If Luton Town are to perform the minor miracle required to survive this debut season in the Premier League then the Kenny as they lovingly refer to their ramshackle home is going to have to weigh in and play its part.
The old ground is tight and unsettling and the locals generate a real din under the low corrugated roofs when darkness descends and the floodlights are on, but they might want to think again about provoking the stars who will visit this season.
Here they taunted Jarrod Bowen with an unsavoury song about his girlfriend Dani Dyer, star of reality TV and daughter of actor Danny Dyer, and they taunted Kurt Zouma about his cat-kicking crimes.
Bowen’s response was to score his third goal of the season, a firm header to silence Kenilworth Road in the first half. Zouma’s was to head in the second from a James Ward-Prose corner, late on, and secure the points.
Mistakes are punished at this level, as the truism goes.
West Ham are on the top of the table, going into the first international break of the season having taken 10 points from their opening four games to the delight of David Moyes.
Their fans filed out singing songs about the winning the league.
Mads Andersen pulled one back in stoppage time but Luton go into the break without a point to their name and further confirmation of what they already knew, that this latest step up in class is an enormous one.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Luton 352: Kaminski 5; Burke 6, Andersen 6.5, Bell 6; Doughty 6 (Ogbene 78), Barkley 6 (Mpanzu 71, 5), Nakamba 6, Chong 6 (Woodrow 83), Giles 5 (Kabore 71, 5); Morris 6, Adebayo 6 (Brown 71, 5.5).
Subs: Krul, Berry, Johnson, Francis-Clarke
Manager: Rob Edwards 6
West Ham 433: Areola 6; Coufal 6.5, Aguerd 7, Zouma 7, Emerson 6.5; Ward-Prowse 6, Alvarez 6.5, Paqueta 8 (Kudus 90+1); Bowen 7.5, Antonio 7 (Ings 80), Benrahma 6 (Fornals 71, 6).
Subs: Fabianski, Cresswell, Cornet, Ogbonna, Kehrer, Mubama
Scorers: Bowen, Zouma
Manager: David Moyes 7
Ref: Paul Tierney 6
Their long-awaited return to the top flight began with sobering defeats on the road, at Brighton and Chelsea, and they postponed their first fixture at Kenilworth Road, against Burnley, because the £10million renovations had yet to be completed.
The old line of executive boxes in the Bobbers Stand had to be demolished after the play-off victory against Coventry City at Wembley and replaced with seats. A media gantry has been constructed to run the length of the pitch, affording wonderful views of a balmy late summer sunset over Bedfordshire and a long line of EasyJet planes coming into the airport nearby.
Out of sight, the offices in the rabbit warren of corridors behind the main stand have been converted into hospitality suites and club staff relocated offsite, closer to the training ground. Even the Oak Stand entrance for away fans has a sponsor.
“We hope the changes make for a more fulfilling experience and a more intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams,” said chairman David Wilkinson. The home crowd didn’t need reminding. They know the drill and they were up for this one, undeterred by the Burnley postponement. Another fortnight is nothing compared to 31 years since relegation.
Bowen was their first target, then Zouma, when he was kicked. “That’s how your cat felt,” the fans chanted.
The problem was that West Ham were purring, having arrived in excellent early season form, with seven points already in the bag, coping well with the loss of Declan Rice. Moyes has a settled side, balanced and coherent, with a striker in Michail Antonio back to something like his best form, eight years after joining the club.
Luton were without their captain Tom Lockyer, ruled out with thigh strain, but they set about their task in industrious fashion, massing behind the ball and protecting goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski as West Ham dominated possession.
They threw bodies in the way of shots and were quick to deny time on the ball in the penalty area. Said Benrahma dragged a half-volley wide under pressure, then curled another effort over from outside the penalty box.
West Ham continued to probe patiently and their extra quality made the difference as they took the lead before half-time. Lucas Paqueta was the creator, clipping a wonderful pass towards the back post where Bowen arrived to power a header low past Kaminski’s feet.
The scorer raced towards the section of the crowd which had been dishing out the stick, cupping his hand to his ear and placing a finger to lips. His teammates grabbed him before he could take it any further. He had made his point and made it well.
Bowen became the first West Ham player to score in the first three away games of the season since Vic Watson in 1930, and in doing so made a point to Gareth Southgate, the England boss who has overlooked him for games against Ukraine and Scotland, this month.
Luton’s threat until this point had been limited to a low shot on the turn sent fizzing wide by Ross Barkley, although they did summon more chances once they were behind. Carlton Morris, captain in Lockyer’s absence, glanced a header wide and Tahith Chong bundled wide with a thigh from close range when a corner was nodded down to him before the interval.
West Ham took control again at the start of the second half. Emerson thought he had the second, fired in from an angle, but Antonio as narrowly offside before he laid the ball off for the shot.
Luton fought their way back into the game and boss Rob Edwards made a tactical change, with a triple substitution and a switch to a back four in an attempt to salvage something as the home fans sang about staying up.
Zouma scored the second and there was a debut for new singing Kudus. Andersen’s late goal, teed up by Morris, set a few nerves jangling but there was no escape.