Timid Hatters slump to defeat at rivals Stoke
Championship: Stoke City 3 Luton Town 0
Luton’s woeful away form continued as they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by relegation rivals Stoke City this evening.
The question before kick-off was could Luton do it on a cold night in Stoke, and unfortunately, the answer was a resounding no.
Once more the defeat was the Hatters’ own doing too, with all three goals avoidable, as they failed to build on Saturday’s morale-boosting win over Wigan Athletic.
The result means Town have now lost their last six on the road, scoring three times, but more worryingly, shipping 20 goals, a number of them through their own mistakes.
Boss Graeme Jones made one change to the team that beat the Latics, with club captain Alan Sheehan back in for his first Championship start of the season, Dan Potts unable to recover from his groin injury.
Midfielder Glen Rea was also on the bench, his first involvement since December, on-loan Mancester City youngsters Luke Bolton out due to illness.
Town should have been trailing on seven minutes, when a corner was met by Ryan Shawcross from a matter of yards, hitting the underside of the bar, before being grabbed by a grateful James Shea.
The Potters had another decent opportunity, Sam Clucas volleying off target from the edge of the box after being picked out by Tom Ince’s cross.
Luton created their first real opening on the half hour, when Luke Berry did wonderfully to find Ryan Tunnicliffe inside the area, but the midfielder took too long, allowing Danny Batth to come across and block.
Just when the Hatters looked to have drawn the sting out of their hosts’ attack, with the home fans starting to turn, they fell behind on 37 minutes, guilty of yet more ill-judged passing in their own half.
Under no real pressure, the Hatters forced keeper Shea into a rushed clearance, and with Stoke suddenly snapping into their challenges, they forced a mistake from Andrew Shinnie, who lost the ball, James McLean sent racing clear to fire through Shea for the opener.
The hosts should have doubled their lead five minutes before the break, as with Town’s defence nowhere to be seen, Clucas was found in acres of space, denied by the outstretched glove of Shea.
Stoke might have led their lead extended through another defensive error, Pearson’s back header too short for Shea, allowing Sam Vokes to prod past the keeper, only for Sheehan to clear off the line.
However, City did have second on the stroke of half time, McLean getting to the byline and crossing for the diminutive Joe Allen to somehow head home completely unmarked.
Luton boss Jones made two alterations at the break, bringing on the weekend match-winner George Moncur, plus Rea, for his first appearance of the season.
However, the change didn’t work, as after being booked within 60 seconds, Rea then had his pocket picked by Allen, who strolled through without a challenge to be seen, sidefooting past Shea from 18 yards.
Town looked to reduce the deficit, Moncur finding Harry Cornick who could only slice tamely wide.
Allen went close to his hat-trick, seeing his effort deflect narrowly off target after a neat move.
Ince almost added a fourth late on, but Shea was there to divert it behind, as Luton now face another away trip this weekend to Preston North End, fresh from beating promotion-chasing Fulham.
Potters: Jack Butland, Tom Edwards, Stephen Ward, Joe Allen, Liam Lindsay, Tom Ince, Sam Vokes ( Mame Diouf 79), James McLean, Ryan Shawcross (C, Danny Batth 15), Sam Clucas (Nick Powell 82), Jordan Cousins.
Subs not ued: Adam Federici, Scott Hogan, Nathan Collins, Ryan Woods.
Hatters: James Shea, James Bree, Alan Sheehan (C Jacob Butterfield 88), Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Andrew Shinnie (Glen Rea 46), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Luke Berry (George Moncur 46) James Collins, Harry Cornick.
Subs not used: Simon Sluga, Callum McManaman, Lloyd Jones, Kazenga LuaLua.
Booked: Collins 30, Rea 46, Lindsay 50.
Referee: Jarred Gillet.
Attendance: 20,216 (769 Luton).