Jones on ‘calculated gamble’ to change Lee’s role at Exeter

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Hatters boss Nathan Jones admitted it was a ‘calculated gamble’ moving Olly Lee to the tip of his diamond formation against Exeter City last weekend.

The 25-year-old, who has played the majority of his time under Jones in the defensive midfield role, was deployed a lot higher up the pitch at St James Park on Saturday.

It was a calculated gamble in terms of moving him a little bit further forward as in training when he gets in and around the box he’s deadly.

Nathan Jones

Lee came closer than most to breaking the deadlock, his close range effort repelled by Grecians keeper Christy Pym, as on his decision to alter the former West Ham youngster’s role, Jones said: “I didn’t think it worked on the day, it was a structural thing that we did because he’s a wonderful footballer and if you get him on the ball in those gaps.

“Ironically, normally when he plays defensive midfield, sides put a number 10 on him, but they didn’t play with a 10, they played with a defensive midfield player.

“He moved into a number 10 and he then had had a defensive midfield player marking him, so wherever he goes, he seems to be man marked.

“But it was a calculated gamble in terms of moving him a little bit further forward as in training when he gets in and around the box he’s deadly and is a wonderful technician.

“So we just thought we could do that and we felt we needed to freshen it up because Alex (Gilliead) had played two games and was looking a bit jaded, especially for a young lad, so we did that.

“Whether it worked or not, we didn’t get beaten, so that was one positive.”

When asked if he saw Lee’s position moving forward as that of a more defensive one, Jones continued: “Of course, he’s a midfield player, a central midfield player and with the way we play, he suits our shape I think in a defensive role.

“But every time, as you saw last season, any time he can get in and around that box, he usually hits the target and scores goals.

“When he does score goals, they’re spectacular, so it’s just thinking about getting him further up the pitch.”

With the likes of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu and Alex Gilliead coming off the bench at Exeter, while Jonathan Smith and Jake Gray have both struggled for minutes recently, Jones admitted the midfield area gives him most food for thought when selecting a side.

He added: “The margins between our six and seven that we’ve got in those attacking midfield spots is so tight and probably my biggest decision week in week out in terms of who to play in those, who’s sharper in training, who’s better suited to that kind of game and so on.

“It’s great to have those headaches, but it is a headache week in week out, we have great variation, so we’re pleased with that.”