Stoke made it back-to-back victories as they cruised to a 3-0 win against former boss Nathan Jones at the bet365 Stadium.
The Potters entered the game off the back of finally breaking their 11-game winless duck in the previous fixture, beating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 courtesy of a late Steven Fletcher strike.
It had been a busy few days in Staffordshire, with Stoke announcing that club legend Ryan Shawcross is to leave in the coming weeks to take on a new challenge in America, after 14 years at the club.
Michael O’Neill made two changes to his last side, as James McClean and the injured Morgan Fox dropped out for Josh Tymon and Rhys Norrington-Davies, with the left-back returning from a three-game suspension.
Nathan Jones returned to the Potteries for the first time since his turbulent spell in charge in 2019, with the club he left to join Stoke two years ago. Luton had slipped into mid-table mediocrity in recent weeks, with just the one win in their previous six leaving them 15th in the table.
Jones shuffled his pack after an unlucky 2-0 defeat to Cardiff, making four changes to his team to take on Stoke. Cranie, Bree, Cornick and Clark all came in for Pearson, Lockyer, Naismith and Hylton.
Tom Ince missed out on the bench due to EFL rules not allowing him to play against his parent club.
Stoke started brightly straight from the off, with a decent move culminating in Nick Powell chipping the ball over the bar after a matter of seconds.
A number of crosses caused some danger in the Potters box after three minutes, but Luton could not seize on some sloppy early defending.
Stoke enjoyed all of the early possession and pushed for the early goal despite that Luton chance.
Jacob Brown then entered the book after eight minutes for a rash challenge on Rea.
The Potters continued to pressure the Luton backline, and on 20 minutes, they had found a deserved lead.
Powell threaded a ball through to Steven Fletcher, and the Scot took on Sonny Bradley and brushed past him with ease. It was a two-on-one situation with the goalkeeper, and the 33-year-old cut it back to his teammate Powell for the Potters leading scorer to tap into an empty net.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) February 20, 2021
Luton had failed to stamp their authority on the game so far, and their shaky backline was instilling confidence in the Stoke forwards.
Fletcher could have doubled his side’s lead just five minutes later, but Simon Sluga was able to punch the ball away before he could turn it home from a cross.
Luton began to grow into the game as the half-time whistle approached, and Harry Cornick had a chance as he surpassed Tommy Smith with ease but had his shot turned away.
Half time: Stoke City 1-0 Luton Town
Michael O’Neill would be the happier of the two managers at the interval, with his side taking the incentive to the visitors well in the first half hour.
Stoke linked up well in attack, and looked a far cry from the side that had not won in 2021 before Tuesday.
Nathan Jones needed much more from his attackers in the second period to be able to take something from the game.
The game restarted with intent from both teams, as Luton went in search of the equaliser and Stoke looked to extend their lead.
Powell and Fletcher combined yet again on 55 minutes, but the striker’s header from the cross went well wide.
The Potters defence had not switched on since the break, and Jordan Clark nearly took advantage but his shot was wide of Gunn’s right-hand post.
The end-to-end fashion of the game continued, as Powell’s cross nearly went all the way through the bodies into the net, but Sluga got down well to palm it away.
Just inside the hour mark, the Potters finally found another goal to set them on their way to victory.
A hopeful ball forward on the right-hand side of the Luton box was chased by Joe Allen, then the Welshman turned a deep ball into the box for the surging Powell to connect with and bury his header in the top corner.
It was the Potters’ talisman’s second of the game, and Stoke looked to be cruising to back-to-back victories for the first time since early December.
Danny Batth flashed a header over the bar from a free-kick just minutes later.
Stoke then should have had their third of the afternoon with fifteen minutes left. Sluga tried to usher the ball out of play in the corner but was dispossessed by substitute Sam Clucas, who then fired a shot at the open goal from an impossible angle and the ball went wide.
The Potters then did find their elusive third of the game, and things went from bad to worse for the visitors.
Luton’s Bree was dispossessed by Clucas on the halfway line, and again Stoke had a two-on-one with Sluga. Clucas, similar to Fletcher for the first goal, was unselfish and squared it for the Scot to tap home his eighth league goal of the season.
Stoke had capitalised on some poor Luton defending, but Fletcher had certainly deserved his goal after a great performance.
Sam Vokes could have found the net with a rare goal, but Sluga did well to parry his header from close range.
The hosts controlled the game from there on, and it was relative plain sailing up to the final whistle for Michael O’Neill’s men.
Full time: Stoke City 3-0 Luton Town
MOTM: Nick Powell – controlled Stoke’s tempo going forward and scored two important goals.
Three goals and three points for the Potters, and they had dispatched their former manager’s side with ease on the day.
It was a long overdue emphatic victory for Michael O’Neill’s men and hopefully a sign of things to come for Potters fans.
Their upturn in fortunes can most likely be put down to the change in formation in recent games, with Powell reverting to his usual number 10 position.
Nathan Jones will no doubt be disappointed with his players’ performance and the way they approached the game.
In truth, Stoke looked the better side for the whole 90 minutes and were hardly troubled by a lacklustre Hatters attack.
City now go into a tough run of fixtures, with Barnsley away next up on Wednesday, whilst Luton travel to Millwall.
Today’s result leaves Stoke in ninth, just four points off the playoffs. Luton drop to 16th with the loss.
Match report by Oliver Walton.