Luton Town 3 Preston North End 0

Howard's way keeps Hatters flying high

A result that had looked on the cards from the opening minutes lifted Luton to third place in the Championship - and even more sweetly for them, took them above local rivals Watford, who will need to win at Coventry tonight to regain their position.

In his programme notes, Luton's manager Mike Newell remarked upon the number of people who had complimented his team's style during last Friday's 2-2 draw here against Sheffield Wednesday.

By the time the whistle went in this match, his players managed to surpass their previous week's efforts with a performance worthy of the highest praise.

Certainly, Newell's counterpart, Billy Davies, was unstinting in his admiration while being put out by his own side's showing. "That's as poor as I've seen us play," Davies said. "Our defending in the first 20 minutes was appalling but huge credit to Luton. They deserved what they got. They worked very hard and they outmuscled us."

Newell baulked at the idea that his men were "magnificent" in the first half. "We played some decent stuff," was all he would say. He acknowledged that expectations will rise further after this performance.

"People were saying before the season how great it would be if we could stay in the Championship. After six weeks, they are worried that Reading and Sheffield United are getting away from us at the top. There's a long way to go yet."

The home side imposed their will upon this contest within four minutes as a canny nod forward by Steve Howard caught the Preston defence flat-footed and allowed Howard's striking partner Warren Feeney to scamper through before rolling the ball smartly past the oncoming keeper.

Luton doubled their lead after 11 minutes when a cross from the left wing by Chris Coyne was nodded home at the far post by Luton's Croatian midfielder Ahmet Brkovic as he took advantage of more somnolent Preston defending.

Suitably relaxed, the Hatters proceeded to knock the ball around to the point where a Preston side which also knows how to play a bit began to look demoralised.

Brkovic might have doubled his tally after ghosting through the defence after 24 minutes, but was denied by a save from Carlo Nash.

Luton gained further deserved reward for their superiority after 38 minutes when Brkovic knocked the ball in from the right to Howard, and the strapping centre-forward drove home a shot which deflected off Preston's Paul McKenna.

Something had to change for Preston and they emerged for the second half with McKenna giving way to forward Patrick Agyemang as the formation altered from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2.

It was a positive effort from Preston's manager Davies, but he might as well not have bothered .

Howard had a flurry of opportunities at the start of the half and seemed certain to add his second goal after being put through by Brkovic but allowed the keeper to block his shot.

After 68 minutes, Luton's centre-back Coyne demonstrated his versatility with a foray up field which ended with a drive that battered the bar. Nearly everything was going Luton's way.

Luton Town (4-4-2): Beresford; Edwards, Coyne, Heikkinen, Davis; Brkovic (Keane, 85), Nicholls, Robinson (Holmes, 74), Morgan (Showunmi, 80); Howard, Feeney. Substitutes not used: Perrett, Brill (gk).

Preston North End (4-5-1): Nash; Alexander, Lucketti, Hill, Davidson; Sedgwick, Etuhu, McKenna (Agyemang, 45), Jones, L Neal (Mears, 57); Dichio (Hibbert, 80). Substitutes not used: Lonergan (gk), Nowland.

Referee: C Penton (Sussex).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

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

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album