Hatters fall to disappointing defeat at Derby
Championship: Derby County 2 Luton Town 0
Luton made a disappointing return to action following the international break as they were beaten 2-0 by Derby County this afternoon.
The result was made even more frustrating for Nathan Jones' side as after conceding early on, they had spells during the first half where they were the better side against a struggling Rams outfit, who were there for the taking on the back of a seven game winless, but yet again failed to take some presentable chances.
Then, with moments gone in the second period, Town gave away a sloppy penalty which Graeme Shinnie converted to make the majority of the rest of the match a disappointing formality, the visitors, who have struggled for goals on the road this term, never seriously threatening a leveller.
Luton retained an unchanged side for the clash at Pride Park, following their 1-0 win at Preston last time out, but dropped Glen Rea into the centre of a back three, Hatters never looking fully comfortable in the formation.
Derby, who needed the points for their own survival bid, sniffed an early advantage, Louie Sibley's cross-shot turned over by Simon Sluga, the Croatian then gathering the midfielder's measured volley when the resulting corner dropped to him on the edge of the box.
County made their bright start pay on seven minutes with a poor goal from Luton's perspective, Sibley's cross reaching Martyn Waghorn at the back post who turned the ball back for Lee Gregory to bundle over the line from close range.
Luton threatened a leveller on 11 minutes, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall setting Jordan Clark away on the left, his cross met by Elijah Adebayo's downward header that flew disappointingly wide.
The hosts continued to look the more dangerous when they got wide and sent crosses into the area, particularly through Sibley, as Tom Lawrence should have done better at the far post, Kal Naismith covering round to clear, while Waghorn's ambitious volley was well wide.
Town should have levelled on 25 minutes though, as a fine break by the Hatters saw Cornick speed away and touch a pass through to Dewsbury-Hall.
He advanced into the area and rolled a pinpoint cross for Adebayo, the striker just needing to lift his effort over the diving David Marshall, but as a number of Luton players have done this term, went low, the Scottish international stopper saving with his legs.
Sluga was immediately called upon to repel Sibley's attempt once the attacker had been found by Waghorn, but just after the half hour, Luton went close again.
This time, Clark whipped a ball in, Glen Rea twisting to flick a header that Marshall saved impressively, diving full stretch to turn behind for a corner.
From Dewsbury-Hall's set-piece, Adebayo rose highest, frustratingly nodding wide of the target, as Luton, now with Rea in the holding role, began to look far more comfortable, winning a corner that Clark sliced over.
After the break, Derby then punctured Luton's chances of a comeback, as with just three minutes gone, Rea felled Lawrence inside the area for a penalty that Shinnie easily converted to give the Hatters an even tougher mountain to climb.
It was the worst possible start as with Town struggling to score on the road from 1-0 down this season, managing to do so just once in 10 attempts, 2-0 immediately looked beyond them.
Lawrence continued his impressive start to the second period, beating two men to burst into the box, his low shot turned behind by Clark, who did brilliantly not to put it into his own net.
Sluga did well to block Nathan Byrne's attempts to beat him at his near post following the full back easily tricking his way past Clark.
Boss Nathan Jones brought on former Rams attacker Tom Ince for Rea as he looked to try and find a way back into the game, with James Collins and Sam Nombe soon replacing Adebayo and Cornick.
Chances were few and far between in the final half hour though, Pearson heading Dewsbury-Hall's deep set-piece over the bar, as close as the visitors came to anything resembling a consolation.
Mpanzu hooked Matthew Clarke's toepoke off the line, while in stoppage time, Naismith whacked ambitiously over, which summed up the Town's efforts at scoring as they drew their 11th blank away from Kenilworth Road this term.
There was still time for Pearson to make a brave block on Jason Knight's close range blast as Town now have a quick turnaround before entertaining Barnsley on Easter Monday.
Rams: David Marshall ©, Andre Wisdom, Craig Forsyth, Graeme Shinnie, Max Bird, Martyn Waghorn (Colin Kazim-Richards 45), Tom Lawrence (Lee Buchanan 84), Nathan Byrne, Matthew Clarke, Louie Sibley (Jason Knight 62), Lee Gregory (Kamil Jozwiak 62).
Subs not used: Kelle Roos, Teden Mengi, Patrick Roberts, Beni Baningime, Louie Watson.
Hatters: Simon Sluga, James Bree, Matty Pearson, Glen Rea (Tom Ince 58), Kal Naismith, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (Luke Berry 82), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jordan Clark, Harry Cornick (Sam Nombe 70), Elijah Adebayo (James Collins 70).
Subs not used: James Shea, Joe Morrell, George Moncur, Kazenga LuaLua, Martin Cranie.
Booked: Wisdom 46, Sibley 51, Byrne 66, Dewsbury-Hall 66, Pearson 81, Kazim-Richards 90.
Referee: Andy Woolmer.