Edwards hails Burke and Hatters' response to 'heartbeat' Lockyer being stretchered off at Wembley

Town recovered to triumph without their influential captain
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Luton boss Rob Edwards labelled his players’ response to the worrying on-field collapse of their talismanic defender and ‘heartbeat’ of the side Tom Lockyer during the play-off final with Coventry City yesterday.

With under 10 minutes gone at Wembley, the 28-year-old fell to the floor with no-one around him, as it was immediately clear that something was wrong with the Welsh international, medical staff from both teams instantly by his side.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He was stretchered off and taken to hospital, as after a lengthy stoppage, Reece Burke came off the bench and on in his place.

Although clearly affected by what happened to their hugely popular team-mate, Luton’s players didn’t let the potential severity of the incident get to them in any way, as they went on to win the contest 6-5 on penalties, once the game had finished 1-1 after 120 minutes.

On what he had thought when it was going on, Edwards said: “I didn’t know what happened at the time and I still don’t fully know.

“I just thought I could see him on the floor and not really moving, so I was just really concerned and thought let’s try and get the players away.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I need to try and refocus them, we got them together and said, ‘right, there’s going to be a change, Locks is coming off, Burkey’s coming on, we need to do this for him.’

Reece Burke came on for Tom Lockyer in the early stages of Luton's play-off final victoryReece Burke came on for Tom Lockyer in the early stages of Luton's play-off final victory
Reece Burke came on for Tom Lockyer in the early stages of Luton's play-off final victory

“I think I said that after four or five minutes, ‘we do it for him now, focus.’

"I just think I spoke about focus and in that moment, I didn't really know what to think.

"You just do and you just act and it was a case of getting all the lads away and focus on the job in hand.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Full credit to the players, they did and I was thinking on the side, wow, captain’s had to go off after four or five minutes, it’s not going to be our day.

“So the players, the way they responded was brilliant.”

Edwards had no issue in bringing on Burke either, who could have been starting himself, but for a succession of injuries in recent months.

He continued: “Burkey’s a really good player and it’s been a difficult decision leaving him out.

"But himself and Gabe (Osho) have had one or two injury issues over the last few months and it’s really why he’s been out of the team and the other lads have done great.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"So a lot of confidence in Reece Burke, I had no real worries in doing that.

"It’s just taking the heartbeat, that middle, that leader out of the back three, but Gabe’s done that for us.

"It was a little rejig and off you go and do it, but I’ve got full confidence in Reece Burke, he’s a really good player.”

Despite the early blow, Luton went on to dominate the first half, going ahead through Jordan Clark’s terrific first touch and left-footed drive after magnificent work from Elijah Adebayo.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They could and probably should have gone on to put the game beyond Sky Blues, Adebayo missing a glorious chance, with Carlton Morris and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu unable to make the most of some decent opportunities either.

City made them pay after the break, Gustavo Hamer sidefooting home, but then he had to go off injured too, as eventually it went down to spotkicks, Luton winning once Fankaty Dabo put his effort over.

Edwards added: “After losing our best player after four or five minutes, to recover from that after seeing how Locks went off, I thought the lads showed a lot of mental strength and resilience and character and then went on and performed like that.

"I do think we could have had two or three in that first half, we didn’t and then obviously they’re right in the game.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I thought they definitely had the first 25 minutes or so of the second half and then got the equaliser and then it was pretty tight.

“But that performance in the first half, on the biggest occasion, really, really pleased me.”