Luton Town 2 Preston NE 0: Fine Vine knocks off Preston

Striker buys Newell time as head for heights deserts North End
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The Independent Football

At last, a win for Luton Town. And what better way to end a dismal record, than to beat the League leaders who with Birmingham's victory were removed from their perch. Mike Newell's men ended a run of eight straight defeats with some style yesterday at Kenilworth Road as they cut down Preston North End with a performance to savour. Goals from Rowan Vine, two minutes into the game, and Carlos Edwards, helped Luton end an appalling run of losses.

Preston looked desperate at times to stem the wave of Luton attacks and deserved to take nothing away with them. "We know that we are capable of beating anybody in this League," said Newell, who admitted in his programme notes that the past month, one that nearly saw him sacked for his comments about his chairman and women officials, had been the worst in his professional career.

"When you go through a run like we have been, not only does it knock the confidence, but the experienced players stop doing what they have been doing. From the first two minutes, they went to attack Preston. We needed to get ahead in a game to give us some belief."

Paul Simpson's Preston took control of the Championship table on Tuesday night, but they did little to warrant taking anything from this game. "I can't explain that performance," he said. "We have to go away and analyse it and the players have to do that too."

Luton took a surprise lead when Preston's statuesque defence allowed Vine to steal in behind them and calmly control Steve Robinson's accurate cross before slotting the ball past the goalkeeper Carlo Nash. It was Luton's first goal in four games.

Simpson shifted uneasily in his technical area. No fear; surely his team had faced bigger challenges than this this season? For a few minutes, the signs were ominous for Luton as they were pushed onto the back foot by intense Preston attacking play. The forward line of Patrick Agyemang and the highly-rated David Nugent threatened to tear a hole in the Luton defence.

But the hosts stood firm and hit back with swift, purposeful football. On 19 minutes they deservedly extended their lead. Dean Morgan, pushed into attack alongside Vine, impressively created space in the penalty area before crossing low towards the back post. The defender Danny Pugh attempted to clear the ball but it was diverted into the path of the Trinidad & Tobago winger Edwards, who tapped the ball home from close range.

There were eight minutes of this game remaining before Preston registered their first shot on target. The on-loan Pompey goalkeeper Dean Kiely athletically tipped the ball over after a header from Nugent was directed goalwards. In truth, however, even to concede a goal would have been harsh on a Luton defence marshalled by the young defender Leon Barnett and protected by the Croatian midfielder Ahmet Brkovic.

Preston, meanwhile, were left to reflect on losing their position at the summit. Simpson added: "I hope that it is not an ever-changing top of the table. The team that is most consistent and gets results will stay there. If we carry on losing games like we have done, we won't."