Jones is well aware absolutely anything can happen in the play-offs

Town chief previews tonight’s game

By Mike Simmonds
Friday, 13th May 2022, 7:18 pm
Nathan Jones celebrates a play-off win for Yeovil at Nottingham Forest back in May 2007
Nathan Jones celebrates a play-off win for Yeovil at Nottingham Forest back in May 2007

Luton chief Nathan Jones is well aware that anything can happen in the play-offs after his previous experience with Yeovil Town back in 2007.

The Hatters boss as part of a Glovers side who lost their League One semi-final first leg 2-0 at Huish Park, heading to the City Ground severe underdogs to go through.

Going into the closing stages, it still all against them, level at 1-1 on the night, trailing 3-1 overall.

Hatters boss Nathan Jones addresses the media recently

Then, two goals in the final eight minutes saw Yeovil restore parity, as they ran out 5-2 winners in extra time, to go through 6-5 on aggregate.

It means when it comes to working out just what would be a good result at Kenilworth Road this evening when the Hatters take on Huddersfield Town in their first leg match, Jones couldn’t say: “It’ll be tough winning, it’ll be tough going there (John Smith’s Stadium) having not won.

"I’ve been in a play-off semi-final where little old Yeovil Town lost 2-0 at home to Forest.

"They’d printed tickets, scarves, booked their buses and we beat them 5-2 at the City Ground.

“Anything can happen. These are the play-offs and it’s what makes English football the best, so anything can happen.

“If we don’t win, I’m not going to say, ‘we’re not going to win now’.

"We’ve got two games, sport is an extraordinary thing, anything can happen.

“If little old Yeovil Town can go to Forest, ex-European champions, and win 5-2, and deservedly win 5-2, anything can happen.”

Being at home first up isn’t a major thing for Jones either, as he continued: “I don’t think so.

"We’re happy we’re here, happy we’re in it and happy we were in the top six.

"Last time I was manager in the play-offs for example we played our second game at home and we lost.

"I’m not sure there is an advantage, it’s how you handle the game and how you perform over the two games.

"Lots can happen. The first game tends to be more cagey than the second and then sometimes all carnage breaks loose so lets see.

"We’re delighted that we’re in the play-offs first and foremost, now we have to be prepared and ready if we want to win over two games.”

After the Hatters finished the season in sixth place, and for many, not expected to even be in this position, when asked if there was more pressure on the three other teams, Huddersfield, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United, Jones continued: “There’s definitely more expectation, but we can’t and don’t associate ourselves with anything outside of our four walls.

“What we do is make sure we’re Luton Town, and if we’re Luton Town then anything’s possible.

“We’ve always set bold and realistic goals and that was the goal, to get to 75 points which historically gets you in the play-offs, which historically did it again this year.

"71 would have, or 70 with a better goal difference than Middlesbrough would have, but to get to 75 which was what we believed was our achievable goal.

"We split it up into five games blocks, so it’s everything that we planned for at the beginning of the season.

"It was bold, that was a bold, bold statement, to go from 62 points last year to get 13 points extra, plus an extra 10, 12, 14 on your goal difference, it takes a lot of doing as every point in the Championship is so hard to get.”

When asked if this evening was the biggest game of your career to date too, Jones said: “Absolutely.

"Realistically, beating Carlisle, for example, to get us out of that division (League Two) was a huge game and we wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for that.

“Then, beating Oxford at home and getting promoted from League One was another massive game.

“I’ve had games as a player, where I’ve had play-off finals and won leagues that were massive games but, this one, for me, absolutely.

“The stakes are so high and, come Monday, that game will probably eclipse this one, that’s the way we are at the minute.

“It’s fantastic because we wanted to be involved in these.

“We went into the Reading game with real pressure to get a performance, but it wasn’t the pressure of two years earlier.

“This is a pressured situation but what a wonderful one to have.

"I think everyone’s written us off, everyone thinks we’re just happy to be here and we might just surprise a few.”

Finally, on the test Huddersfield will pose, Jones added: “They’re a real, real good side, very organised, know what they’re doing, tactically very astute and have got some real good players.

"They have been one of the best three sides in the league as they finished third, as over 46 games you finish where you deserve.

"They’ve been excellent, but when you get to the play-offs, there’s no easy games, in the Championship, let alone in the play-offs.

"So we know that the stakes are high, the margins are less, but these are the games you want to play in.

"These are the games you want to be involved in as they mean so much.”