Stunning first half sees Hatters pick up first Championship victory at Barnsley

Town celebrate Jacob Butterfield's opening goal at Oakwell this afternoon.
Town celebrate Jacob Butterfield's opening goal at Oakwell this afternoon.

Championship: Barnsley 1 Luton Town 3

Luton are up and running in the Championship after a magnificent first half performance saw them gain their first league win of the season by seeing off Barnsley at Oakwell this afternoon.

The visitors led 2-0 as early as the fourth minute, Jacob Butterfield and James Collins on target, while Harry Cornick added a third with just half an hour gone, putting Graeme Jones' side in dreamland.

They had to weather a mini-storm of sorts after the break, with the Tykes improving in the second period, but although Mallik Wilks pulled one back with 15 to go, the Hatters, with keeper Simon Sluga superb, stood firm.

To make the result even better, it was the first league defeat Barnsley had suffered in front of their home fans since March 2018, some 29 games ago, as they had gone the whole season unbeaten in League One.

There, they finished behind champions Town, the Hatters making one change as Manchester City loan signing Luke Bolton came in for his full league debut, replacing Martin Cranie, who hadn't recovered from his ligament damage suffered in the 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night.

Dan Potts wasn't fit to return, meaning James Bree, one of six ex-Barnsley players in the squad, stayed at left back, although Brendan Galloway came in on the bench.

A quite stunning start saw the Hatters move ahead after just 82 seconds of the game, when Bolton's excellent first touch saw him move inside his man and find Collins, who fed Cornick on the right.

He beat one before finding Andrew Shinnie whose shot was charged down, rebounding to the edge of the box, where Butterfield arrived perfectly to thunder a left-footed drive into the bottom corner against his former side for a first goal in Town colours.

It got even better on four minutes. Shinnie's corner was missed by everyone, rolling through to LuaLua.

His cross was completely missed by keeper Sami Radlinger, Bree fired it goalwards and there was Collins to bundle over the line.

Town could even have led by further inside the opening 20 minutes, as Sonny Bradley's free header deflected over, before Radlinger made a wonderful save from Collins, somehow twisting his body to divert the shot away with his feet.

It took the hosts 24 minutes to fashion anything noteworthy, Alex Mowatt's 25-yarder not dipping in time.

Luton then advanced to the other end, Ryan Tunnicliffe reaching the byline and finding Cornick who shot straight at Radlinger.

There was the odd moment for Barnsley, Wilks cutting inside and scuffing straight at Sluga, while Town pressed again, Matty Pearson's low drive fumbled by Radlinger, the ball scrambled away by Tykes' increasingly overworked defence.

The Hatters were then in dreamland on 31 minutes, as they had a third, with goal of the sheerest simplicity.

Shinnie swung in another tantalising free kick which wasn't cleared, dropping perfectly for the completely unmarked Cornick to just take aim and hammer low into the net.

Town's only moment of alarm was when Sluga had to punch clear a cross and then get back to palm away Wilks' follow up header, requiring treatment for a knock to his knee in the process.

The visitors really should have pulled one back prior to the break, with Luton almost punished for some over-confidence at the back, Luke Thomas, curling a very presentable opportunity over.

After the break, Town came out determined to keep it tight and rid themselves of their increasingly annoying habit of conceding early in the second period.

They were almost caught out instantly though, Tunnicliffe required to track back superbly after Bolton was caught out high up the pitch, the midfielder doing just that.

Mamadou Thiam came close to reducing the arrears, rising highest to meet Cameron McGeehan's corner, only to thankfully glance off target.

Bolton was then caught once more, with Thiam drilling an effort, Sluga flinging himself full stretch to turn it aside.

Collins thought he had netted a pressure-relieving fourth to take the sting out of a resurgent hosts, turning in Bradley's header, but the Town skipper was adjudged offside.

Luton looked to regain the upper hand, LuaLua firing narrowly wide, before Sluga came to the rescue yet again, spreading himself to deny Thiam from close range, with the home forward once again getting the better of Bolton.

However, Town were pegged back on 72 minutes when the goal that Barnsley had been threatening for most of the second half, down the visitors' right came, Luton unable to stop the cross and Wilks finally beating Sluga's resistance.

He was back to his heroics with 10 minutes left though, diving to his left to fingertip Mowatt's curler behind, Wilks heading the resulting corner wide.

The Tykes then wasted a golden chance with two minutes remaining, Thiam's forgettable afternoon continuing, as he skied over the bar from 12 yards.

That was that for the hosts, with Luton running down the clock, to pick up their opening league victory of the campaign, and a first in the Championship since April 28, 2007, that also a 3-1 win on their travels, at Southend United.

Tykes: Sam Radlinger, Bambo Diaby (Aapo Halme 67), Mads Andersen (Jordan Green 46), Cameron McGeehan, Mike Bahre (C), Luke Thomas, Toby Sibbick, Daniel Pinillos (Ben Williams 46), Mamadou Thiam, Alex Mowatt, Mallik Wilks.

Subs not used: Brad Collins, Conor Chaplin, Patrick Schmidt, Clarke Oduor.

Hatters: Simon Sluga, Luke Bolton, James Bree (Brendan Galloway 90), Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley, Jacob Butterfield, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Andrew Shinnie, Kazenga LuaLua (Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu 81), Harry Cornick (Elliot Lee 85), James Collins.

Subs not used: James Shea, George Moncur, Izzy Brown, Lloyd Jones.

Booked: Diaby 41, LuaLua 44, Bahre 54.

Referee: Stephen Martin.

Attendance: 13,250.