Stoke 2-0 Luton: Hatters well beaten as Jones prepares for Saints talks
Nathan Jones’ potential swansong as Luton boss ended in a 2-0 Championship defeat for the play-off chasers to his former club Stoke.
Jones has received permission to speak to Southampton to become Ralph Hassenhuttl’s successor at the Premier League strugglers.
If successful, his first ever game as a top-flight boss could be at Liverpool on Saturday.
If so, this was an unhappy ending to his second spell in charge at Kenilworth Road as two goals in the opening 13 minutes earned Stoke a first home win in four attempts.
Nick Powell’s second goal of the campaign and an own goal by Town captain Tom Lockyer eased the pressure on Potters boss Alex Neil.
Stoke’s win coincided with the return after a 12-month absence from a cruciate knee ligament injury of influential centre-half Harry Souttar.
Named in Australia’s World Cup squad, Souttar made his first second-tier appearance since last November – also against Luton.
Jones won seven matches out of 38 during his 10-month reign as City chief, including only five in the Championship. Last February, he masterminded Luton’s first win at the Bet 365 Stadium for 22 years.
However, within three minutes, the Welshman, regularly jeered by home supporters, faced a more familiar outcome at his one-time managerial home.
Powell received the freedom of the penalty area to head in Morgan Fox’s first assist of the night to set City on the way to three points.
Ten minutes later Fox teased over another centre from the left and Wales World Cup hopeful Lockyer headed past Harry Isted.
Powell nearly punished more hesitant defending as Stoke looked to cement this much-needed home success but could not hit the target from close range.
Keeper Jack Bonner, recalled in place of Joe Bursik for his first game since September 13, saved easily from Jordan Clark.
He also kept out Carlton Morris’ 32nd-minute left-foot effort, though the striker should have done better from Amari Bell’s cross.
Luton, bidding for a fourth game unbeaten, nearly pulled a goal back after 58 minutes. Instead Lockyer’s frustrating night, which included a first-half caution, saw the skipper’s sidefoot effort hit a post from James Bree’s corner. Harry Cornick then fired wide with a follow-up shot.
Luton eventually ran out of ideas and it needed Isted’s fingertips to deny Liam Delap a spectacular late third goal for the Potters.
Town, who started the evening in eighth, are now only four points ahead of their hosts and face the prospect of needing a new man at the helm for their return to Championship action. Jones led the applause to away fans at the final whistle of his potential farewell appearance.