Hatters boss concedes injuries are hitting Luton at just the wrong time

Town chief without a number of first-teamers for Posh draw

By Mike Simmonds
Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 1:51 pm
Town captain Sonny Bradley has only just returned to the Luton squad from injury
Town captain Sonny Bradley has only just returned to the Luton squad from injury

Town boss Nathan Jones conceded that injuries are hitting his side just at the wrong moment of the season as they battle for a place in the Championship play-offs.

The Hatters were pegged back by a late equaliser in last night’s 1-1 draw at bottom of the table Peterborough United to stay fourth in the table after once again being without a number of first-teamers, particularly in defensive areas.

With Reece Burke, Tom Lockyer and Gabe Osho all out, the latter’s season now over due to a hamstring injury, plus Sonny Bradley only just fit enough for a place on the bench, it meant James Bree dropped into the back-line, alongside Peter Kioso and Kal Naismith at the Weston Homes Stadium.

Jones said: “They didn’t really have any clear-cut chances up until late on, they made changes, but we weren’t aggressive enough.

“We’ve got centre halves out so we’re playing full backs at centre half and sometimes when teams go a bit more direct then you suffer.

“We haven’t been able to rotate in certain areas, centre halves we’ve been depleted, so we’ve had to play full backs in that area and done fantastically well as we’ve taken eight from 12 points with all our centre halves out.

"People are coming back, Kal Naismith is coming back, Sonny Bradley is coming back, so it’s hit us at the wrong time.

"We haven’t been able to play a settled team, but we’re still right in the mix, still in fourth, six games to go and everything to play for and some big games coming up.”

Jones did bring on skipper Bradley for his first appearance since the 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United in January, as the captain made his 150th appearance for the club.

However, although he was introduced to add extra height to the back-line and repel the deliveries that were starting to frequent the visitors’ area on a more regular basis in the closing stages, it didn’t pay off, Posh levelling through Jonson Clarke-Harris’s header from a fine right wing cross.

The hosts then really should have won it, Jack Taylor left completely unmarked from another inviting ball in during stoppage time, as Jones continued: “We brought Sonny on as with them changing shape they were putting balls in the box, and we felt we wanted our biggest, strongest headerer of the ball on the pitch.

"But they still scored, so that’s the really frustrating thing as we knew what was coming.

“They had to go for it as a point’s no good for them really, especially with Reading winning.

“It’s a dangerous side to play as they have to go for it and with us not playing very well, you’re always susceptible, but it’s another point.

“It extends the unbeaten run, and sees us going into next Monday’s game (against Huddersfield), where we can have a little bit of a rest, hopefully get one or two back and and be a little bit more up to speed.”

It’s not just the defence that Town have had issues with as well, midfielders Luke Berry and Jordan Clark both out, while Glen Rea’s campaign is also over after his knee injury while on loan at Wigan Athletic.

Jones continued: “We weren’t aggressive enough all over, we played Danny Hylton in midfield, so there’s a lot of things we’re doing as we’ve got a lot of injuries, but they’re giving me absolutely everything right until the end.

“We just needed a bit more guile, a bit more quality in possession and we just needed to see the game out, as if we had have seen the game out it would have been a wonderful win.

“The freshness and the energy and the dominance in midfield we haven’t got at that the minute, as Henri’s (Lansbury) having to play a lot of football, Pelly’s (Mpanzu) playing a lot of football, Allan Campbell’s playing a lot of football.

“We played Danny in there tonight to freshen things up,

“Berry, Jordan Clark, they’re big misses for us, Gabe Osho is out, so we’ve had injuries at the wrong time, just when you need that impetus.

“Hopefully we can get those back by the end of the season, hopefully they can contribute and then we can have a little bit more energy about us.

"But we just need to dig deep, everyone’s in the same position, we’ve played 44, 45 games so far this year and that’s the Championship season, that’s the way it is.

“Everyone’s going to be the same, there’s some tough games, pressure on people, some sides play twice before we play again, so we’ll just have to see where we are.

"All we can do is make sure we’re at a level where we’re us and we weren’t tonight, we lacked a little bit of energy, a little bit of quality and a little bit of aggression and we need to get that back.”