Jones refuses to blame referee Miller for Town’s first leg defeat

Ollie Palmer questions official Nigel Miller during Luton's 3-2 defeat last night
Ollie Palmer questions official Nigel Miller during Luton's 3-2 defeat last night

Hatters boss Nathan Jones refused to blame referee Nigel Miller for his side’s 3-2 play-off semi-final first leg defeat at Blackpool last night.

The official made a number of debatable calls throughout the fixture as former Town striker Mark Cullen bagged hat-trick to give the Tangerines an advantage going into Thursday’s return fixture.

We didn’t really have enough defensively really to keep a clean sheet and that’s what we need to do as I know we’ve got plenty going forward.

Nathan Jones

Although not impressed by his handling of the contest, Jones said: “I don’t think the referee had a particularly good game in terms of lots of things, but if we had defended better then they wouldn’t have got three goals.

“We’ve played well in certain areas and scored, but we didn’t defend well enough, we really, really didn’t.

“We weren’t brave enough, weren’t tight enough, their front two were allowed to get it into feet too early, and too easily.

“We didn’t really have enough defensively really to keep a clean sheet and that’s what we need to do as I know we’ve got plenty going forward.”

One of Miller’s most controversial decisions was to award a free kick against defender James Justin for what looked and has since been proved a perfectly timed challenge on home midfielder Neil Danns just outside the area.

The resulting free kick then saw captain Scott Cuthbert penalised for holding Blackpool defender Tom Aldred, with Cullen converting the resulting spotkick.

On the two calls, Jones continued: “We thought that at the time (it wasn’t a foul by Justin), but those things happen, you’ve still got to defend the free kick.

“The free kick’s given, it’s difficult for the referee to decide and we just didn’t defend it well enough from there and it’s a frustrating one.

“Then it was a soft, soft penalty. I know it’s cliched and the managers say it all the time, but if you give penalties for those things, you’re going to be giving 10 a game.

“It was 50/50. I’ve watched it on from my analyst, I’ve watched the Sky version and it’s such a soft penalty, it really is.

“They were both grappling. You can see on Sky, in terms of both shirts are getting pulled and to give a penalty away is a big, big call.

“The referee needed to handle that differently I think, but he never.

“We don’t get them, people pull us all over, Glen Rea, Danny Hylton, especially and we don’t get those.”

Luton themselves were denied two spotkicks late on by Miller, when Hylton was shoved to the ground by Aldred, while they had claims for handball in stoppage time as well.

Jones added: “The Hylton one would have been a bit harsh to give, but the other one a definite penalty.

“It literally bounced up between him and he’s clawed it away with his left hand, so that’s a penalty for me, all day long.

“But it didn’t happen and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”