Hatters defender highlights Arsenal display for rejuvenating Luton's efforts to stay in the Premier League

Town have been a different side since Gunners reverse
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Luton’s 4-3 defeat to Arsenal before Christmas was a performance that rejuvenated the belief within the Hatters squad that they were capable of staying in the Premier League this season according to centre half Tom Lockyer.

Going into the game in early December, the Hatters had won twice, with three draws and nine defeats from their opening 14 matches of the top flight campaign, scoring just 13 goals in that time, failing to hit the target in four of those previous fixtures as well. Things were starting to look a bit doom and gloom with a 3-1 loss at Brentford, in which the Bees ran out comfortable winners, as Town then hosted a Gunners side with realistic ambitions of winning the title.

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Trailing 2-1 at half time, the Hatters came out flying in the second period, Elijah Adebayo and Ross Barkley scoring in quick succession to put the hosts in front. Although Mikel Arteta’s side hit back to level and go on to nick it in the final seconds of stoppage time, Declan Rice’s header stealing a deserved point from the grasp of Luton, there was a feeling that something had changed at Kenilworth Road.

Gabe Osho celebrates drawing the Hatters level against Arsenal - pic: Liam SmithGabe Osho celebrates drawing the Hatters level against Arsenal - pic: Liam Smith
Gabe Osho celebrates drawing the Hatters level against Arsenal - pic: Liam Smith

That has stayed to, as following the defeat, Rob Edwards' side have been a far better outfit to watch, winning a number of admirers for the way in which they have approached trying to stay in the highest tier of English football, with three wins, four draws and eight defeats from their last 15 matches, but scoring 29 goals in that time, as they are now on a run of 17 straight top flight encounters having found the net.

Luton have been breached 34 times during that sequence though, at an average of more than two per game, which has led to some calls that the Hatters should temper their attacking instincts in their final nine matches, with safety now a real possibility. However, Lockyer harked back to the contest with the Gunners, as the Welsh international told the BBC’s Monday Night Club programme: “We tried that at the start of the season, we banked up, went 5-4-1, or two blocks of four and we said go on then, break us down, and teams could.

"It was boring, the fans couldn’t really get behind us and our fortunes changed when Arsenal came into town. The gaffer pulled us all at breakfast and said, look, we're expected to lose this game, how do you want to do it? What we have been doing, we've been losing anyway, or we can go back to us. We can go and get after them, we can put them under pressure, we can get the crowd right up behind us, we can get the crowd enjoying it, what they want to see, front footed football?’

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"We scored three goals against Arsenal, I know we ended up losing with the last kick, but it just rejuvenated everyone within the club and just brought the fans back on board. They were never off board anyway, but it was just, that is us, and that’s how we're going to move forward. So there is an element of rein it in, but we want to keep our attacking football and concede less goals. You can’t have both and it’s about finding that nice balance.”

It was something that team-mate Andros Townsend agreed with as well, looking at the points haul since Luton have gone with a far more positive intent, continuing: “Since I’ve come in, I’ve seen us grow, and we’ve got the most points when we did start getting braver, playing high up the pitch and going man for man.

"So even though the stats might say we’re open or concede a lot more goals, we’re also getting a lot more points. We’re braver, so why would you go against what’s got success and got you above the dotted line? I think it’s a balance between the two. It’s yes, can you sprint back quicker when you do lose the ball, but we're not going to go away from what’s given us a fighting chance this season.”

Town added another point to their tally before the international break when drawing 1-1 with Nottingham Forest at Kenilworth Road thanks to Luke Berry’s last minute equaliser, a first ever Premier League strike for the long-serving midfielder, as Luton scored a 42nd goal of the season. They did however concede a 60th in the process, as Edwards himself knows that is an area that requires improving. He added: “We've seen in recent months that we’re a goal threat and we can score goals, whether it's in set-pieces or open play.

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"We scored some brilliant goals against Bournemouth, but we need to defend better, we need to keep the ball out of the back of our net. At the moment, the ratio that we’re conceding is going to be difficult for us, so we know we have to improve that side of it. But we also know that we can score and there's other teams that find that hard, so that gives us a belief and confidence, but we've got to defend well as well.”