In the Bedfordshire rain the Lilywhites produced their poorest display by a country mile of Ryan Lowe’s stewardship, the outcome being a heaviest defeat for 11 months.
Their defending was an accident waiting to happen, actually scrub that, the accident did happen four times over.
For spells North End’s play in areas further up the Kenilworth Road pitch wasn’t much better than their defending, it not being a night when anyone covered themselves in glory.
Ryan Lowe vowed to reimburse the 614 travelling PNE fans their ticket money, a noble gesture which was well received but unlikely to be taken up by too many of the faithful.
Some spoke of donating it to charity and the general feeling is that supporting a team is about knowing that a game of football has three possible outcomes – victory, a draw or defeat.
It was the manner of the defeat which annoyed and frustrated those gathered behind the goal where three of Luton’s four goals went in.
They got a close-up view of how straight forward it was for the play-off chasing hosts to get themselves into a comfortable winning position and control the contest.
There was an acceptance from the fans, though, that this was a night in isolation in terms of Lowe’s tenure.
Fortunes had been on an upward curve in his three months in charge, Wednesday night only a third defeat in Championship action.
That probably made what happened a big shock to the system, North End normally so solid on their travels and often looking like they have a goal in them.
Things lent the other way this time, Lowe’s men a goal down inside nine minutes, 2-0 behind before the half-hour mark had been reached, and trailing 3-0 by half-time.
Luton’s fourth goal after an hour’s play just put the tin lid on the night and with the visitors unable to find a consolation, it resulted in a heaviest defeat of the campaign.
In April last year Brentford put five goals past PNE without reply, this wasn’t quite so bad but not far off.
Defeat surely extinguished any faint hopes of the play-offs, if ever those hopes were there heading into the trip down a very M6 and M1.
North End are eight points shy of sixth place with eight matches to play, that gap set to grow this weekend when others play and Lowe’s charges don’t.
Victory for Luton moved them into fifth spot and very much in contention to secure involvement in the play-offs.
Their budget will be more lower division, however it shows what can done in a Championship which is as wide open as it has been for a number of years.
Nathan Jones’ side played well on the night but probably didn’t have to be right at the top of their game, with Preston giving them a helping hand.
Any goal scored in football you can trace back and find a point where potentially the threat could have been cut out.
No deep dive was needed to pinpoint where things went wrong for the goals conceded.
Poor defending or goalkeeping contributed to all four, the usually excellent Daniel Iversen having a night to forget in the week he got a call-up to the senior Denmark squad.
After two powerful starts in the back line, the occasion caught up with Bambo Diaby. He was put on the back foot early doors and never recovered his composure from then on.
The midfield barely functioned, while Luton found the gaps behind North End wing-backs – especially the out-of-position Ali McCann – to dominate the wide areas.
Lowe was to label the defending as ‘Kamikaze’, an apt description for PNE being the authors of their own downfall.
Luton’s opener came from James Bree’s cross which looped into the middle, Diaby misjudging the flight of the ball.
He backed into Sepp van den Berg who was challenging Elijah Adebayo, the ball dropping to Luke Berry who side-footed past Iversen.
Cameron Archer should have equalised when Reece Burke’s hamstring popped as they chased Daniel Johnson’s ball down the left. Reece pulling up enabled Archer to cut into the box but his shot was saved by James Shea – with three team-mates better placed for a pass.
PNE shipped a second in the 28th minute, Bree’s free-kick travelling over a crowd of players including Iversen, Fred Onyedinma sliding in with Peter Kioso at the far post to get the last touch.
The third goal two minutes before half-time saw Adebayo slip a pass down the right hand side of the box to find Harry Cornick. His pull-back whether by design or accidently, clipped Berry’s heal and spun past the wrong-footed Iversen inside his near post.
Luton’s fourth was comedy gold on their behalf but no laughing matter for North End.
They counter-attacked from a PNE corner, Adebayo’s pass playing in Amari’i Bell to the left of goal. His shot was a hopeful one, Iversen reaching out a glove and almost swiping the ball away rather than punching or parrying.
Unfortunately that swipe sent the ball against the head of Diaby who was rushing back to cover and it flew into the net.
A game to forget although I’d hazard a guess it will give Lowe a couple of sleepless nights before he can enjoy his break.