Hatters defender Simon Ainge enjoyed a bittersweet evening for England C in their ICT Tournament semi-final against Turkey on Tuesday evening, writes Mike Simmonds.
The 24-year-old was picked to start in the centre of defence, but was forced off injured with minutes remaining.
In his absence, the visitors struck to grab a late winner, knocking the Three Lions out.
Ainge said: “It was a great experience, I was just disappointed I got the injury.
“I think it cost us in the end because we were down to 10 men before they scored.
“It was a challenge from the striker and I’ve got a nasty gash on my foot which had to have stitches.
“Had I still been on, I don’t think they’d have scored to be honest.
“With that quality of player, when you’re a man down they can break through.
“It was a really good atmosphere too. There were lots of Turkish fans there, with flares going on which made it a bit hostile, but it was great to play in.”
Ainge had found himself up against Emre Golak, a full Turkish international who has played over 50 games for Galatasaray, including his Champions League debut at Old Trafford this season.
The defender continued: “He was playing in behind, so me and Eddie Oshodi from Forest Green were having to go in tight and then drop off.
“I thought we did really well against a team worth millions of pounds.”
On the differences between the standard in midweek and what he is used to with Luton, Ainge continued: “It was a completely different game.
“The Conference is direct, it’s all about winning the first ball, making sure you win headers and getting a good clearance.
“This is more about keeping switched on and keeping the ball.”
Club-mate Andre Gray was also a starter, and Ainge felt the striker took his impressive Luton form on to the national stage as he said: “He did well,it was hard for him because he was playing upfront by himself against players who I think have played in the Turkish first team.
“The stats showed we had more chances than them, so the lads did brilliantly and I’m there are plenty who will go on and play a lot higher.”
Ainge is now hoping to be fit and that Luton can get back to winning ways when they host Forest Green Rovers this weekend after falling 12 points behind leaders Grimsby Town.
He added: “I’m seeing the physio and hopefully it gets bandaged up and it should be all right.
“We just have to concentrate on our games and make sure we get as many points on the board as we can.
“Home form is massive and if we can make sure we win all of our home games until the end of the season, I think we’ll still be up there as we’ve still got to play all the top teams at home.
“Hopefully we can just get back on track on Saturday.”
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