Jones backs his Hatters side to cope with final day pressures having completed the Great Escape against Blackburn

Town have needed to win on the final day before

By Mike Simmonds
Saturday, 7th May 2022, 8:50 am
Nathan Jones celebrates staying up with a final day win over Blackburn Rovers in July 2020
Nathan Jones celebrates staying up with a final day win over Blackburn Rovers in July 2020

Luton chief Nathan Jones has backed his side to be able to cope with the pressure that comes with this afternoon’s deciding Championship clash of the season.

Town go into the final game of the campaign against Reading knowing that victory will enough to secure a place in the play-offs and mean the Hatters are just three games away from being a Premier League side next term.

During the last few years, Luton have often had something up for grabs in the last game, although of differing importance.

Luton celebrate winning the League One title back in 2019

Back in 2019, they saw off Oxford United 3-1 to lift the League One title courtesy of a George Moncur double and Elliot Lee’s strike.

A season later and with Jones back at the helm, they took on Blackburn Rovers on the final day, knowing a win would secure their safety in the second tier.

Again they did so, although this time 3-2, thanks to two own goals from the visitors and James Collins’ penalty.

When asked whether that will stand them in good stead for today’s contest at Kenilworth Road, with Luton knowing a victory will ensure a top six berth, although any result could still actually be enough, Jones said: “We like history, we’ve got a good recent history of final days, so hopefully that continues, but it literally boils down, taking everything out of it, we have to beat Reading Football Club.

“Reading Football Club will come here to win a game, we have to beat those, then we’re in the play-offs, that’s as simple as it is.

“We’ll be going to do that, you can’t look to draw games.

"You have to be positive and do the things you do as inadvertently you can get punched on the nose and we don’t want to do that.

"Let’s not forget, two years ago it was a relegation battle against a side that had very little to play for, that wanted to finish and experiment.

"So we’ve been in similar situations, but with the trapdoor open, now the trapdoor’s not open, the manhole is open, so we’re trying to climb out of it rather than drop into it, so we’re used to this.”

Just over two years ago, it was a far different proposition facing Luton, as they took on a Blackburn Rovers side knowing a win would ensure Championship survival.

Without any fans present due to coronavirus, the hosts managed to complete the Great Escape masterminded by Jones, who had taken over with Town second bottom of the table, six points from safety, and just nine games to go, looking certainties for League One.

But a run of 16 points from 27 was enough to keep them up and whatever happens today, the Hatters boss felt that contest carried more importance to the future of the club.

He continued: “That one was probably bigger than this game in terms of, if we’d gone down then it would have been fear because of certain things.

"If we go all up all you look at is optimism and it catapults us to a different level, but we’re still on a real good journey if we don’t.

"If we’d have gone down that could have been catastrophic in a lot of ways, or could have been really problematic moving forward.

"So we had to secure out status, that was probably more important.

"Now, this is the most important game, but if we had gone down then this game would never have happened, really, because you would have had to come back up and then to do it in your first season back up, all right, possibility would have been there, but the probability probably wouldn’t.

"So it was so important, and to continue on our evolution, we couldn't go backwards in one season and that would have meant that.

"Even though finishing 24th in the Championship is still higher than first in League One, it's a different concept.”

Despite the enormity of what a victory could mean for the Hatters this afternoon, Jones won’t be changing anything ahead of the match, preferring to rely on what has worked pretty well so far this term, adding: “Every game is different.

"Sometimes I go into my office, shut the door and have 10 minutes sleep, so I don’t know what it’s going to be like on Saturday.

"I won’t do anything differently, I won’t add an edge, but every single game we’ve played has been like a cup final, because we knew there would be nothing to spare.

"We knew that eight points every five games means you’ve got to win two, draw two and lose one, which if you lose only 20 per cent of your games is a big thing for us to do.

“We’ve managed to achieve that, with different kind of stats, but the concept is exactly the same, so we won’t change.

"I won’t change my approach, because the players have responded, the players have been magnificent.

"We’ve put in place certain things, I talk to them tactically, set in place a plan, but I’ve done that all throughout my career.

"Some teams can implement that and take it on, at Luton, historically, we’ve had teams that have done that, 50, 52 per cent of the time and realistically we’ve only lost 25 per cent of our games since I’ve been at the football club, which means the players have been absolutely magnificent.

"They’ve taken information on board, wanted to drive on, wanted to go and do things and that’s what they do, day in day out.

"It’s not me being coy, because I've been at a club where my work hasn't changed but the results have been polar opposite to what I get here, so it’s all down to the players.”