Awford delighted by Hatters’ character and resilience

Paul Benson holds the ball up against Portsmouth
Paul Benson holds the ball up against Portsmouth

Hatters caretaker boss Andy Awford praised his side’s character and resilience after they earned a 0-0 draw at his former club Portsmouth on Monday.

Luton went into the game on the back of a shocking 2-0 defeat to Wycombe on Boxing Day, and had conceded 17 goals in their last six matches.

“You’ve got to grind results out sometimes, all the best teams do that when they’re not playing so well.”

Andy Awford

Awford rang the changes, making five in total, as the likes of Stephen O’Donnell and Ryan Hall came in, while Danny Green and Olly Lee were dropped completely.

He said: “After Wycombe I could have made 11 changes in all honesty, we had one of those days where it didn’t go for us.

“But we wanted to freshen it up, I’d made my mind up even before the Wycombe game with the two games in three days that we would need to freshen it up coming down here and we thought long and hard about that.

“The important thing was the work ethic and the character shown because after Wycombe I wasn’t too happy with that, there were a few people not too happy with that, and the players weren’t too happy either.

“They needed to bounce back and show some resilience, show some character and I thought they did that, so fair play to them.

“I’m delighted with a point, it’s a tough place to come isn’t it and no-one knows more than me what a difficult place it can be to play in as an opposition.

“I thought the lads stood up to it really well, showed bags of character, bags of resilience and fully deserved their point, it’s a good point.

“It’s a team game, a squad game, I said that to everyone of them when I named the team, it’s all about the group and about everybody pulling together and moving forward.

“There were disappointed people in there and I want that, but you can’t take your disappointment into the stadium, you’ve got to get behind everybody and anyone that was left out, that wasn’t involved, they’ve shown a great team ethic and I’m delighted for everyone.”

Although Luton didn’t ever fully test Pompey keeper Brian Murphy, with just Craig Mackail-Smith’s curling effort and Jack Marriott’s toepoke the sum of their efforts on goal during the 90 minutes, Awford denied he had set up in a negative fashion.

He continued: “You’ve got to grind results out sometimes, all the best teams do that when they’re not playing so well, they grind results out and take a point away from home.

“We thought about a gameplan, having the two up would try and cause them a few problems on the counter, which it did on occasions, and it was a good shape and I was delighted with the performance.

“We were hoping we might be able to nick it, we had a couple of opportunities first half, certainly more opportunities second half in and around their box.

“We had good players on the bench who can come on and hurt teams too. We weren’t negative, we weren’t settling for a point, I came here to win, but we certainly came here not to lose, which we’ve achieved that goal.”

Awford was quick to highlight Hatters’ defence too, which kept a first clean sheet since September 21 and only a sixth of the season, with Scott Cuthbert in particular impressing after his mistake against Wycombe on Boxing Day.

He added: “It was a replica of the Exeter game for Scott Cuthbert. He’s made one mistake against Wycombe, which has cost us dearly and that happens to every player.

“Scott’s a good lad, there was never any doubt that Scott was going to play.

“The protection they got from (Jonathan) Smith and (Alex) Lawless was excellent, (Josh) McQuoid and (Ryan) Hall had to put a shift in with the way Portsmouth play, the full backs bombing on.

“We knew that was coming, and it was could we counter? Maybe we could have done a little bit better with the ball which is something we can work on, but it was all about character and I thought we showed that in abundance.”