On-loan Hatters keeper Matt Ingram is ready to help put the ‘icing on the cake’ for the Hatters this season after being ‘fast-tracked’ to becoming a major player in the Championship play-offs.
Rewind over a month ago and the 28-year-old stopper found himself picking the ball out of the net three times for his parent club Hull, as Luton triumphed 3-1 at the MKM Stadium, the last a stunning free kick from James Bree, flying into the net off the underside of the bar.
With Chelsea youngster Ross Baxter then returning to fitness, Ingram found himself out of the side and on the bench for the Tigers, starting to think about the honeymoon in the Maldives he had booked, and since cancelled, with wife Amelia
Then Luton’s nightmare season with injuries struck again, James Shea suffering a knee ligament damage at Cardiff City, meaning that with only Harry Isted available, youngster Jameson Horlick not a realistic option at this stage of his career, Town entered the emergency loan market for the second time this season.
In came Ingram, and after being beaten 7-0 at Fulham on his debut, went on to keep a confidence-boosting clean sheet as Reading were beaten 1-0 last weekend, ensuring Luton finished sixth and will now take on Huddersfield over two legs, starting at Kenilworth Road this evening.
The keeper said: “I have almost been fast-tracked to the play-offs,
"We’ve had a good season at Hull, we stayed up comfortably, we had a lot going on in the background with the takeover, so we’ve had a good season.
"When this popped up, an opportunity to play in the play-offs, two games and then the potential of the play-offs, I couldn’t turn it down.
“It almost feels a bit wrong because I’m, hopefully, just putting the icing on the cake, with what the lads have done.
“I’ve just got to play my own game, be as steady as I can and be dependable when the lads need me.”
Ingram’s first job will be trying to keep out a Huddersfield attack containing the likes of 14-goal forward Danny Ward, something he managed to in both matches for the Tigers this term.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t deny Tom Lees, Duane Holmes and Harry Toffolo, as Hull were beaten 2-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium and also 1-0 on home soil, as on going up against the side who placed third in the division, he continued: “They must have a great group of lads as well.
"They have been right up there, so it is going to be a really interesting game, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
In the two League One semi-finals, both sides who have won the first legs, Sunderland and Ingram’s old side Wycombe, are now in the final.
When asked if there was any advantage to being in front of your own fans first, he continued: “I don’t know, you can analyse it as much as you want and I’m sure people will.
"You can say it’s an advantage to be home first, away second, or vice versa, but like we all know, it’s football, anything can happen.
"I think it is what it is, we’re at home first, away second, we’ve just got to do our best to come out on top over both ties.
“That’s (taking a lead to the second leg) the ideal scenario but it’s football and we all know anything can happen.
“You look at the play-offs in League One, sending off, Wycombe Wanderers defending for almost 90 minutes, strange and wonderful things happen in the play-offs,
"The ideal scenario is a win at home but even if we were to lose 2-0, you can’t write anyone off in the play-offs.”
Town are already cast as the underdogs with the bookies, not just the tie, but to come out on top and reach the Premier League as well, although it’s something Ingram doesn’t mind, saying: “We’ve got loads of ambition.
"Everyone’s written us off again as they did with the team at the start of the season, so it very much feels like we’re the underdogs, we’ve got nothing to lose, so lots of positivity.
"You can dream (walking out at Wembley) and it would be nice, but you’ve got to get through the play-off semi-finals.
"Mine and the group’s main focus is Friday.
“We need to win that game, do our best to win that game and just take it from there, I know it’s a cliche, but it’s all you can do.
“If you look too far ahead, then you won’t get there.”
Although Ingram has only just arrived at the club, he can already see just why the Hatters have been such a force under Nathan Jones, moving up the leagues to reach the second tier and now just three games away from a place in the top flight.
He said: “It’s unbelievable, I was playing for Wycombe against Luton in League Two, five or six years ago.
“But you can really tell with the gaffer here and the lads, with what they’ve created, they’ve got something special.
“Most people, I think, had written them off at the start of the season.
"They said, in-house, ‘we’re aiming for play-offs,’ and everyone would’ve laughed at them.
“But when you come into the group, especially me, an outsider, you really see what they’ve got and you can understand why they’ve achieved what they have such a short space of time.
“I think recruitment for them has been really good.
"The players they’ve got in the dressing room, they almost police themselves, they’re a proper group of lads if you like.
“The gaffer with his gameplans and all the backroom staff, how they function and work with the lads, it’s really good.
“Once you’re in the environment and you get a sense of it, you can really see how they’ve achieved so much.”
Having a full Kenilworth Road behind them will only act to spur the players on too, as Ingram added: “It is a great old stadium, the atmosphere is fantastic.
"It is a real tight ground, small pitch, fans are almost on top of you and it’s a horrible place to go as an away player.
"As a home player it’s fantastic, having all those fans cheer you on.
"I got my first taste of that on Saturday and I’m looking forward to it again on Friday.”