Hoodoo is finally over for Luton as the Hatters end long overdue wait to beat QPR

Elijah Adebayo celebrates opening the scoring against QPR this afternoonElijah Adebayo celebrates opening the scoring against QPR this afternoon
Elijah Adebayo celebrates opening the scoring against QPR this afternoon
Championship: Luton Town 3 QPR 1

Luton finally, finally, finally put an end to their seemingly endless search for victory against QPR with a brilliant 3-1 triumph at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.

Going into the contest, the Hatters hadn't won any of their six meetings against their West London opponents since returning to the Championship back in 2019, their last league victory coming back in January 2006, when they won a second tier clash 2-0.

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If you look back even further though, Luton’s misery had gone on for decades, with just one victory in their previous 22 league meetings, that in 1988, some 34 years ago, while manager Nathan Jones had never beaten the Loftus Road club in seven contests either, making this victory even more sweeter for Luton's elated chief.

The Town boss went with an unchanged side for the clash, although Cameron Jerome replaced Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu on the bench,

A quiet opening 10 minutes saw the Hatters' best moments come through the trickery of Jordan Clark, with Town's first opportunity seeing Henri Lansbury tee up James Bree 20 yards out, only for the defender to slice wide.

Rangers were hampered soon afterwards, defender Leon Balogun forced off with injury, Osman Kakay on, before Luton had the lead on 19 minutes, with the Kenny End able to celebrate only the third goal in front of them this term.

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Clark again pulled the strings to find Adebayo on the right, his cross just inches over the head of the leaping Allan Campbell.

It dropped to Morris though, who sized up his defender and dinked over a cross for the stooping Adebayo to nod home from virtually on the line for his third of the season, all three now set-up by his strike partner.

Lansbury, fresh from his nomination for Goal of the Month after ‘that’ strike at Hull, showed just how important he is at the other end, unfurling a brilliant sliding block tackle as Rangers looked destined to level the scores up on 27 minutes.

Still the intricate visitors pressed though, but Luton's defence was spot on, particularly their zones from set-pieces, Sony Bradley with a thumping near post header clear from one such corner, meaning Ethan Horvath had precious little to do behind them.

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Lansbury quickly showed his array of passing with one magnificent crossfield attempt to Amari'i Bell, while it was something of a surprise that he hadn't made the net ripple when, following his Hull heroics, he was picked out by Bree's clever header, only to get it all wrong, an angled volley dropping tamely wide.

That was to begin Town's best spell of the game, with a reenergised Adebayo in particular causing problems, winning a free kick on the right, which almost led to the hosts moving 2-0 in front on 38 minutes.

First, Bree's ball in was met by Morris, a covering defender doing just enough, before the wingback was fed again, picking out Adebayo who leapt highest, arching his back to send his header against the inside of the post and out again, keeper Seny Dieng a mere spectator.

With Rangers looking for a way back in the closing stages of the half, Bradley was there to make sure Town looked watertight from corners, while Ilias Chair's 25-yard free kick was easy for Horvath.

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After the break, Luton's impressive build-up play continued as Morris's backheel picked out Adebayo, whose through-ball saw Clark go close, QPR getting men back in the nick of time.

The visitors always looked capable of finding a way back into the game when they went forward, Jimmy Dunne having go, Horvath able to watch it sail into the stands before Tyler Roberts's daisycutter was inches away from restoring parity on the hour mark.

With Rangers clearly in the ascendancy, Jones made a triple substitution, taking off Adebayo, Morris and Lansbury, for Harry Cornick, Jerome and ex-QPR midfielder Luke Freeman.

The visitors almost made the changes obsolete though, as the ball fell to Jake Clarke-Salter no more than eight yards from goal, but he thundered against the crossbar, then seeing his rebound claimed by a diving Horvath, as you sensed it might just be the Hatters' day.

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That feeling increased when Scottish international Lyndon Dykes blazed into the side-netting after finally getting away from the attentions of Bradley, as Campbell almost increased Luton’s lead when his tremendous dipping volley was tipped over by a back-pedalling Dieng.

Luton's changes were to make a significant difference with 13 minutes to go though as Jerome, eager to press his man, won the ball back from Rob Dickie and went through on goal, only to see Dieng come sliding out to clear.

However, the visiting keeper could only manage to smash against the head of Dunne, the rebound bouncing over the line, Jerome already off celebrating before it reached the net.

Dunne, whose post-match celebrations stuck in the craw of Luton following last season’s 2-1 victory for the visitors, could play no further part, limping off after feeling the full impact of Dieng’s challenge, the Hatters should have making it 3-0 moments later, Jerome again doing splendidly to race away on the left, but Clark took the ball of Freeman's toes as he waited to convert.

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Horvath once again showing expert handling when Taylor Richards had a pop from range, but as the game ticked into stoppage time, QPR set the nerves jangling, pulling one back as a cross glanced off Bradley’s header, cannoned against the woodwork and deflected in off the back of an unfortunate Horvath.

An equaliser would have no doubt crushed Jones, who was so crestfallen after last term’s defeat, but this time there was no such cruel luck coming his way, Jerome nodding to Cornick, who did brilliantly to delay his pass until just the right moment, picking out Freeman to tap home against his former side.

In a second, all that pressure was alleviated, allowing the home fans and Jones to enjoy the final moments, and toast a first and long, long overdue victory.

Hatters: Ethan Horvath, James Bree, Tom Lockyer, Sonny Bradley, Dan Potts (C), Amari'i Bell, Henri Lansbury (Luke Freeman 67), Allan Campbell, Jordan Clark, Carlton Morris (Harry Cornick 67), Elijah Adebayo (Cameron Jerome 67).

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Subs not used: Harry Isted, Luke Berry, Fred Onyedinma, Alfie Doughty.

Rangers: Seny Dieng, Jimmy Dunne (Andre Dozzell 79), Jake Clarke-Salter, Luke Amos (Stefan Johansen 62), Lyndon Dykes, Ilias Chair (C), Tyler Roberts (Taylor Richards 79), Sam Field (Rob Dickie 62), Kenneth Pael, Leon Balogun (Osman Kakay 13), Tim Iroegbunam.

Subs not used: Jordan Archer, Albert Adomah.

Referee: Tony Harrington.

Booked: Clark 42, Lansbury 54, Iroegbunam 90.

Attendance: 10,011 (1,038 Rangers).