Rangers routed by stellar Hatters

Pre-Season Friendly

Luton Town 3 (0) Queens Park Rangers 1 (1)

SUBSTITUTES Matthew Barnes-Homer, Amari Morgan-Smith and Adam Watkins all struck in the second half as Luton overturned a 1-0 half-time deficit to topple Premier League new boys Queens Park Rangers 3-1 at Kenilworth Road tonight, writes Mark Wood.

Riproaring Luton mixed great energy with more than a dash of panache as DJ Campbell’s strike in the opening seconds was made a distant memory by a terrific Town display.

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Town boss Gary Brabin named what looked like the team he could be tempted to field for next weekend’s opener at AFC Telford, while QPR also named a massively strong side, including Championship Player Of The Year and captain Adel Taarabt.

And it took Rangers just 30 seconds to take the lead, netting before Luton had even had a touch. Taarabt found space on the left and his low cross was fluffed by Dean Beckwith and Campbell was allowed to take a touch before slotting home.

Rangers keeper Paddy Kenny had to be aware to deal with dangerous crosses from Jake Howells and Dan Gleeson, while Jay Bothroyd lashed over at the other end.

Undaunted Town continued to press, Aaron O’Connor firing straight at Kenny, and Alex Lawless sending an opportunistic straight at the Irish stopper.

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Keith Keane had a couple of speculative efforts deflected behind as Luton continued to turn the screw.

Danny Crow’s swerving cross picked out the unmarked Beckwith at the far post but his effort was straight into Kenny’s midriff and, as the centre-half battled for the ball, it fell to Will Antwi whose effort was deflected up and over for a corner.

From that Town should have scored again when the ball broke to O’Connor at the far post but he could only blaze wide.

Rangers though were dangerous going forward and wasted a gilt-edged chance to double their lead after a quarter-of-an-hour.

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Former Watford man Tommy Smith drew the defence, before slipping through Bothroyd, but he could only drag his effort wide with only Mark Tyler to beat.

Howells was proving proving a class act on the left, showcasing a wide range of passing, while new QPR signing Campbell took a tumble under a challenge from Tyler in the box but nothing was doing.

Another slick pass by Howells put Crow into space and his long ranger blast was parried by Kenny, who just recovered in time to snaffle the ball from under the nose of the onrushing O’Connor, while the Hatters fans in the Kenilworth Road end mistakenly cheered what they thought was a goal.

Rangers went close again after half and hour when Alejando Faurlin’s cross picked out Smith in the box, but the ex-Hornet man’s flick ran just wide.

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A marauding run from Kenyan full-back Curtis Osano saw him eat up 40 yards before flashing an effort wide as he looked for a repeat of his wonder goal at Cambridge City.

A fabulous 30-yard free-kick from Taarabt forced Tyler to turn the ball aside from the top left-hand corner with three minutes of the half left, while another Beckwith error almost cost Luton dear, but Taarabt’s cross ran wide.

Rangers rolled the changes at the break, making eight substitutions, with replacement Akos Buzsaky smashing wide five minutes in.

Another former Watford man, Heider Helguson, then saw a long range strike ruled out by the linesman’s flag.

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Town alternated from a 4-4-2 formation to 4-3-3 in the second and this seemed to at least initially stifle their creativity, although Dan Gleeson had two efforts blocked and Lawless sent a good effort straight at substitute stopper Radek Cerny.

The second half was quiet in comparison to the first until Luton levelled on 74 minutes when Osano’s searching cross found Barnes-Homer lurking at the far post and he made not mistake with his header past the static Cerny.

And Luton were almost ahead seconds late when substitute Morgan-Smith broke on the left but Watkins’ header flashed wide.

Some thrilling interplay between Barnes-Homer and Howells ended in the Welsh U21 international’s shot being blocked as Town started to hammer on Rangers’ door.

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Morgan-Smith slid through Dance with 12 minutes to go, but the summer signing’s shot smashed down off the bar and out, while Watkins dragged his follow-up just wide.

Barnes-Homer scorched an effort just past the mark before Town justifiably snatched the lead when Morgan-Smith charged down a Cerny clearance and the ball rebounded into the unguarded net.

And Luton added a third two minutes from time when Dance pulled the ball back from the byline to the onrushing Watkins who buried his shot past the unmoving Cerny, via a slight deflection, to round off a great evening at rocking and vociferous Kenilworth Road.

Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Dan Gleeson (Ed Asafu-Adjaye 64), Curtis Osano, Keith Keane, Dean Beckwith (C), Will Antwi (Matthew Barnes-Homer 64), Alex Lawless (Alex Lacey 90+4), James Dance, Aaron O’Connor (Amari Morgan-Smith 72), Danny Crow (Adam Watkins 64), Jake Howells (Godfrey Poku 90+2). Substitutes not used: Nathan Elder, Kevin Pilkington.

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Rangers (4-4-2): Paddy Kenny (Radek Cerny 46), Kieron Dyer (Michael Doughty 72), Clint Hill (Bruno Andrado 81), Shaun Derry (Akos Buzsaky 46), Fitz Hall (B Peroni 46), Danny Gabbidon (Matt Connolly 46), Adel Taarabt (C, Petter Vaagen Moen 46), Tommy Smith (Hogan Ephraim 46), DJ Campbell (Heider Helguson 46, Troy Hewitt 82), Jay Bothroyd (Patrick Agyemang 46), Alejando Faurlin. Substitutes not used: Bradley Orr.

Referee: R Mackay.

Assistant Referees: A Aylott and J Panconi.

Fourth Official: R Endacott.

Attendance: 3,170 (QPR 621).

Star Hatter: Jake Howells. Industrious midfielder barely put a foot wrong all night.