Jones believes red cards have prevented Luton from being clear at the top

Hatters boss Nathan Jones
Hatters boss Nathan Jones

Luton boss Nathan Jones believes his side would be well clear at the top of the table if it had not been for their lack of discipline this season.

On Saturday, striker James Collins became the eighth Town player to be dismissed this term, shown two yellows in quick succession for handball and then dissent as well during the 1-1 draw at Cambridge.

The game changed on the sending off, simple as that, we wouldn’t have drawn that game if it we hadn’t have gone down to 10 men.

Nathan Jones

The Hatters have actually done well when reduced to 10 men so far, with only Collins and Scott Cuthbert’s dismissal against Swindon back in September costing them five points in total, which would see them nine ahead of Accrinton Stanley and a further 13 in front of fourth.

Cuthbert was dismissed after 32 minutes with the scores goalless, the Robins going on to win 3-0, while on Saturday, United hit back to level just six minutes after Collins was off.

Looking back at Town’s indiscretions this season, during September, Luke Berry’s against Wycombe was a retrospective ban, as Town were 2-1 winners on the day, while when Chesterfield visited Kenilworth Road, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu saw a straight red with 13 minutes to go, as Luton hung on for their 1-0 victory.

Glen Rea was dismissed on 90 minutes in October with Town 1-0 down to Coventry, the visitors scoring twice more to triumph 3-0.

At Forest Green in December, Jack Stacey was off for a foot high challenge with Town 1-0 ahead on the hour, a lead they doubled through Danny Hylton, while skipper Alan Sheehan lasted only three minutes against Lincoln on New Year’s Day, off for clashing with Matt Rhead, but following the Imps also going down to 10 men, Luton still won 4-2.

Most recently, Jordan Cook was given his marching orders against Grimsby before half time, but Town rallying to claim a 1-0 victory, as Jones said: “It’s massively hurting us as trust me we’d be well clear now if we hadn’t (had players sent off).

“Coventry, Swindon, we lost both of those games when we went down to 10 men, the Swindon game we would not have lost.

“Today we wouldn’t have drawn that game with 10 men, we were in control of the game, but once again, a lack of discipline, as we keep self destructing.

“How many sendings off have we had this year? Seven? Eight? And normally then we don’t lose when we do, but it’s been a lack of discipline all throughout the season and that’s cost us.

“Some of them are not key moments, not key times. We’ve had a lack of discipline with red cards, we’ve accumulated too many red cards, some haven’t been warranted I’ve felt, but some have.

“It’s decision making and some are individual decisions that you can’t control.

“I’ve got no topic on my pro license or my A license about doing that. We’ve got an excellent disciplined group in everything they do, it’s just key moments we do silly things.”

Although United sub Jabo Ibehre scored the leveller just after coming on, Jones felt it definitely wouldn’t have happened if Town had a full complement on the field.

He said: “They made them (changes) about five minutes before we got a player sent off, so I don’t think they had an impact.

“They didn’t have a chance to develop, because they changed shape, we were happy with them changing shape because we know what we have.

“They playing down the hill and they’re at home, the first 10 minutes, they came out and they were on the front foot.

“Then we were the better side, we had a lot of opportunities, a lot of chances to have taken the lead, we took the lead at a good time, and I didnt feel we had any problems.

“We started the second half well, Marek’s hardly had a save to make, I thought we controlled them and didn’t have a problem.

“It’s just the sending off and we end up with a point.

“The game changed on the sending off, simple as that, we wouldn’t have drawn that game if it we hadn’t have gone down to 10 men.”

With no other side in action, Town moved four points clear of Accrington who have their game in hand at home to Morecambe on Tuesday night and eight in front of Nottts County, who head to Cheltenham, with fifth placed Mansfield entertaining Lincoln.

Jones was bitterly frustrated his side once more didn’t take the chance to cement their position at the summit, adding: “Three points here puts us in a wonderful position, again, but we keep missing the opportunity, and I’m at a loss at the minute to actually find out how they go about it.

“As we put pressure on them today, we said no-one’s playing today, so no results going to go for you or against you, it’s just your result.

“Go and win the game and you put yourself in a fantastic position, but they don’t.”