had their first opportunity to draw level on 14 minutes, when Pearson's cross shot fizzed into the area, James Bree finding Luke Berry, whose effort was off target.
Luton kept pushing, McManaman dummying his man and letting fly, Andrew Hughes throwing his body in the way to divert behind, before Berry and Bree's attempts were blocked, the visitors screaming for a penalty when LuaLua's ambitious volley looked to have struck a hand, but nothing was given.
Preston looked for a second too, Billy Bodin's far post header appearing destined to nestle into the corner of the net until Pearson stuck out a leg to divert over his his own bar.
The hosts dominated possession for the remainder of the first half, Town content to sit deep and let them pass the ball in front of them, before the visitors had a glorious chance to level as LuaLua broke from inside his own half on 42 minutes.
Although his pass into the area was cut out, McManaman went over Paul Huntington's trailing leg and referee Gavin Ward awarded Luton a penalty that Collins tucked away, sending Declan Rudd the wrong way.
Buoyed by the equaliser, Town then should have had another spotkick on the stroke of half time, Sonny Bradley hauled down as he went to meet a deep free kick, this time Ward giving nothing, much to the frustration of Berry in particular.
The second period saw Luton resume their holding formation, as to a man, they carried out the task impressively early on, denying Preston any meaningful attacks.
After withstanding the pressure, Town had the best chance of the entire match on 84 minutes, as Cornick beat Ben Pearson on the half way line to race clean through on goal.
Faced with Rudd, he failed to show the conviction he had against Birmingham and Bristol City, as the home keeper saved with his legs.
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu got hold of the rebound, his effort touched over the bar, before the visitors were made to pay by their former loan signing.
A long cross saw Shea unable to get enough distance on his punch and although Town's defence threw their bodies in to get two brilliant blocks in, no-one was marking Stockley, who tapped home from close range.
Stockley should have had a second, slicing well over from Tom Barkhuizen's cross, before the Hatters almost grabbed a stoppage time equaliser, George Moncur's run and cross just evading Bradley at the far post.
Lilywhites: Declan Rudd, Darnell Fisher, Ben Pearson, Alan Browne (Tom Barkhuizen 66), Paul Gallagher ©, Andrew Hughes, Patrick Bauer, Paul Huntington, Sean Maguire, David Nugent (Josh Harrop 56), Billy Bodin (Jayden Stockley 75).
Subs not used: Mathew Hudson, Tom Clarke, Ryan Ledson, Brad Potts.
Hatters: James Shea, Luke Bolton, James Bree, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley ©, Jacob Butterfield (Ryan Tunnicliffe 61), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Luke Berry (George Moncur 86), Callum McManaman (Harry Cornick 67), Kazenga LuaLua, James Collins.
Subs not used: Simon Sluga, Lloyd Jones, Andrew Shinnie, Alan Sheehan.
Booked: LuaLua 66, Berry 81, Bradley 90.
Referee: Gavin Ward.
Attendance: 12,083 (865 Luton).