Edwards takes huge pride from Luton's second half showing at the Emirates

Town keep the Gunners out for the second 45 minutes in north London
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Luton boss Rob Edwards was eager to highlight his side’s second half performance during their 2-0 defeat at title-chasing Arsenal yesterday evening.

The Hatters found themselves breached twice in the opening period, Martin Odegaard rifling into the bottom corner on 24 minutes, before Daiki Hashioka got the final touch to Emile Smith Rowe’s dangerous cross just moments before the break. With the Gunners involved in a three-horse race at top with Liverpool and Manchester City, and goal difference potentially a factor in where the title ends up this term, there was a worry that a depleted Luton side could see the floodgates open in the second period, especially with a defence that saw Hashioka part of a new-look back three with Issa Kabore and Teden Mengi, Fred Onyedinma getting his first start of the season as wingback.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, that wasn’t the case, Luton going on to enjoy the better of possession, particularly once Tahith Chong came on with 53 on the clock, as they worked some decent openings, but just couldn’t get the goal their performance deserved, Luke Berry and Ross Barkley seeing late headers fly over David Raya’s bar. Importantly they barely conceded any clear-cut opportunities to the Gunners at the other end either, Takehiro Tomiyasu curling wide, and then Thomas Kaminski saving from Eddie Nketiah in the closing stages.

Alfie Doughty applauds the Luton fans after a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Wednesday night - pic: Liam SmithAlfie Doughty applauds the Luton fans after a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Wednesday night - pic: Liam Smith
Alfie Doughty applauds the Luton fans after a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Wednesday night - pic: Liam Smith

It was a display that gave Edwards plenty of heart, as summing up his side’s efforts, he said: “Difficult, it was never going to be anything other than that. I thought they clearly started on the front foot, it was difficult for us to get out of first and at one-nil down, I thought we started to become a little bit more of ourselves, be a little bit braver.

"The second goal clearly was disappointing from our side, we came off our man-to-man press, left a little bit of space, slightly disorganised on our right channel, they see that, take it, and two-nil before half time was very, very difficult for us. But I have to say, with everything that we’re going through at the moment, it’s a real challenge, but to perform like we did in the second half, I was looking at their last however many games, I saw a six, a five, a six, a four, it could have happened.

"I don't think they would have wanted to say they were happy with two. I know they’re winning the game, it’s their prerogative, we limited them to a couple of long range efforts and I saw a team that tried to take control of the game, tried to be brave, tried to press aggressively, at this place and kept going. So again, I’m proud of them, I’m disappointed we lost a game of football but I’m realistic to know that this game tonight won’t define us, but we’re running out of games now I understand that.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Having also lost Reece Burke from the 2-1 defeat at Spurs, it meant Town rocked up to north London with a threadbare squad once more as they had to pick two goalkeepers and four teenagers on the bench, 16-year-old Christian Chigozie, who is taking his GCSEs in a few weeks time, the latest to be called upon from the academy.

Edwards appreciated that made the task even harder for his side, which was why he was so impressed with their efforts on the night, adding: “They’re all difficult at the moment, not just this one, but with 11 senior players missing and a lot of them would be starters for us, it’s hard at the best of times. There’s no excuses, we plan and prep the same way, the players take on information so well, you can see a team that’s competing with Tottenham on Saturday, Arsenal tonight away, they’re hard games, but we did, so I’m really proud to represent this football club tonight, I really am.

"We’re coming up against a brilliant manager, a brilliant team, who are in great form who give you really nothing and second half I saw it. I saw us get behind them at times, saw us create decent openings that we just didn’t quite capitalise on when we did arrive or we got behind them, the cross might have just been lacking, or we might just not have been in there with the right numbers when the ball did come into a good area.

"The lads are giving us much out of possession, it’s then hard to then get on the front foot and get in the right areas when we did get behind them. But we tried, we gave everything, we didn’t go under, and that’s the one thing that I can always guarantee for this football club, we won’t, we’ll keep on fighting.”