Luton Town 2 Leicester City 0: Newell's loyalty rewarded with a flying start

Click to follow
The Independent Football

This was good news day for Luton, starting with the pre-match announcement that their sought-after manager, Mike Newell, had signed a new four-year contract and concluding with an emphatic win over hapless opposition.

The impressive quality of the victory was only marginally undermined by the poverty of Leicester, who struggled last season and look as if they will struggle this time. Speaking to a Sky camera outside Kenilworth Road before the start, a visiting supporter was saying, "I don't see us winning the League but we'll be comfortably in the top six." On this form, no chance.

With their new midfield signings, Lewis Emanuel and Richard Langley, slotting comfortably into the side and the ex-Hartlepool striker Adam Boyd coming on in the second half to inject extra verve, despite being far from match fit, Luton had their fans purring. The supporters certainly did not have to wait long for proof of excellence. After the home left-back Sol Davis had narrowly escaped the millstone of the first booking of the new season for a crude foul on Alan Maybury, Luton scored the official first goal of the season in the seventh minute.

The goal stemmed from the wretchedness of Richard Stearman, supposedly the right-back. There had already been signs of a problem when his failure to control the ball allowed Emanuel to close in for a shot which clipped an upright. Then Warren Feeney sailed past Stearman to the byline to get in a cross which Nils-Eric Johansson put behind for a corner, and the central defender Leon Barnett was permitted too much time and space to head in Steve Robinson's flag-kick.

"That early goal shaped the game," said the Leicester manager, Rob Kelly. "We had to chase it after that." The only one to make a decent job of that was Danny Tiatto, and he was taken off in the second half after being booked for a retaliatory lunge at Carlos Edwards, enjoying himself after his World Cup summer with Trinidad & Tobago.

The closest Leicester came to a goal was a curling Gareth Williams free-kick, touched on to a post by Marlon Beresford. For the rest, it was Luton in cruise control. Rowan Vine was blocked by Patrick McCarthy's fine tackle, and a Johansson miskick which threatened disaster was rescued by Paul Henderson's punch.

After a first half free of yellow cards, there were five in six minutes of the second half. The first two, for McCarthy and Maybury, were imposed as the Leicester men tried to cover the gaps left on the right side of their defence by the wandering Stearman. Then followed Vine, Emanuel and Tiatto. Luton sewed it up 12 minutes from the end. Feeney's half-pass, half-shot went straight to Edwards, who coolly danced inside the wretched Stearman's lunge to sidefoot home.

Afterwards, Newell said that he had made up his mind to stay at Luton during the summer. However, after acknowledging that the departure of Kevin Nicholls to Leeds and Steve Howard to Derby for better wages was inevitable, he said: "You can't keep pulling rabbits out of the hat."

Was it, then, his dream to stay at Luton until the promised new stadium is built, possibly in three years' time? "No," he said, "my dream is to manage Liverpool."