In-form Luton moved closer to the Championship play-off places with a deserved 2-1 victory at Stoke.
Danny Hylton and substitute Cameron Jerome were on the mark in the second half as the Hatters sealed a hard-earned fifth victory in seven league games, leaving them two points clear of the top six.
The Potters could find themselves in hot water with the Football Association after objects – including a plastic bottle – were thrown to celebrate the Luton players after their second goal.
It took 11 minutes before the hosts created the game’s first chance in a windy bet365 stadium.
Tyrese Campbell turned around smartly before seeing a clean left-footed strike deflect Tom Lockyer before heading away from the target.
The swirling wind seemed to affect the flow of the game, especially for Luton.
Campbell went close again when he accepted a short pass from Ben Wilmot before curling in an effort which Hatters goalkeeper Jed Steer did well to save.
Michael O’Neill’s men were building positive momentum, and Josh Tymon was next to test Steer with a strike from a very acute angle.
Luton boss Nathan Jones – returning to the club where he had a bad spell in 2019 – was generally lively on the touchline, but his attackers struggled to react.
Shortly before the break, Luton saw a rare goal.
James Bree cut in a tidy cross from the right, and as the wide Amari’i Bell dashed to the back post, he couldn’t quite get his head in on goal.
Luton striker Elijah Adebayo had a shot blocked early in the second half as the visitors searched for an answer, but again too many misplaced passes and poor judgment proved costly for both teams.
In the 53rd minute, Luton striker Harry Cornick sent a clean ball past Allan Campbell, but Stoke skipper Joe Allen delivered a terrific last-minute tackle that snuffed out an attempted kick. shoot.
The Hatters’ tails were up and they broke the deadlock three minutes later.
Again Cornick rushed on the right before crossing for Hylton, who converted superbly at the near post.
The lead was quickly nearly doubled, with Adebayo charging on Cornick’s through ball before being denied by a superb save from Joe Bursik.
The house worshipers were getting a little restless because suddenly Luton was now in control.
Adebayo saw an effort bravely blocked by Taylor Harwood-Bellis, while Cornick also saw a deflected shot off target.
Former Stoke striker Jerome sealed the victory in the 81st minute when he coolly converted skipper Kal Naismith’s low cross.
Lewis Baker’s stoppage-time curling finish from 20 yards out proved small consolation for Stoke.
What the managers said…
Stoke’s Michael O’Neill: “We were very bad in the second half. Everything had been okay in the first half and we seemed to be handling the conditions well, but the game got scrappy and we failed to put the ball on the ground and play in this second half We lost two bad goals and we just didn’t win enough duels. an extremely disappointing performance.
“The most worrying thing for me, however, was the lack of self-confidence. We really struggled with that side of the game, especially in the second half. I know the fans are frustrated, and of course they have straight to their opinions, I have no problem with that. They want to see a team that can fight for promotion from this division. I’m just not sure we have that yet.
from Luton nathan jones“I couldn’t have asked for more from the players. In the first half we could have produced a bit more quality, but in the second half we really took control of the game. We were super aggressive night, and without being disrespectful to Stoke, we could and probably should have scored even more goals. It was a truly wonderful performance from minute one to the last, and I’m really proud of the guys.
“We’ve limited Stoke to very few chances, and that has to be a good thing and a huge positive. I think we’re safe from falling now. With the resources we have at a club like ours, It’s all about staying in the division, and I think we’re going to do that now, we just have to keep believing in what we can possibly achieve now.
“Both sets of fans sang my name tonight, but with very different words. It’s one of my regrets that I didn’t have more success when I was here. I know I should have given them better results during my time here.”