Second half capitulation sees Hatters blown away by Lions
Championship: Millwall 3 Luton Town 1
It was a case of a New Year, but the same old story for Luton as a second half blitz saw them beaten once again on the road at Millwall this afternoon.
The Hatters had led 1-0 at half time through Sonny Bradley's header, and then stood firm, just about, in the face of a Lions onslaught for the early stages after the break.
However, they never looked like being able to maintain their resistance, and so it proved, falling apart to concede three times in just 12 minutes, losing for the ninth successive time away from the confines of Kenilworth Road.
Boss Graeme Jones had made three changes from the 3-0 defeat at Bristol City, Alan Sheehan, Martin Cranie and Callum McManaman in for Luke Bolton, Harry Cornick and Luke Berry, Cranie dropping into the heart of Town's defence, as the visitors lined up with a 5-3-2 formation.
Millwall were quick to display their direct approach, as former Lion Ryan Tunnicliffe was dispossessed by Jed Wallace too easily, the attacker bursting forward to rifle over the top.
The Lions looked dangerous from set-plays, Smith's downward header easy for James Shea on 15 minutes, but Town gradually grew into the contest themselves, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu's 20-yard drive forcing a decent stop from Bartosz Bialkowsi.
Smith was, as expected, proving the main attacking threat for Millwall stooping to divert a header wide of the target from another teasing cross.
However, Town then had their best passage of play, with James Bree of all people seeing his angled half volley curl back into the grateful arms of Bialkowski, the home stopper then showing exemplary handling to gather Kazenga LuaLua's ambitious 30-yarder.
Luton finally got the goal their play deserved on 41 minutes, as Mpanzu won a free kick on the left, Sheehan swung it into the box for Sonny Bradley to head into the bottom corner, as Town led for the first time on the road since their 2-1 win at Blackburn in late September.
Importantly, the hosts brought on Tom Bradshaw in the aftermath of the goal, to play alongside Smith, as Millwall made a far better start to the second period, Shea saving well from Wallace, whose drive bounced awkwardly, before parrying the same player's volley moments later.
Millwall kept pressing though, Smith nodding over from close range after rising highest to meet a corner.
The Lions kept their foot on the pedal though and looked like they were level on 66 minutes when a corner flew across the area, Smith's touch at the back post somehow sending the ball away from the goal.
However, their resistance was broken on 69 minutes, with a goal that had been coming, Wallace's cross from the right met by Smith at the back post and Bradshaw escaped the Hatters' back-line to nod home.
The depressingly predictable second goal soon followed nine minutes later, as Town were caught on the attack, Lions transferring the ball to the left where Connor Mahoney was allowed a free run to the edge of the box, and plenty of time to pick his spot, which he did with unerring accuracy, giving Shea no chance.
Town were then undone again moments later, as a deep cross was met by Smith to make it 3-1 and put the result beyond doubt.
Lions: Bartosz Bialkowski, Shaun Hutchinson, Jake Cooper, Shaun Williams, Jed Wallace (Murray Wallace 84), Matt Smith, Shane Ferguson, Mahlon Romeo, Alex Pearce (C Tom Bradshaw 42), Jayson Molumby, Aiden O'Brien (Connor Mahoney 71).
Subs not used: Luke Steele, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Jiri Skalak, Billy Mitchell.
Hatters: James Shea, James Bree, Alan Sheehan (C Luke Bolton 81), Sonny Bradley, Matty Pearson, Martin Cranie, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Kazenga LuaLua (Harry Cornick 75), James Collins, Callum McManaman (Luke Berry 62).
Subs not used: Marek Stech, Lloyd Jones, Jacob Butterfield, Andrew Shinnie.
Referee: Stephen Martin.
Attendance: 12,134 (945 Luton).