"If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same..." Mike Newell, the Luton Town manager, chose to pin Rudyard Kipling's "If" on the dressing room wall on Saturday as motivation for his men to end their club's worst run of results in more than 100 years.
His players had suffered eight successive League defeats and were meeting the Championship leaders, Preston North End. A prayer might have been more apt, but the famous lines seemed to do the trick.
The Hatters produced a performance brimming with character, and first-half goals from Rowan Vine and Carlos Edwards carried them to a triumph that also toppled Paul Simpson's team from the summit.
Newell conceded afterwards that it was unlikely his men had been spurred into action by a poem penned around the same time Luton last endured such an appalling run. "I've had it on the wall in my office," he said. "I tried putting it in the dressing room as well, but I don't think any of them could make head nor tail of it."
Vine, who scored his ninth League goal of the season, confirmed his manager's thoughts. "I didn't know what it was," he said. "I thought it might have been an angry letter from a fan, so I kept well away from it. It was all focus. There was a buzz with the top team coming here. We wanted to do ourselves justice and I think we did just that."
Luton took the lead in barely 90 seconds. Vine broke behind Preston's defence, where Steve Robinson picked him out with a fine cross. The Luton striker thumped the ball under goalkeeper Carlo Nash.
Luton's second came when the Trinidad & Tobago international midfielder Carlos Edwards tapped home after Dean Morgan set him up in the 19th minute.
Goals: Vine (2) 1-0; Edwards (19) 2-0.
Luton Town (4-4-2): Kiely; Foley, Heikkinen, Barnett, Emanuel; Edwards, Robinson, Bell, Brkovic; Morgan (Feeney, 56), Vine (Boyd, 90). Substitutes not used: Beresford, Perrett, Langley.
Preston North End (4-4-2): Nash; Alexander, Pugh, St Ledger, Chilvers; Sedgwick, Whaley (Lewis Neal, 74), McKenna, Miller (Ormerod, 46); Agyemang (Dichio, 56), Nugent. Substitutes not used: Lonergan, Wilson.
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).
Booked: Luton Robinson, Vine; Preston McKenna.
Man of the match: Barnett.
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