Hatters boss still has the utmost belief that Luton can avoid relegation back to the Championship

Edwards eager to praise travelling fans at the Emirates Stadium
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Town boss Rob Edwards still retains the utmost belief that his Luton side have what it takes to stay in the Premier League this season despite their 2-0 defeat at Arsenal making it 10th top flight game without a win last night.

The Hatters fell behind to Martin Odegaard’s 24th minute strike, before an unfortunate own goal by Daiki Hashioka just before the interval gave the visitors a mountain to climb. Although many might have expected Mikel Arteta’s side to stroll to another convincing victory at the Emirates, Edwards’ team responded with an excellent second half display that saw Town run their title-chasing hosts close, nearly scoring a deserved consolation through headers from Luke Berry and Ross Barkley that flashed over.

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However they couldn’t upset the formbook, as the Gunners went back to the top of the table, the result leaving Luton now three points from safety with just seven games to go, the first of those at home to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday. Although the situation is starting to look a bit bleak for Town, Burnley hot on their heels as well, while they were without 11 senior players in north London, defender Reece Burke the latest to miss out, Edwards was staying positive on his side’s chances of avoiding the drop.

Rob Edwards points during the Hatters' 2-0 defeat to Arsenal - pic: Liam SmithRob Edwards points during the Hatters' 2-0 defeat to Arsenal - pic: Liam Smith
Rob Edwards points during the Hatters' 2-0 defeat to Arsenal - pic: Liam Smith

He said: “I’ve honestly believed it from day one. As soon as we got promoted, I believed it that we can do this. I believe with every fibre of my being in this group. We’ve had a lot thrown at us over the last few weeks. Towards the end of January, February I’m looking at us and thinking, I really like what I’m seeing at the moment, we’re really really competing in this league and we’re looking good.

"Over the last few weeks we’ve had a lot of injuries, clearly, and it has knocked us. It’s knocked a little bit of rhythm, but I still see a team that’s competing with Villa, with Tottenham, with Bournemouth, Palace, Forest, we’re in all the games. Tonight, we’re in it. If we get a goal on 82 minutes or something, we’re in the game, maybe it can become a little bit nervy.

"We weren’t out of sight, I know you could say Arsenal, they defend so well, they’re brilliant, and they give hardly anything away, but we weren’t out of the game, we weren’t. That’s what gives me belief in these players, when I look in their eyes in the dressing room at the end, I can see they’re with us, I can see they’re with me, they believe, and all our focus now has to go on to Saturday, it has to.”

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On what he said to his players that enabled them to deliver a second half showing that earned a number of plaudits from those in attendance and a terrific ovation from the 3,000-plus travelling supporters, Edwards continued: “I know they had clearly more territory in the first half but a lot of our plan would have been about try to press high, once they break through we need to defend well low and it was about trying to counter, then when we could get up there, try and get some control.

"We did that at times in the first half, there were a couple of fleeting moments, but I thought it was more a mindset. We talked more about mindset, we’re losing a game of football, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? I just had to see a team that’s brave and not give up. I talk a lot about trying to get the last goal, I always talk about let’s get the last goal in the game, and we tried, we couldn’t, but we tried.

"We talked about readjusting one of two things, Chongy (Tahith Chong) came on fairly early in the second half, he gave us a bit more pace on the outside and I thought it gave us a bit more control with Clicker (Jordan Clark) and Ross (Barkley) in the middle of the pitch. I thought we looked a really good team with the ball in the second half, but they’re so well organised, it’s really difficult to create those big chances. When we did get into good areas, we lacked a little bit of quality, or the numbers to really hurt them, it was more about we don’t give up and we can’t ever do that.”

During the second period, it was those Town fans who could be heard loudest in the 60,000 stadium, as they didn’t once waver in their support of the team, staying to the final whistle to applaud the efforts from the Hatters players, as they have done all campaign. It was something Edwards was eager to thank them for afterwards. He added: “Our supporters were amazing, they kept going, they understand what we’re going through, they understand tonight was always going to be difficult.

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“I love them, they’re realistic, they’re passionate, but they’re so with us and behind us. I’m really lucky to have them because in this situation, if they turned it would be really, really tough and it gives me a lot of belief that they’re with us.”