Pre-season friendly: Luton Town 1 Norwich City 5
Luton Town suffered a humbling pre-season defeat to Premier League-bound Norwich City as a first half Josip Drmic hat-trick did the damage ahead of their final friendly before the Championship curtain-raiser with Middlesbrough.
It’s often said that the scoreline doesn’t matter in a pre-season friendly, but it will be more the manner of just how quicker the Hatters will find life in the second flight.
An instant high press from the Canaries demonstrated this relentlessness, while the clinical way in which the visitors claimed their goals and put Town to the sword highlighted the other real step up in class that Luton must navigate and quickly.
Town were 2-0 down within six minutes as first an unmarked Marco Stiepermann tucked in at the far post after poor defending for City’s first corner in the fourth minute.
Former Hatters youth product Max Aarons then cut Luton open moments later, picking out Josip Drmic who stroked low into the net.
The Canaries added to their total in the 15th minute and though record signing Simon Sluga saved amazingly well to deny Todd Cantwell from converting a Patrick Roberts long ball, but Drmic put the rebound into an unguarded net.
It was all too easy for the Premier League side and so very ruthless with a 100 per cent return from three chances.
Town spent very little time in the Norwich half but they came alive just after the half hour mark.
First when James Collins, Dan Potts and Ryan Tunnicliffe combined with a wonderful one-touch move that saw the new boy flash across the six-yard area to a sliding Elliot Lee who couldn’t quite reach it.
But moments later and Andrew Shinnie put the ball into the box to where Potts was able to lift over goalie Tim Krul for Town’s only goal.
Yet any gains that could have signalled a revival were snuffed out in a matter of seconds when Norwich netted again, this time Drmic looping a wonderful header beyond the despairing dive of Sluga for his third and City’s fourth.
Manager Graeme Jones kept the same side for the second period and Tunnicliffe went close, shaking the roof of the net with a dipping drive that just skimmed over from 20-yards.
But the Town man was shown how it was done as City went up the other end and Roberts, exceptional in midfield all afternoon, drilled a stunning shot into the top corner from 25 yards.
By the time Luke Berry - a 59th minute substitute for Shinnie, who’d been forced to play far deeper than traditionally seen - had forced Krul into a routine low save from a free-kick, Norwich had taken off their main threats and had somewhat taken their foot off the accelerator too.
That was still a rare sight at goal for the hosts, though substitute Harry Cornick would have been through on goal if he could have taken a long ball out of the sky quicker.
The pacey forward did, however provide an out-ball not previously available, while George Moncur, in his cameo, was able to pick a better range of passes that allowed the hosts a bit more joy going forward.
He was involved in the build-up to a promising cross-field move that eventually saw a Potts cross that was hacked away, but it was all half chances at best.
Still Norwich fashioned the better opportunities and Onel Hernandez should have scored when he sprung a high offside trap and, though he rounded Sluga, skewed a shot horribly wide with Town players racing back to cover the line.
It was one of the few things that didn’t come off for Norwich and one less thing for Town boss Jones to ponder ahead of Friday night.
Luton: Sluga, Cranie, Potts, Tunnicliffe, Bradley, Pearson, McManaman (Cornick 75) Collins, Lee (Moncur, 59) Shinnie (Berry, 59), Mpanzu.
Attendance: 4,218 (642).