Still lambasts Luton’s ‘shocking’ defensive display

John Still

John Still

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Hatters boss John Still lambasted his side’s ‘shocking’ defending as they were beaten 4-3 by Carlisle United at Kenilworth Road last night.

The Luton chief saw his side leading 3-1 on the hour mark, before conceding three times in a crazy 14 minutes to suffer a fourth home defeat of the season.

“It was shocking defending, absolutely shocking defending.”

John Still

It was the first time Hatters had conceded four in the league since March 2009 as well, when they lost 4-2 to Rotherham United, as Still said: “It was shocking defending. We’ve been really good lately, not really conceding, but I thought we were shocking defensively.

“We were good going forward, but if I’m being honest, I thought both halves we were poor defensively, very poor.

“If there’s one area we work our socks off on in training, it’s defending, we were shocking defensively. They’re my players, I pick them and coach them, so I have to take that responsibility, but the defending...

“There was one goal where we had three players on the floor in the box, it was absolutely shocking defending and we have to be better than that.

“The first goal I thought was shocking, I really did, it was shocking to concede that first goal and the third and fourth, they might say it was good play, but it was shocking defending, absolutely shocking defending.

“But it’s happened now, so we have to look at Saturday and see what we can do, but we can’t rectify this.”

Hatters had been dealt a blow with centre half Luke Wilkinson missing his first minutes of the League Two season due to a thigh strain, with Mark O’Brien partnering Scott Cuthbert in the heart of defence.

Still didn’t want to point any blame at the Irishman though as he continued: “Mark would probably have been aware yesterday that he was going to play, maybe even from Saturday.

“In fairness to Mark, he hasn’t played, it’s his first one. It’s one of those things, if you get an opportunity, you’ve got to try and take that opportunity.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pinning the poor defensive display on Mark O’Brien, I’m putting the poor defensive display on our back four, of which Mark was part of.

“Whether Mark’s come in for his first game or not is immaterial, if he wasn’t good enough he wouldn’t be here.

“It was the unit though, I don’t want to pick anyone out. The two centre halves together wasn’t good, both full backs were okay, but the unit has got to defend as a unit and I don’t really think they did.”

Even when Luton were winning 3-1, there were signs of warning for Still, especially after sub Alex Gilliead reduced the deficit.

He said: “It was really weird, we started the second half on fire and went 3-1 up and played some really, really good possession football.

“But at the end of the day, defenders are there to defend, forwards are there score, wide men are there to supply, midfielders are there to win it and get the game going.

“From what was a really, really strong position and good football, ended up with a 4-3 defeat.

“When you’re in control of a game you really, really have to concentrate hard all over the pitch and we didn’t.

“The way we were playing, I didn’t see a way back for them. Once they scored for 3-2 and I looked at the goal and looked how it was conceded, I thought to myself, we have to be careful here, we have to defend better, but we didn’t.

“I can’t look back at it and go we were a bit unlucky there and bit unlucky there as I don’t believe in luck, I believe in players being able to defend and I do worry about where did that come from.

“We defended terrific on Saturday, conceded one in four beforehand and have been very sound defensively, that’s down to hard work in training it really is.

“But we’ve worked just as hard this week and it was really, really poor defending.

“Take nothing away from them, at 3-1 down they’re going to throw people forward. But as far as I’m concerned we have a responsibility when we’re playing to manage the game as well, but we never did.

“For about 15 minutes, we never defended as a unit, it was very, very individual.

“I’ve looked at the goals and we’re very, very disappointed to concede the goals that we did, they very poor.

“When you concede a goal, somewhere along the line you can point the finger somewhere, of course you can, but we just didn’t defend.

“The unit didn’t defend and the disappointing thing is we’ve scored three goals at home, it should be game, set and match.”

It wasn’t just Still who noticed Luton’s defensive deficiences on the night though, as they were glaringly obvious to Cumbrians boss Keith Curle too, as he added: “We climbed the mountain to get it back to 1-1 and I thought in the latter stages of the first half we were the dominant side.

“We worked out, it was quite simple, quite basic, every time Michael Raynes went in the box, he caused havoc.

“All we needed to do was put quality balls in there, gamble off him. We sussed out a weakness straight through the heart of their defence as they looked jittery and nervous and it paid off.”