Stoke City may have a thing for signing former Champions League starlets but on Tuesday night they struggled to shrug off dogged Luton Town.
Stoke, featuring the fit-again Bojan Krkic on his comeback appearance, looked to have booked a place in the third round when Jonathan Walters lobbed them in front midway through the second half.
But a Luton side 22nd in League Two hit back with a 90th-minute equaliser by home substitute Cameron McGeehan, who turned in a cross from Scott Griffiths at the far post to take the tie into extra time and penalties.
Griffiths hit the bar with the 16th kick of the shoot-out to allow Stoke to go through.
The sight of former Luton and England striker Brian Stein stirred memories of the club beating Arsenal in the final of Littlewoods Cup in 1988.
There have been more downs than ups for Luton since – not least demotion to the Conference in 2009 and a five-year absence from the Football League.
Today they are a club looking upwards again, though those hoping for an upset from their 2015 vintage could have been forgiven for viewing the home team sheet with dismay given the presence on the bench of Craig Mackail-Smith, the Hatters’ big summer signing. Luton’s ambition this season is to climb out of League Two and manager John Still – who gave a debut to Olly Lee, son of former Newcastle midfielder Rob – was responding to their failure to win any of their opening four league fixtures.
Stoke went into the match winless this term but it is a measure of their progress as a club – and the Premier League’s economic power – that they could make nine changes and still field a team with over 300 international caps between them.
The most welcome sight Krkic making his first appearance since suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament against Rochdale in an FA Cup tie in January.
Bojan, playing behind Peter Crouch, dropped deep to pick up the ball and instigate Stoke’s attacks, tried the odd jinking run and also handled the rough and tumble such occasions provide, though he showed his frustration when squaring up to defender Luke Wilkinson after the pair tangled close to the byeline.
Walters, with a low shot pushed away by Elliot Justham, provided the only test of the home goalkeeper in the first half while Shay Given, on his Stoke debut, tipped over a fierce early strike by the Luton left-back, Scott Griffiths.
Walters provided the breakthrough after 67 minutes as Stephen Ireland delivered a cute chip over the home defence and the Republic of Ireland striker scored with a sweet lob.
Walters is entering the last year of his contract and has been linked with a move away from the Potteries, with Norwich having a bid rejected last week, so this was a timely message of what he can do.
He could have had a second too but for a fine sliding challenge by home captain Scott Cuthbert. At the other end, Given made a double save from McGeehan and Ryan Hall but McGeehan was in the right place to level late on.Reuse content