Howells could be fit for Oxford trip

Jake Howells could be fit to face Oxford
Jake Howells could be fit to face Oxford

Hatters defender Jake Howells could be back in the squad to face League Two promotion hopefuls Oxford United this weekend.

The 24-year-old hasn’t featured since the 1-0 win over Morecambe on March 1 after undergoing a minor knee operation.

However, boss Nathan Jones admitted he is nearing a return now, saying: “Howells is training very well, he just needs minutes and needs a bit more time, but he’s been in with the group and doing extra.

“So we’ll have him available which is a plus point, we’ll dust them down and today is the second day of recovery because they’ve had a game.

“They’re going to have to go again on Saturday and then Tuesday again so we’ve had to look after them.

“They’re good group, so we’ll just have to see where we are tomorrow morning.”

Captain Scott Cuthbert isn’t expected to be fit in time though, with Jones continuing: “We could risk him, but we’re going to make sure we bring him back safely.

“Hopefully he gets back sooner rather than later, so we’ll make a decision on him tomorrow morning as well.”

Jack Marriott is also hopeful of being available after going off against Dagenham in midweek, a game that Jones admitted he shouldn’t have started.

The boss said: “I hope so. If I’m honest, he probably shouldn’t have started because I think he was carrying something, and he didn’t look himself, he didn’t look sharp.

“Because in that first half we had a number of opportunities where a fit Jack Marriott would have got shots off but he just wasn’t really at it.

“He probably wasn’t honest on the night as he said ‘I can do it, I want to play’ and he didn’t do himself any favours.

“But he’s that type, he wants to play and he’s been brilliant for us. We wanted to take the risk as he’s important to us with how he plays, so we hope he recovers in time for the weekend.”

The boss didn’t blame Marriott for trying to play through the pain barrier either, as it was something he had done during his career too, saying: “We understand why players want to play.

“I played in games I probably shouldn’t have, Lionel Ainsworth got a move off the back of one of them, it’s just an honesty at times, a naivety maybe, maybe a selfishness at times because you want to play.

“Sometimes we might need to make a bolder decision and say ‘okay we know you’re a good honest kid, but we’re going to pull you from the squad,’ like we did with Cameron (McGeehan), because Cameron would have played the other night had we not made the decision for him.”

McGeehan had been dropped to the bench for that game, as Jones explained it was just to rest the 21-year-old midfielder, who has played 40 times already this season for Luton.

He added: “He’s played almost every game, he’s a fantastic trainer, covers big distances, but has a bit of fatigue and that’s why we’ve brought him out.

“Because otherwise he could have broken down if you like, so he dropped to the bench because he wasn’t quite ready.

“It was a hard, physical game, so we made the right decision in the end.”