Luton Town 3 Preston North End 0: Woeful Lilywhites downed by James Collins hat-trick at Kenilworth Road

Preston North End turned in an awful performance as Luton Town brushed them aside at Kenilworth Road.

Saturday, 12th December 2020, 5:11 pm
Updated Saturday, 12th December 2020, 5:13 pm
Plenty of green shirts back but Preston North End can't prevent James Collins scoring his second goal at Kenilworth Road

A James Collins hat-trick did the damage and frankly the Hatters' margin of victory could have been greater.

Collins struck in the 20th, 29th and 66th minute and the Lilywhites had no response.

As good as they had been against Middlesbrough on Wednesday night, they were poor in Bedfordshire.

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North End midfielder Ryan Ledson climbs to win a header against Luton

They actually started the game well, one watched by 2,000 home fans with Luton's Tier 2 status allowing them to open the turnstiles.

Jayden Stockley put an early header over the bar, with Tom Barkhuizen and Alan Browne also having chances.

But from the moment Collins opened the scoring, it was all Luton and they thoroughly deserved the three points.

They won their personal battles all over the pitch and aside from the opening spell, were untroubled by North End at the back.

PNE winger Tom Barkhuizen gets ahead of Luton's Glenn Rea

Unchanged from the midweek win over Middlesbrough, Alex Neil's men made a bright start and had three good sights of goal in the opening 18 minutes.

The first of those was the best, Ryan Ledson's corner from the right met by Stockley who saw his downward header bounce off the turf and up over the bar - from six yards he should have done better.

Barkhuizen then left a defender on his backside went cutting the ball on to his left foot on the right-hand side of the box but drove a shot at the near post too close to goalkeeper James Shea who saved comfortably.

Browne had the third chance, timing his run well to meet Ledson's corner at the near post but sending a first-time effort over the bar.

PNE striker Jayden Stockley battles in the air against Luton's Sonny Bradley

Those chances certainly proved costly when the Hatters opened the scoring in the 20th minute, completely turning the tide.

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu dropped a great ball over the PNE back line from the right channel, one which Paul Huntington misread the flight of.

That allowed Collins to get in behind, bring the ball down really well and guide a shot past Declan Rudd as he came out.

It was Luton in the ascendency from then on for the remainder of the first half, seemingly first to everything and winning their battles.

They doubled their lead just before the half hour, taking advantage of some slack defending.

A corner from the left was partly cleared out of the box by Stockley.

Glen Rea returned it into the middle from the right, Collins nodding the ball home from close range with little pressure on him.

North End relied on picking up second balls from Stockley or on counter-attacking, it being a break from deep inside their own half which brought about a chance eight minutes before half-time.

Brad Potts drove forward down the middle before feeding a pass out to Scott Sinclair on the PNE left-wing.

Sinclair cut a low ball back for Browne to run on to, the skipper lifting a first-time shot over the bar from 20 yards.

A double substitution at half-time saw Daniel Johnson and Jordan Storey replace Ledson and Huntington, with another switch seeing Emil Riis and Sean Maguire take over from Barkhuizen and Stockley in the 57th minute.

Just before that second change, George Moncur saw a low shot saved by Rudd after North End had twice failed to clear their lines on the edge of the box.

Luton continued to look the most threatening side, Mpanzu blazing a shot over the bar after Ben Davies' misplaced pass had presented him with the opportunity on the edge of the box.

It then needed a vital touch by Storey to take Collins' far-post volley behind after he'd been found by Harry Cornick's searching cross from the right.

There was no stopping Collins in the 66th minute though, North End's defence all over the place as the striker swept home a low shot on the turn inside the box from Cornick's pass.

The latter stages of the game saw Luton on the front foot, searching for a fourth goal which you would not have begrudged them.

North End kept it down to three and will have to be a lot better at Barnsley on Tuesday if they are to bounce back.

Luton: Shea, Pearson, Lockyer, Bradley, Potts, Rea, Mpanzu (Tunnicliffe 80), Moncur (Norrington-Davies 74), Dewsbury-Hall (Berry 80), Cornick (Clark 74), Collins (Nombe 83). Subs (not used): Cranie, Lualua, Morrell, Isted.

PNE: Rudd, Fisher, Huntington (Storey 46), Davies, Hughes, Browne, Ledson (Johnson 46), Barkhuizen (Maguire 57), Potts (Bayliss 60), Sinclair, Stockley (Riis 57). Subs (not used): Earl, Gallagher, Ripley.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Carnforth)

Attendance: 2,000

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