Luton Town 3 Preston North End 0
Howard's way keeps Hatters flying high
Wednesday 28 September 2005
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).
Newcastle manager taunted again as his side loses to Stoke
Latest in Sport
Arsenal vs Tottenham player ratings: Mesut Ozil? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? Nacer Chadli? Who was the star man at the Emirates?
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Manchester United risk Uefa row over plan to play lucrative midweek friendlies
Cristiano Ronaldo banner: This is how the Real Madrid striker reacted to the stunt by Manchester United fans
Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United: 'Come home' banner flown over Real Madrid match
- 1 Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
- 3 The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before a character like Homer or Lisa
- 4 British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
- 5 Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
'Women, walk wherever you want' posters taken down in Stamford Hill following 'unacceptable' signs separating men and women
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so