The Hatters remain without a win three games into the Sky Bet League One season after going down 3-1 at table-topping Peterborough this afternoon.
Danny Hylton grabbed his first goal in English football’s third tier with 12 minutes to go, but the damage had already been done in a first half in which the hosts went 3-0 up with a brace from Jason Cummings sandwiching one from Siriki Dembele.
Manager Nathan Jones made one change to the team that drew with Sunderland last Saturday, with Sonny Bradley, the centre-half signed from Plymouth Argyle in the summer, impressing enough on his first competitive start for the club in the midweek Carabao Cup defeat at West Brom to earn a place in the starting line-up at the Abax Stadium.
Jones switched to a back three of Matty Pearson, Alan Sheehan and Bradley, and they started brightly enough, Potts heading an Alan Sheehan corner onto the roof of the net after the captain’s initial free-kick had been deflected behind by a Posh wall that was never ten yards away.
The hosts had looked lively too, however, and they had the lead in the 18th minute, Cummings winning and converting from 12 yards, although there was confusion over whether the penalty had been awarded by referee Graham Salisbury for a foul by Sheehan or Marek Stech, who came out with his feet, not to mention a possible foul on James Collins in the build-up.
Within a minute Posh had doubled their advantage. The Hatters gave the ball away inside the opposition half, Dembele ran at the Town defence down the left and the winger kept his feet, riding a challenge from Alan McCormack, to fire emphatically into the roof of the net from eight yards.
Hylton tried to drag the Town back into it with an attempted chip from 40 yards, the ball landing on the roof of net, before Jones made a tactical switch with just under half an hour gone – Glen Rea coming on for McCormack and a reversion to the diamond formation with Pearson at right-back and Jack Stacey moved into midfield.
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu went on a couple of surging runs through the middle in an attempt to get his side going, and it was from a third that he fed Elliot Lee, whose attempted 35th-minute curler from 20 yards was deflected wide.
From the resulting corner, Bradley’s firm header was blocked in the six-yard box and Peterborough broke straight down the left, Dembele bursting clear of Stacey and crossing for Cummings, whose shot from ten yards found its way past Stech.
The Hatters thought they’d found a way back in three minutes later, in the 39th minute, when Lee lured Daniel into a lunge on the right edge of the box. Ref Salisbury pointed to the spot, but then consulted with his linesman who ruled that the Posh defender had got a foot on the ball, and indicated a corner.
It was a controversial call, especially given the decision at the other end, where Stech was called into action again by Dembele before half-time, with the Hatters having shots from Rea and Stacey on target, but straight at Chapman.
Jones made his second change at the break, withdrawing Pearson for Andrew Shinnie, with Stacey moving back to his usual right-back.
Within 15 seconds of the restart, Godden had Stech at full stretch, but the Hatters looked mouch more comfortable and started to dominate possession.
On 55 minutes Ryan Tafazolli become the first Peterborough player to be cautioned, for a foul on Hylton on the right edge of the box, Lee firing over from distance after Sheehan’s initial free-kick was cleared.
Then a flurry of chances came the Town’s way, all falling to Rea. On the hour, after O’Hara had been booked for a foul on the Hatters sub, Lee’s free-kick deflected into his path but the ex-Brighton man’s left-footed effort was flew high over the bar.
On 69 minutes he headed Sheehan’s free-kick wide, before another shot flew off target a minute later.
Lee followed suit with two chances in quick succession – the first a shot well off target, then a header from a right-wing Mpanzu cross that was straight at Chapman.
Jorge Grant came on for Collins and the Hatters soon the goal their second-half performance deserved, in the 78th minute, when Shinnie’s deep cross from the left found Stacey completely unmarked at the far post to steer a volley towards goal, with Hylton turning it in from close range.
Another chance was quick in coming for the top scorer of the last two seasons, Lee jinking past his man on the edge of the box and rolling the ball to his left to Hylton, whose left-footed shot was dragged across the face of goal.
Sheehan needed treatment for an excellent 88th-minute block on Toney, who then sent a header goalward from a corner, Stech saving after a lengthy spell as a spectator.
Ninety minutes were on the clock when Town went close again when Bradley smashed a left-footed volley at goal, finding himself unmarked and with time to chest the ball down at the far post, but Tafazolli threw himself in front of the effort and somehow managed to deflect it over the bar.
TOWN: Stech, Stacey, Pearson, Sheehan ©, Bradley, Potts, McCormack (Rea 29), Mpanzu, Lee, Hylton, Collins (Grant 73). Subs: Justin, Cornick, Jervis, Shea (GK)
Goal: Hylton 78
POSH: Chapman, Naismith, Daniel, Woodyard ©, Tafazolli, O’Hara (Reed 77), Godden (Toney 74), Dembele (Cooper 83), Ward, Bennett, Cummings. Subs: Tyler (GK), Cooke, Yorwerth, Maddison.
Goals: Cummings 18 (pen), 36, Dembele 19
Yellows: Tafazolli, O’Hara
REFEREE: Graham Salisbury
ATT 8,016 (2,209 Hatters)