Hatters boss has no room for negative thoughts going into Huddersfield clash on the back of Kenilworth Road draw

Luton manager insists his side can still reach Wembley final

By Mike Simmonds
Monday, 16th May 2022, 12:12 pm

Town boss Nathan Jones didn’t have room for any negative thoughts going into this evening’s play-off decider at Huddersfield Town with the scores locked at 1-1 from Friday’s first leg at Kenilworth Road.

Although a number of outsiders felt Luton’s best chance of getting to the final at Wembley later this month was by taking a lead to the John Smith’s Stadium, Jones saw his side fall 1-0 down in front of their own fans, quickly battling back to level through Sonny Bradley’s close range volley, the skipper scoring in front of the Sky cameras once more.

Town could and maybe should have added another in the opening 45 minutes, with Cameron Jerome curling over and Henri Lansbury going close, before a second period saw the Terriers wrest control back, although fail to significantly test keeper Matt Ingram.

Luton boss Nathan Jones applauds the Town fans after Friday night's 1-1 draw

Although it means that Luton head to Yorkshire as the underdogs on paper, Jones felt the visitors will be positive that they have every chance of reaching Wembley, as he said: “Of course we are, otherwise we might as well save on the hotel bill and stay here.

“It’s the same job that we knew we had to do, it’s not like suddenly it’s impossible.

“They changed their shape a little bit (in the second half) by putting an extra midfielder in there and playing with one up front.

“They didn’t penetrate or get behind us or get any chances, the keeper didn’t have a save to make.

"What they did was they played in front of us and frustrated us, they didn't allow us to have more of the game then we wanted, and that was a real good tactical switch.

“We then changed, matched them up in midfield and got a little bit more penetration, which maybe we should have done it earlier.

“It’s what they do, they do it well, they sit in, counter, deny space and they counter centrally.

“We made a couple of bad errors in the build up to that (opening goal), which we could have defended it better, and then they finished well.

“It’s what they do, they’ve done it all season and that’s why they finished third in the league from doing it.

"But we've had some glorious opportunities, Henri Lansbury’s had a glorious opportunity, Cameron Jerome a stonewall penalty, red card, James Bree, the keeper has had to make an early save, and we scored a wonderful goal from a set-play.

“So there’s so many positives to come from it, and these are tight games.

“I’ve been here in this position where we’ve been two down from the first game, gone to Nottingham Forest with Yeovil Town, right, 1.4 million budget, gone to the ex-European champions and won 5-2, so don't be negative.

“If you can’t win the game you've got to make sure that you don't lose it as if you do, it's a tough place to go and come out as they want you to come out and then go and flood it.

“We have to show our quality, be brave, we have to recover well, and we have to did deep as it’s going to be tough.

“Going to the John Smith’s Stadium, they’re an excellent side there, they finished third in the league, so they start as favourites again, but it’s the play-offs, and anything can happen.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re tactically really astute because it’s going to be a massive game, a great game."

Whatever the outcome this evening, Jones did highlight his side’s efforts in even getting to this stage of the campaign, ahead of a number of other massive clubs in the second tier, as he continued: “It’s wonderful that we’re in the Championship play-offs, this is pinch ourselves a little bit from that as there’s never been a club with our budget this high in the league.

“We’ve done wonderful work and we’re right in the fight to try to get to Wembley, to try to then get to the Premier League, so I’m really proud of everyone at the football club.

"As for us to do it, it’s not just a team of 11 players or management, a whole club has to come together, as resources wise we’re behind most people, especially in the Championship.

"We are definitely behind everyone from third to sixth, so in our little mini league, we are the poor neighbours, but everything they do we can match and we can stay with them, as we do things phenomenally well right from top to bottom and that’s something we can be really proud of.”

When asked if there was much he could have done with his players between Friday night and this evening’s contest, Jones added: “Nothing, we’re travelling up, so the best possible thing is we can tick them over and then they've got to go again, I can’t teach them anything.

“We’ll relax them, they entertain themselves.

“We’ve got some Uno champions in there, but we’ll get up there early, they’ll be able to watch a bit of football over the weekend, we’ll get them ready, debrief this.

“Sunday we’ll train properly and then Monday night a winner takes all game, what a wonderful prospect.”