Jones admits Shea has staked a claim for a run in the Luton side following terrific Blackpool display

Keeper impresses with clean sheet at Bloomfield Road

By Mike Simmonds
Monday, 6th December 2021, 9:20 am
Updated Monday, 6th December 2021, 9:32 am
Town keeper James Shea - pic: Gareth Owen
Town keeper James Shea - pic: Gareth Owen

Hatters boss Nathan Jones admitted that keeper James Shea has staked a serious claim for a run in the side after an excellent display at Blackpool on Saturday.

The 30-year-old came into the team due to illness to Croatian international Simon Sluga for what was only his second appearance of the season, following his recent outing during a goalless draw at Nottingham Forest.

Although he had little to do on the way to a clean sheet at the City Ground, it was an altogether different story this time, as he was a huge factor in Town recording a 3-0 win to end their four game winless run.

First Shea kept out Owen Dale at his near post with a routine save, before he then palmed aside Reece James' effort with Sonny Bradley’s heel keeping out Demetri Mitchell's follow up.

The stopper soon flew to his left to stick out a hand and tip over Ryan Wintle's 25-yarder drive that was arrowing into the top corner, with a terrific stop, before his best of the lot, showing fantastic reactions to claw out Dale’s close range header after he was initially blocked off from claiming the cross.

After the break, Shea’s workload was reduced somewhat thanks to Bradley and Elijah Adebayo putting the visitors 2-0 in front, but he still needed to be alert to turn behind James' deflected snapshot, with his handling and kicking spot on in what were dreadful conditions at Bloomfield Road, a galeforce wind and lashing rain battering the players throughout the 90 minutes.

Speaking about the former AFC Wimbledon stopper, who has now kept 35 clean sheets in his 88 appearances since arriving in the summer of 2017, Jones knows he has a real selection dilemma ahead of this weekend's clash with table-topping Fulham.

He said: “I’m really proud of him and it’s not just the matches, it’s what he does every day.

"With the greatest respect we call him a back up goalkeeper, but we brought him in to be a back up in League Two but he's played games and got another two promotions.

"He's patient, he’s always ready, trains so, so well and when he’s called upon he never lets you down.

"He's staked an absolute claim to stay in the side, he was a bit harsh to come out last week, but he’s had two clean sheets and that’s all you can ask for.

"We’ve been good in clean sheets, we’ve kept nine this year out of 21 which is good, and I'm really proud of him.

"But that’s the way the group is, because they train at the level, because they buy into everything we do, and on the days that others are resting and they’re training hard, that's why they’re ready to come in.

"We call them game-changers, we call it a squad, there are no passengers as everyone’s pushing for a starting place and he’s been wonderful in both games.”

Team-mate Adebayo, who helped Luton take advantage of Shea’s efforts between the posts, stooping to head home the visitors' second goal of the afternoon for his ninth of the seas, added: “Sheasy is an excellent pro.

"He’s a fantastic pro, he knows when he comes in he’s got a job to do and everyone in the team trusts each other.

"So as long as he’s confident, we’re confident and we put full belief in him and I’m delighted for him because he deserved that clean sheet.

"You can’t control the weather, if you just play what’s in front of you, but I thought like the boys dealt with it fantastically well

"Sheasy was fantastic, some key saves, some good saves, coming and collecting things, so it was outstanding from him and the back four or back five.

"I’m incredibly proud of the boys, dealing with the conditions and we just took our chances when they came, so good."