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Luton Town vs Preston North End. Sky Bet Championship.

Kenilworth Road.

Luton Town 1

  • C McManaman (87th minute)

Preston North End 1

  • S Sinclair (52nd minute)

Luton 1-1 Preston: Nathan Jones earns point on return to Hatters dugout

Report and highlights from the Sky Bet Championship clash at Kenilworth Road

Saturday 20 June 2020 18:34, UK

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Highlights from the Sky Bet Championship match between Luton and Preston.

Nathan Jones picked up a point on his return as Luton manager as Callum McManaman earned the Hatters a 1-1 draw with Preston.

It looked like the hosts would suffer a demoralising defeat in their bid to stay up, falling behind early in the second half to Scott Sinclair's strike but, with three minutes to go, McManaman powered home from 22 yards and earn his side a share of the spoils.

The fine goal gave Jones - asked to return to Luton after the departure of Graeme Jones during the season's recess - something to smile about as he bids to stave off relegation.

Image: Callum McManaman scored the equaliser for Luton

With both sides back in action for the first time since the season was suspended due to coronavirus in early March, it was an understandably slow start, Luton having the first effort of note, Matty Pearson's glancing header from Ryan Tunnicliffe's deep cross falling well wide of the target.

Preston then started to get the upper hand, though, Sean Maguire's low effort from outside the box deflecting inches past the post.

Town fashioned another decent chance when Declan Rudd's punch from a corner did not gain enough distance, but Harry Cornick and Glen Rea both left the ball to each other inside the penalty area and the opportunity went begging.

With 35 minutes gone, Town needed a sharp stop from Croatia international Simon Sluga to keep them level, as he was out quickly to deny Maguire after a shot rebounded into the visiting attacker's path.

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Paul Gallagher then tried his luck from 20 yards, shooting straight at Sluga, the stopper easily collecting his side-footed attempt that lacked power.

After the break, it was the visitors - who had looked the stronger - with the breakthrough, as Luton were caught short defensively on the right.

A slip by Martin Cranie allowed Sinclair to race away and the former Manchester City and Celtic winger, who arrived at Deepdale in the January transfer window, beat Sluga into the bottom corner to net his second goal for the club.

Sluga then prevented Preston doubling their lead, parrying Gallagher's free-kick away after he took aim from 20 yards.

It was almost game over when Ben Pearson thundered a shot goalwards from just outside the box, but his rising drive did not come down in time.

Luton boss Jones made all five of his changes in a bid to pep up his attack, and they had the desired effect as a quick break from the back saw James Bree find McManaman.

The winger cleverly created an angle for himself, before 22 yards from goal, hammering his shot beyond Rudd and into the top corner to level the scores.

Luton almost had an immediate second as well, Tunnicliffe's shot just missing the target by a matter of inches, as both sides had to make do with a point.

What the managers said...

Luton's Nathan Jones: "I didn't think we were anywhere near where we needed to be. I thought we looked very solid, defensively we were very good, we worked so hard, it's just we lacked a bit of fluency today, that was to be expected with the lay-off and just three weeks to work with them. But they've been excellent, we limited them to very little and I felt we really, really finished strongly.

"If we had a full house at the Kenny we might have gone on and nicked that. We stress the importance of game changers, we always reiterate that and we always have. Today is even more so because of fitness levels, but we made subs we felt were at the right time. Could we have done it earlier? Maybe, but I was pleased with that impact as I didn't think there was much in the game."

Preston's Alex Neil: "It was two points dropped as I don't think at any point they looked threatening at all really. I thought it was as comfortable a game as we've had all season. I think the biggest concern for me was breaking the deadlock and, once we did that, I was confident we would go on and see the game out.

"Second half we did create some decent opportunities and it was a real kick in the teeth to concede the goal in the manner that we did. We had the ball and gave it back to them, and then we backed off far too far and allowed him a shot at goal. After we scored, I'm really happy as I'm thinking we've played well, controlled the game, scored the first goal and generally for us that's a fantastic position for us to find ourselves in as we don't usually give cheap ones away."

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