Jones: ‘Devastating’ Hatters got out of jail during first half

Hatters boss Nathan Jones celebrates his side's 4-1 win at Exeter
Hatters boss Nathan Jones celebrates his side's 4-1 win at Exeter

Hatters boss Nathan hailed his side’s ‘devastating’ second half display during the 4-1 win at Exeter last night, although admitted the visitors had got out of jail with their performance in the opening 45 minutes.

Although Town took an early lead through James Collins, the hosts created a number of chances, with Jayden Stockley striking the woodwork and missing a sitter, Reuben Reid fluffing his lines from close range and Pierce Sweeney firing off target too.

I think they knew how bad they were as we got a little bit out of jail in that first half.

Nathan Jones

Jake Taylor did manage to restore parity midway through, with Town changing ends on level terms, a scoreline Jones felt the visitors were fortunate to achieve.

He said: “It was a game of two halves. We started badly, they hit the post within minutes, they should have been ahead comfortably by half time.

“They were very direct, a bit one dimensional, but they were very direct, in terms of they were into Stockley.

“I haven’t seen that from them, but they obviously worked on that.

“They just hit diagonals and tried to get in our box and we had to weather a real storm right up until half time.

“We were very fortunate to go in 1-1 and I’ll say that, so credit to Paul Tisdale’s team and then we came out and showed what we’re about.

“In a devastating 10 minute period, the game’s done.

“We can do that, we know that, but we’ll learn from the first half.

“We couldn’t handle the directness of Exeter and the real physicality of Jayden Stockley, which surprised me.

“We had to change shape, we did, tactically we were good and then second half no problem.”

Seeing Town struggling to cope with Stockley, who looked a different player to the one that scored three times in 13 games for Luton during a loan spell in the 2014-15 campaign, Jones acted swiftly.

He opted to swap from the 4-3-3 formation that has brought them so much joy in recent weeks, to a 3-5-2, Glen Rea moving from midfield to make it a back three.

It helped nullify the threat of Stockley, although the striker still should have scored moments before the interval, and on why he made the change, Jones said: “Basically because we couldn’t handle them.

“We were losing every first ball, so when we were losing the first ball, it was landing in our box and then it was a lottery.

“What we wanted to do was let another centre half compete with it and another centre half to clean that stuff up.

“We got to half time at 1-1 which was a real blessing as we couldn’t handle their directness.

“They didn’t play through us and surprised us a little bit because I haven’t seen them be that direct for a while.

“We couldn’t handle it and fair play to them, they really, really did put us on the back foot, we had to change shape and we were a lot better after that.”

After the break though, Hatters were a completely different side, scoring three times in just nine minutes through Dan Potts, Danny Hylton and Harry Cornick as they went goal crazy, to leave the Grecians completely and utterly shell-shocked.

When asked what he had said to his players, Jones added: “At Mansfield, I ranted and raved, it wasn’t really a rant and rave, I think they knew how bad they were as we got a little bit out of jail in that first half.

“We came out and we were more ourselves. We started the second half like they started the first, had a chance straight away, a corner, scored straight away and then we were just simply devastating.

“On the counter attack we could have had more second half, but I’m very, very pleased as it’s a tough place to come to.

“They were second going into the game, so we’ve had all teams in and around us, if not above us.

“Accrington were above us when we played them, so were Exeter, the others, Newport, Stevenage, in and around the play-off places, so to do that to another promotion hopeful team is wonderful.”