Jordan plan left in ruins by upstarts

Crystal Palace 1 Luton Town 2

Oh dear. Johnson did score, but it was not enough. Nowhere near enough, and Jordan's boast suddenly appears not only flash but foolish. Johnson's goal only cancelled out the effort of another striker, another 22-goal man last season, and another player constantly linked with a summer move. But Luton Town's Steven Howard - a 29-year-old journeyman through Tow Law Town, Hartlepool and Northampton before pitching up at Luton four years ago - cost two weeks of Johnson's wages, and probably now earns about a tenth of them himself.

That delicious irony only added extra satisfaction to the newly elevated club's afternoon and added misery to that of promotion favourites Palace, who eventually lost to a scruffy toe-poke from Ahmed Brkovic.

Before the match, the Palace manager, Iain Dowie, referred to Johnson as the club's "favourite son". There has indeed been something very personal in the desire to keep him. His signing was clearly the most significant of the summer, and was seen as a message of intent to the rest of the division as well as a sign of the cussed determination of Jordan.

That spilled over within a dozen seconds of this match with Michael Hughes booked for tangling with the Luton captain, Kevin Nicholls. The incident seemed to discomfit Palace. They struggled to find their stride and conceded early corners to a lively Luton side.

They should also have conceded a goal. On 22 minutes Luton's Steve Robinson wriggled free only to be tugged back by Gary Borrowdale, who simply panicked. The midfielder still got his shot away - screwing it wide - but the referee, Phil Dowd, waited and gave the penalty. Nicholls' side-footed effort was weak and easily read by the goalkeeper, Gabor Kiraly, who dived low to his left.

The home relief was palpable and, towards the half-hour, Johnson got his first shot away - volleying into the side-netting from Ben Watson's through-ball. Palace had partnered him with their new signing Jon Macken, and the former Manchester City striker released Johnson and then Watson for half-chances, while Mark Hudson wasted free headers from corners.

Palace's best hopes lay with the indecision in the Luton defence. In one incident the 19-year-old goalkeeper Dean Brill - in for the injured Marlon Beresford - cannoned the ball off his own defender and straight to Johnson, whose own effort struck a Luton player. It summed up the paucity of the game. Yet Luton should, again, have taken the lead when Brkovic was sent through by Nicholls' header. Once more the side-footed effort lacked any conviction.

On half-time Luton got their reward. From a Nicholls free-kick, the striker Howard was left, startlingly unmarked, to head powerfully past Kiraly with the Palace players stranded. It was maddening defending. The interval whistle was met with boos.

Two minutes after the restart and Brkovic was, again, profligate. He twisted, turned, delayed, created half a yard, then another half, only to drag his shot wide eventually. Palace finally stirred. From a free-kick, won through Jobi McAnuff's trickery, Johnson spun and forced a diving save from Brill. The corner came in, Hudson flicked the ball on and Johnson's header guided it in for the equaliser.

Unbowed, Luton continued to push on, but they were almost caught by another McAnuff break. He set Hughes away and, as he shaped to shoot, Nicholls threw himself in the way. McAnuff then dug out a shot from the corner only for it to drift past the far post.

McAnuff then came even closer, but his back-post header was smartly held by Brill. As Palace pressed, Markus Heikkinen challenged Johnson, who went down. Palace's intense penalty claims were brushed aside. The woeful Hudson then conceded another free-kick. When it came in there was an almighty scramble. The ball eventually fell to Brkovic, who pushed it over the line for Luton's deserved win.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea