A brace for Amari Morgan-Smith and a fine goal from Jake Howells ensured a comfortable win for Gary Brabin's men as they swept away Braintree Town in the first ever meeting between the two clubs.
The Iron had started the season with just one defeat to their name, and with a 5-0 win over Grimsby to start their first campaign at this level, Alan Devonshire's side had been making the rest of the Blue Square Bet Premier sit up and take notice. But they were no match for the Hatters, who took an early lead and then consolidated it with three goals before half-time, before controlling the second period with a professional and assured display.
Playing 4-4-2 for the first time of Brabin's reign, the Hatters looked to make use of their wider formation with a couple of fierce early crosses from Robbie Willmott and James Dance which came close to finding their targets, but the first real chance of the match came to the visitors inside three minutes. Last season's Blue Square South top scorer Sean Marks flicked the ball on, and as Will Antwi seemed to lose his footing on a rain-doused surface, former Hatter Ben Wright found space inside the box, but could only fire wide.
Keith Keane then drove a low shot just wide of goal for the Hatters, before the Iron almost took the lead when a right-wing corner dropped inside the box for Braintree skipper Kenny Davis, whose close-range shot looked destined for the back of the net, only to be well-blocked by the covering Curtis Osano.
But the Town took the lead in the 11th minute with the simplest and slickest of goals. A long pass from Mark Tyler looped over Braintree's Jai Reason and found Dance on the right side of midfield. The former Crawley man had time to get the ball under control and slide a perfectly weighted through-ball into the path of Morgan-Smith, who outpaced his marker before placing a low shot into the far corner to send the Hatters 1-0 up.
And Brabin's men almost doubled their lead immediately afterwards with an attack down the other flank. Willmott beat his man down the left before squaring the ball for Danny Crow, who should have found the net from twelve yards but instead poked wide.
With their tails up, the Hatters continued to knock on the door, and on sixteen minutes captain Keane came agonisingly close to scoring would have been a goal of sublime skill. Willmott's right-wing free kick was cleared as far as Alex Lawless, who chested the ball down and shaped to volley, instead feinting and shimmied past a defender and feeding Keane on the edge of the area, who went only fractionally wide with his attempt to bend the ball inside the far post.
Despite the Town pressure it was the visitors who struck next. On 20 minutes Osano was robbed out wide by Wright, who got to the byline and from the ensuing scramble the ball found its way past Tyler and into the net after some confusion in the box and an unfortunate ricochet off Howells.
Not allowing their heads to drop, the Town continued to push back, and a succession of teasing through-balls came close to prising open the Braintree back line before Willmott found the space to scamper forward and flash an effort wide of the near post from eighteen yards.
On 38 minutes Dance and Crow combined and almost restored the Town's lead. The Hatters' right-winger had been putting in a number of crosses without finding an orange shirt, but this time planted a perfect high ball right onto Crow's head. Back-peddling slightly and attempting to put some power into Dance's looping centre, Crow headed just too high of the crossbar.
And the Town went back in front on 42 minutes, through slightly fortuitous circumstances. Crow was sent sprawling in the box by goalkeeper Nathan McDonald and the referee pointed to the spot. Morgan-Smith's low penalty was saved by McDonald, but the in-form forward reacted quickest to the rebound and managed to force the ball home for his second of the match, much to his visible relief.
Howells put the Hatters further in front on the stroke of half-time with a goal that had a lot less to do with luck than the Town's second. Breaking forward into the opposition half, Howells exchanged a beautiful one-two with Willmott before getting into the area and expertly placing a delicate finish past McDonald to give the home side a comfortable half-time lead.
After the break the Town continued to probe the visitors' defence with patient, considered build-up play, and on 53 minutes they fashioned an opening which almost resulted in a fourth goal. Adam Watkins, on at half-time for Lawless, laid the ball out for Osano who had galloped upfield from right back, and after twisting and turning Braintree defenders inside-out he let loose with a firm left-foot strike which whizzed just the wrong side of the near-post.
As Braintree's part-timers began to flag, the game second-half settled into a period of scrappiness and bittiness, and the visitors notched up a couple of bookings, for Ryan Peters and Wright, for dissent and a petulant foul respectively. The Town's Morgan-Smith joined them in the book for a clumsy foul on 67 minutes.
Mistakes were creeping into the visitors' play, and after Braintree lost the ball in midfield, Dance's through-ball looked under-hit, but Watkins somehow wrestled giant defender Adam Bailey-Dennis off the ball. With a combination of flair, strength and balance he made some space for himself in the box and returned a square pass for the oncoming Dance, whose shot was blocked by McDonald in the visitors' goal.
Under heavy rain, McDonald made a fantastic save to palm Willmott's perfectly-struck free kick over the bar, before doing well to keep hold of another dangerous cross from Dance.
With a quarter of an hour to go, torrential rain was making visibility difficult, and as puddles were splashing up off the ground, both sides found it difficult to make chances from open play. From Wright's corner, Braintree's Matt Paine crashed a header against the underside of the crossbar, and Beckwith headed over from a Willmott free kick.
As the rain eased off and the sun came back out in the final minutes, the hosts were able to play keep-ball as a soggy and dejected Braintree chased shadows. Chances were few and far between though, with the waterlogged conditions proving as much an opposition as the visitors' defence: substitute Aaron O'Connor
almost broke clear of the back line before slipping over, and Watkins danced into the area before seeming to lose control of the ball as it stuck in the mud.
John Paul Kissock, signed yesterday from Southport, replaced James Dance on 90 minutes to a standing ovation, but could only watch as his new team mate O'Connor was inches away from connecting with a Morgan-Smith cross into the six-yard box.
The new signing from Southport saw little of the ball during his cameo, but will have been impressed at his new team's performance as they swept away a Braintree side that has started the season strongly.
Three goals and three more points for Brabin's men then as the unbeaten start to the season continues, and the Hatters will hope to continue that run at Hayes and Yeading on Tuesday.
For minute-by-minute analysis see below.
Result from Kenilworth Road
Luton Town&nbsp;3 (Morgan-Smith 12, 43, Howells 45)
Braintree Town 1 (Howells og 20)
FULL-TIME All over here at Kenilworth Road, full report, reaction, goals and interviews to follow. COYH
90 mins - Four added minutes and a chance for JPK for his first touch.
90 mins Dance off, John Paul Kissock for his debut.
88 mins - Two to go...
85 mins - Five to go, still 3-1, a rainbow in the distance. Still all the Town as a looping cross from the left is met by Dance who sees a shot blocked at the back post.
83 mins Change for the Town, Crow off for Aaron O'Connor
. Sunshine now. Seven minutes left.
77 mins - Almost 3-2 as Braintree press for a way back into the game as Paine heads a Wright right-wing corner off the underside of the crossbar. The Town clear the danger.
75 mins - Possession stuff from the Town in 15 left to play. Aaron O'Connor
looks like he's going to come on.
71 mins - Ohhhh, has the heavens open and the rain pours in LU4, Keane slips and from the resultant free-kick 25 yards out Willmott rifles a fierce effort that McDonald does really well to turn over the bar and keep the score 3-1.
69 mins - Should be 3-2. The Hatters are caught out down their right as Aswad Thomas plays in Reason but his first-time shot only finds the side netting.
67 mins - Lovely, lovely stuff as the Town turn the screw. Dance fails to make something of a decent chance but Watkins takes over brilliantly, riding two challenges before cutting inside and squaring back to Dance eight yards out who sees a low shot blocked by the legs of McDonald.
67 mins - Quickly followed by Morgan-Smith for a challenge on Adam Bailey-Dennis.
65 mins - A booking for Braintree as goalscorer Wright gets his name taken for a nasty foul on Watkins, who had done really well to win the ball in the first place.
62 mins - First change of the afternoon for the visitors as Chib Chikala replaces Marks in attack.
60 mins - Still all the Hatters. Attendance 5,703 with 110 backing Braintree.
56 mins - Braintree beginning to flag now, it's all the Town. Crow picks up a loose ball given away and goes for goal but his fierce drive from 25 yards is blocked behind for a corner. From that, the Iron clear.
54 mins - Still the Hatters press. A fine move involving Keane, Watkins and Dance sees the latter cross for Crow to flick a header wide. Then, as Braintree half-clear their lines, Morgan-Smith, hunting a hat-trick, goes on a slaloming run before dragging a shot just wide of the post from 15 yards. A goal is coming.
50 mins - Town probing at the minute in search of a fourth goal that would surely see of Braintree. This is LTFC though, stranger things have happened!
48 mins - Nothing to report so far this half, but JP Kissock is up off the bench doing a little warm-up.
46 mins &nbsp;Annnnnnnnd we're off again as the Town shoot towards the Keniworth Road end. There's also been a change at the break, with Adam Watkins replacing Lawless.
HALF-TIME And that's the break here at Kenilworth Road, two goals in the final two minutes have put the Town in control. Check back in 15 minutes for the second half updates. COYH.
45 mins + 3 - Almost 4-1 before the break as AMS feeds Dance who slots in Crow but the nittle striker sees a shot well saved by McDonald.
