After coming so close to preserving their Premiership status at the end of last season, Iain Dowie's team are one of the favourites for promotion from the Championship. The fact that there have been no mass departures, with the leading scorer,Andy Johnson, defying all expectations by signing a new contract, looks to have strengthened Palace's chances of repeating their feat of two seasons ago, when they went up after a storming late run in Dowie's first season.
After Saturday's opening-day defeat at Selhurst Park, however, Hughes, sounded a note of caution. "I'm not too sure how much that experience of two seasons ago will stand us in good stead," he said. "I think this league has got better since then. The pressures for us are different this season because we're expected to bounce straight back, but it's going to be tough."
Momentum from the end of one season often continues into the next - as these sides showed. Palace won only seven League matches last season and totalled just 33 points. Luton won 29 matches and amassed 98 points as they won promotion from League One.
Mike Newell, the Luton manager, has spent sparingly and is keen to give a chance to those players who did so well last season. They did not disappoint him. Despite having to reorganise following injuries to Marlon Beresford, Sol Davis and Chris Coyne - the latter was hurt in the pre-match warm-up - Luton created many chances and would have won more comfortably but for some wasteful finishing, including a missed penalty by Kevin Nicholls.
Palace were regularly pulled apart at the back and their forwards rarely troubleda defence in which Curtis Davies was outstanding. Johnson's scrambled equaliser offered hope after Steven Howard's headed opener, but Ahmet Brkovic capitalised on indecision to hit the deserved winner.
"I don't know how far these lads can go, though I think the Premier League might be a bit beyond them," Newell said. "But we've shown today that we might be able to compete."
Goals: Howard (44) 0-1; Johnson (52) 1-1; Brkovic (79) 1-2.
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Boyce, Hall, Hudson (Ward, 84), Borrowdale; Soares (Kolkka, 62), Watson, Hughes, McAnuff; Johnson, Macken (Andrews, 84). Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Leigertwood.
Luton Town (4-4-2): Brill; Foley, Davies, Heikkinen, Underwood; Brkovic (Showunmi, 88), Robinson, Nicholls, Morgan (Holmes, 71); Howard, Feeney. Substitutes not used: Seremet (gk), Vine, Perrett.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Crystal Palace Hughes, Hudson; Luton Town Underwood, Foley.
Man of the match: Davies.
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