Cranie hails Town boss for his unwavering belief that Luton will stay up

Experienced defender optimistic about Hatters' chances
Town defender Martin Cranie speaks to the pressTown defender Martin Cranie speaks to the press
Town defender Martin Cranie speaks to the press

Hatters defender Martin Cranie believes the players have always stayed confident they can remain in the Championship this season, thanks to the unwavering belief of manager Graeme Jones.

Luton had looked almost down and out recently, 10 points adrift of safety and suffering 12 straight defeats on the road, without a clean sheet anywhere since October either.

However, two wins in a row, plus back-to-back shut-outs means Town head to Charlton Athletic this afternoon just four points behind fourth bottom side Stoke City.

On the spirits of the squad, Cranie said: “There’s a good group of lads, it's never been too down when we've struggled but obviously a win helps and the last couple have really boosted the mood round the place.

“It’s a lot to do with the belief of the lads, if you get too down about where you are in the league, you can fall away from it and get left behind.

"We’ve been in that position, 10 points off, but I think it shows the belief we’ve got that we can get back in it.

"Other teams could have fallen away and we could have been done by start of April, but the character and strength in that dressing room has been shown in the least few weeks.

"The boys are up for the fight and we believe we can do it.

“I think that stems from the manager.

"The manager has been 100 per cent that we’re going to stay up from the start, regardless of how the games have gone, how many points off it we’ve been, he’s always said that we’re going to stay up.

"I think the lads have just followed on from that, the belief, so we’ve put ourselves in with a good chance now, we’ve just got to carry it on.

“With the amount of points that were still to play for, you’re never down and out until it’s mathematically done.

“We knew we only had to put together a run of games to get us back in within touch of the teams above us.

"It’s another big game Saturday, which will give us a chance of hopefully getting close to the teams above us.”

Cranie has had a tough time of himself personally this season too, restricted to just 11 league starts due to two knee injuries.

The 33-year-old is one of the more experienced members of the squad though, and has been in this position before, part of the Barnsley side who stayed in the Championship by a single point in the 2012-13 campaign.

It's something he's relayed to the rest of the Hatters squad, continuing: "I’ve been in this situation before a couple of times with different clubs, so I know what it's like to be at the bottom.

"I've been relegated, so I know what that feels like, but I've also survived relegation from a similar position that we're in now.

"I've said to the lads, it’s far from over at the minute. The way we're going we're giving ourselves every chance of getting out."

A win at the Valley today would further boost Town's chances of surviving in the second tier, as they could move point behind Stoke and reduce the deficit to their hosts to just three points as well with 12 games left.

Cranie said: "Charlton are right in it as well.

"There’s a few more teams in it, so as the manager says, we need to concentrate on our results, don’t worry about what happens elsewhere, if we get the three points, that’s all we can do.

"All the remaining games are massive for us, starting with Saturday.

"They're one of the teams who are in the relegation fight with us, but I don’t think we treat this game any differently from the way we go into Brentford on Tuesday.

"We go and aim for the three points."

Another clean sheet for the Hatters would be ideal for Cranie as well, who knows they are vital in Town's bid to stay up, saying: "It’s good for the confidence, not just for the defence, the whole team.

"It shows how well we’re working in certain formations to grind out that clean sheet.

"We’ve done some clips of it and it shows how hard the boys who are playing on the wings and upfront are working from the front to get these clean sheets.

"So if we can chalk up a few more of them we should be all right.

"I could tell from the game Saturday, 10 minutes in, I thought 'we’re not going to concede today.'

"I could just feel it on the pitch, the way we were playing, they way everyone was pressing, talking, it was just a really good vibe around the pitch.

"The last few weeks have been completely different, we're going out now, expecting not to concede, rather than waiting to concede.

"I think we're setting up better, the mentality has changed and we're going into games thinking we can win the game without conceding."

Finally, this afternoon's clash with the Addicks is a chance for Cranie to go up against one of his former sides, as he spent the start of the 2008-09 season at Charlton when on loan from Portsmouth, making 19 appearances.

He added: "It was a long time ago now, it’s a good 10 years, but I was there for about six months.

"It was a good experience for me, I enjoyed playing there, and I think Alan Pardew was manager.

"It's a good club, so I'm looking forward to playing there again.