45 mins + 1&nbsp;&nbsp;GOAL! TOWN 3-1 Braintree (Howells) - Well that's even better, JAKE HOWELLS strides down the left, give it it Willmott who plays a perfect pass into the box and with McDonald advancing the Wales Under-21 international slots the ball into the bottom corner to make it 3-1.
45 mins - Two added minutes to be played at the end of this second half.
43 mins GOAL! TOWN 2-1 Braintree (Morgan-Smith) Phew. The Town are back in front and Morgan-Smith has is brace, not without frights. An intricate Town move wins the penalty, Lawless sliding in a lovely pass for Dance but Crow is taken out by McDonald. AMS steps up and sees his effort from 12 yards saved but with the ball running free AMS slots home with a left-foot finish. Get in!
42 mins - PENALTY TO LUTON - Crow fouled
40 mins - Better from the Town as they work the ball down the right. Osano feeds Dance who, tight on the touchline, arches a cross into the box that falls for Crow who with his back to goal flicks a header goalwards that just dips over the crossbar.
35 mins - 10 minutes to the break, still one a piece, with the Town look for a second goal to re-take the lead. Then, Osano breaks forward and whacks a shot that goes way, way over McDonald's crossbar.
32 mins - Wright is impressing in attack for the visitors. He goes close again this, time beat Osano and Beckwith, turning and curling a effort from the left-hand edge of the penalty area that isn't far from making it 2-1.
30 mins - Half-an-hour gone, still 1-1, both sides trading possession at the minute, neither goalkeeper has been over-worked in these 30 minutes so far.
27 mins - There's always anticipation when Willmott picks the ball up and this time he picks the ball up on left and looks up 20 yards out and whacks a right-foot shot goalwards that bounces just wide.
24 mins - Neither side threatened since the leveller but Wright, hunting a quick-fire double, steps-up to hit a free-kick from 25 yards. It's a good hit but it's not threatening Tyler.
20 mins GOAL! Town 1-1 BRAINTEE (Wright) - Well there you go. Braintree have proved they are no pushovers as they level. BEN WRIGHT latches back onto a pass into the box down the left, drives a shot goalwards that takes a deflection and lands up in the back of the net. 1-1.
16 mins - More good stuff from the Town. They win a free-kick on the right which Willmott whips in. It's half-cleared to Lawless on the edge of the box. Being urged to shoot the midfielder instead plays a disguised pass square to his left to Keith Keane who looks up and tries to bend a shot around the post. It bounces just wide. Good stuff at the minute. Braintree still doing okay, though.
13 mins- Almost 1-1 and then almost 2-0 with chances for both sides in the space of 60 seconds. Firstly Wright tries a piledriver from 25 yards that Tyler has to get down to to keep out before the Hatters race up the other end with Willmott turning his marker down the left inside out before squaring to Crow. However, with the ball on a plate the striker sidefoots a shot side from 12 yards.
12 mins &nbsp;GOAL! TOWN 1-0 Braintee (Morgan-Smith) - Ignore the last update, the Town lead. A long free-kick forward by Tyler bounces over Jai Reason who mis-judges the flight of the ball. That allows James Dance to slide in AMARI MORGAN-SMITH who uses his pace to get to the ball first and slot the ball underneath Nathan McDonald to make it 1-0. Get in!
10 mins - 10 minutes played and it's the visitors who are looking the more dangerous at the minute.
8 mins - Almost 1-0 to the visitors. The ball breaks in the Town box to skipper Kenny Davis who pokes a shot goalwards. It looks like it's heading into the bottom corner of the net but Curtis Osano sticks out a leg and the ball rebounds behind for a corner. Close shave that.
5 mins - Back come the Hatters. Decent play down the left and tenacious stuff from Keane eventually results in the Town number 4 moving into space to drive a shot well wide of the target.
4 mins - Great chance for the visitors as Marks flick a header onto strike partner Ben Wright, a former Town loanee, who flashes a well-hit left-foot drive inches wide of the post, with Tyler worried, diving to his left.
3 mins - Almost half a chance for the Town as Willmott whips in a dangerous cross to the back post but Dance, lurking, can't get a touch despite sliding on the wet turf in an attempt to meet it.
2 mins - Definitely 442 from the Town, AMS and Crow up top, Willmott and Dance on either flank, Lawless and Keane in centre mid and a usual back four, with Howells at left-back.
1 min - And we're off at Kenilworth Road as Braintree get us away, they're all in grey, shooting towards the Kenilworth Road end.
14:57 HERE THEY COME
Two sides are out.
14:52 WE HAVE LIGHT
Even more light than usual. The floodlights are on.
