FEATURE: First goal proves to be the key for the Hatters under Nathan Jones

Town proving almost unbeatable when breaking the deadlock

By Mike Simmonds
Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 2:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 2:32 pm
Elijah Adebayo celebrates opening the scoring Luton against Hull recently to continue Town's fine record when netting the first goal
Elijah Adebayo celebrates opening the scoring Luton against Hull recently to continue Town's fine record when netting the first goal

“If you score the first goal then it’s very, very hard, or very, very rare that we lose games,” said Town striker Elijah Adebayo following the Hatters’ 3-0 win at Blackpool on Saturday and in league games under manager Nathan Jones, boy is he right.

The Welshman moved to Kenilworth Road back in January 2016, leaving his position on the backroom staff at Premier League Brighton & Hove Albion to take his first role as a number one, with Luton sitting 18th in League Two.

The early signs were there as to just how strong Town would be when going ahead, as during that second half of that campaign, in the 11 games when the Hatters netted first, they went on to win 10 of them, with the one blip coming at home to Newport County, and that finished 1-1, scoring 19 goals and conceding six.

Looking at Jones’ first full season in charge, again in League Two, the Hatters scored first in 26 games, winning 16 and drawing eight, although they did actually lose twice.

The first happened at Stevenage in August 2016 when Cameron McGeehan broke the deadlock on 15 minutes, only to see the hosts hit back to level and then win it in the last minute through Matt Godden.

Then when Portsmouth came to Kenilworth Road in November 2016, Danny Hylton netted for the hosts early on, but the visitors hit back with now Hatter Kal Naismith scoring the third in what was a 3-1 victory for Pompey.

However, that is astonishingly the last time that with Jones in the dugout, Luton have scored first and actually lost a league match.

Following play-off semi-final heartache, the Town were back in League Two again for the 2017-18 season, but were almost invincible when bagging the first goal, as they did so in 24 contests, going on to win 20 of them, with four draws, scoring 62 times and conceding just 10, with 14 clean sheets, winning promotion as runners-up.

Now in the third tier, Luton scored first in 13 games under Jones, with 13 straight wins, scoring 34 and conceding six, before he moved on to Stoke City in January 2019, with Mick Harford taking over as the Hatters went on to win the title regardless.

When Jones returned to Kenilworth Road to try and save the Hatters from relegation, he had nine games in which to do so, seeing Luton crucially score first in six of them.

That led to three wins and three draws, as they managed to stay up on the final day by defeating Blackburn Rovers, although surprisingly that came after the visitors had notched the opening goal on that nervy night in Bedfordshire.

In his first full season at Championship level for Luton, the first goal proved crucial yet again for Jones and his players, Luton winning 14 of the 20 matches they went in front in, with six draws, scoring 28 goals and conceding nine.

You only had to look at the sparse record when conceding first, three wins and one draw from 22 outings to see how important it was for the Hatters that they got their noses in front, and just how good they were when they did so.

It has shown no signs of slowing down this term either, as Luton have opened the scoring in seven fixtures, with six wins and the one draw, scoring 18 goals and conceding just three, all of those coming in the 3-3 draw with Swansea City.

When you add it all together it means that Luton have now scored first in 107 matches under Jones, with a stunning record of 82 wins, 23 draws and just the two defeats, while it is a lengthy 84 matches since they were beaten after celebrating the opener.

Looking closer, they have managed 219 goals in total, conceding just 54 and also recording 58 clean sheets.

The importance of the opening goal to Jones is also shown in the 92 matches where they conceded first, Luton recovering to win 17, with 23 draws, but 52 defeats as well, scoring 106 and conceding 173.

With free-scoring Fulham visiting Kenilworth Road on Saturday, then the Hatters will be keeping everything crossed it's the Cottagers net that bulges first to give them the best chance of recording a famous win against the Championship table-toppers.