Away from the millions and silly-ons being splashed on transfer deadline day, a Premier League match was taking place in a ground that had never hosted one before, under the sort-of-still red sunset that made you wonder how this was not the FA Cup third round.
It was always going to be an almighty task for Luton to get the result they wanted on opening night at Kenilworth Road, just as it will be an almighty task for them to stay up this season.
West Ham had to close their hearts and think of only one thing: the prospect of ending the day top of the Premier League. Despite a late scare when Luton centre-back Mads Andersen cut the Hammers’ lead to 2-1, they did.
David Moyes was fuming this week at the prospect of playing on the evening of deadline day, and even contemplated the possibility one of his players might actually be sold while playing at Kenilworth Road.
At least the 11 who started for the Hammers were sure of their futures beyond the next few hours, so there were few excuses for their vacant start as Luton’s home crowd boxed the visitors in. All West Ham could manage was some rather vacuous sideways passing.
Ross Barkley’s hacked volley after one minute and 36 seconds offered no threat to Alphonse Areola’s goal, but it did send a warning siren that Luton are not here to make up the numbers. West Ham needed to tap into the football that had seen them beat Chelsea and Brighton in successive weekends.
Grinding slowly through the gears, they mustered the game’s opening goal as its two best players combined. Lucas Paqueta was afforded time he didn’t deserve left of the penalty area, and his lofted delivery allowed Bowen to convert.
Bowen’s was a header that Thomas Kaminski should have saved. The home supporters groaned, wondering whether they must get used to these errors throughout this season.
And when Kurt Zouma was left unmarked to head West Ham into a 2-0 lead, the same questions had to be asked of Luton’s defending, though there was a raucous cheer when Mads Andersen headed in to make it 2-1 in stoppage time.
West Ham held on, just, and now sit top of the Premier League. It’s a league table worth screenshotting right now for them.