14:50 THROUGH THE GATE
We're hoping for around 6,000 inside Kenilworth Road with between 100-250 from Essex making the journey to LU4.
14:45 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS
Andrew Barringer: 4-1 Luton, Simon Pitts: 2-0 Luton, Mark Wood: 6-2 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 3-1 Luton, Ian Ryan: 2-2 draw, Bill Cole: 3-1 Luton.
14:35 HOW TIMES CHANGE
The games 20 years ago this week for both sides.
Sat 24 Aug 1991 - Luton Town 1-1 Liverpool - Barclays Football League Division One
Tue 27 Aug 1991 - Arsenal 2-0 Luton Town - Barclays Football League Division One
Sat 31 Aug 1991 - Chelsea 3-1 Luton Town - Barclays Football League Division One
Sat 24 Aug 1991 - Braintree Town 2-2 Fareham - Beazer Homes League Southern Division
Mon 26 Aug 1991 - Bury Town 0-4 Braintree Town - Beazer Homes League Southern Division
Sat 31 Aug 1991 - Braintree Town 2-1 Bury Town - FA Cup Prequalifying Round
14:30 WIN FOR YOUNGSTERS
The Hatters' Under-18s have won 2-1 this morning thanks to goals from Alasan Ann and Moses Kaddu. It's Paul Driver's side second successive victory in the Youth Alliance.
14:10 THREE CHANGES
Town boss Gary Brabin makes three changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Mansfield on Tuesday night. Keith Keane, Robbie Willmott and Alex Lawless return after missing the match at Field Mill through injury.
It means Ed Asafu-Adjaye, Aaron O'Connor
and Adam Watkins drop to the bench. New signing JP Kissock is also named as a substitute. Dan Gleeson has aggreviated a ankle problem in training and does not feature.
Town: Tyler; Osano, Beckwith, Antwi, Howells; Willmott, Lawless, Keane, Dance; Morgan-Smith, Crow. Subs: O'Connor, Asafu-Adjaye, Kissock, Watkins, K. Pilkington.
Braintree: McDonald, Peters, Thomas, Paine, Bailey-Dennis, Yiadom, Symons, Davis, Reason, Wright, Marks. Subs: Jones, Quinton, Chilaka, James-Lewis, O'Connor.
13:50 FROM OHIO
Email from Scott Canupp in Cleveland, Ohio, USA:
"I 'watch' most weekends from my blackberry in Cleveland. Thanks for the great work - keep it up! Life-long Luton fan and season ticket holder from 77-95 before moving here. Made it back in May for the Wimbledon final at Man City. Disappointing- but great to see the Hatters live for the first time in 12 years. COYH!"
If it escaped your attention we signed a new player yesterday. John Paul Kissock has joined from Southport. Click here for more information.
13:00 CATS AND DOGS
A sharp shower has just passed over Kenilworth Road. Now the sun has come out. The pitch looks in great nick and now has a lush, green&nbsp;look about it following that downpour. Greasy on top.
12:30 CATCHING UP
Just spotted Gary Brabin in the centre circle of the pitch in the blazing sunshine. Walking towards him he's studiously reading today's issue of Talk of the Town, our official matchday programme.
He's still hopeful that Robbie Willmott, Alex Lawless and Keith Keane are fit enough to play...team news coming up at around 2pm.
11:40 BEWARE BRAINTREE!
As manager Gary Brabin told the press yesterday: "Braintree have shook the Conference with their start, Alan Devonshire's no mug, they'll be no pushovers".
The Iron may have been widely tipped for failure in their maiden season in non-league's top-flight but they've certainly made a mockery of that prediction so far.
A 1-0 defeat at Darlington for Devonshire's side was followed by a 5-0 hammering of a Grimsby Town team who have lofty ambitions of promotion. A draw with Mansfield a week ago today was followed-up with a 2-0 victory at Forest Green.
A Town fan looking at this afternoon's fixture wouldo probably assume, and expect, a comfortable three points.
Brabin said on Friday: "We have to manage expectations as we are Luton Town. Braintree's results indicate they will make it tough for us."
Braintree are unbeaten in three games, as are the Town, who have yet to lose following the opening day postponement of the visit to AFC Telford.
Down to the bare bones -half a dozen senior players missed the draw at Mansfield in midweek - Brabin has boosted his squad depth with the signing of Southport livewire John Paul Kissock.
He's been a thorn in the Town's side when playing for the Sandgrounders and the diminutive midfielder will be in the squad this afternoon as Brabs and co. go looking for their second victory of the season.
It won't be easy but the message coming from the manager's office, as Brabin reveals in his programme notes, is be patient.
Together we can conquer.
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