Jones labels Bree a 'phenomenal technician' as Sheehan's set-piece work is paying instant dividends for Luton defender

Full back's dead ball efforts set Town on their way to Robins victory

By Mike Simmonds
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 11:11 am
Updated Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 11:28 am
James Bree goes up for a header against Bristol City last night
James Bree goes up for a header against Bristol City last night

Luton boss Nathan Jones hailed defender James Bree as a ‘phenomenal technician’ after his set-piece deliveries, aided by the work done with new coach Alan Sheehan, paved the way for Town to defeat Bristol City 2-1 at Kenilworth Road last night.

The former Ipswich and Barnsley full back has taken some criticism during his two-and-a-half year stint with the Hatters for the quality of his dead ball efforts, a number often hitting the first man or easily cleared away.

However, in recent weeks, he has really upped his game, a wonderful free kick for Elijah Adebayo’s header in the 1-1 draw against league leaders Fulham before Christmas displaying exactly what he is capable of.

Bree also had a big hand in Kal Naismith's winner against Bournemouth from open play as well, with a first time cross from the right leading to the Scotsman's terrific stoppage time finish, but it was last night where his attempts really paid off on a regular basis.

A short corner with Naismith saw the defender whip a ball in for Tom Lockyer to power home his first goal for the club just before half time, before he was at it again in the second period, seeing his quality free kick lead to some chaos in the City area, Lockyer involved again before Adebayo bundled the ball over the line.

It was enough to earn Bree the man of the match award on the night and when asked if he felt it was his best game in terms of consistency from set-pieces, Jones said: “Yes, but we’re so quick to criticise people and say 'well he doesn’t do this, he doesn’t do that.'

“He’s a phenomenal technician, James Bree, and he does some wonderful, wonderful things.

"We demand from him and ask him to do certain stuff, so when it fails, blame me, blame my coaching staff, not them, because we ask them to do stuff.

“He doesn’t do anything that we don’t ask him and if he does do stuff that we don’t ask him then I’ll tell him, I don’t need fans or anything to tell him.

"But he’s been excellent, James Bree’s excellent for us.

"We have to remember where we’ve come from and we’re competing with big sides here, Bristol City are a big club, Reading are a big club, Sheffield United are a big club.

"We’ve played some real big sides in the last four games, so to be competing is really good.

"We weren't great tonight and Bristol get a lot of credit for that, but we just managed to dig in and that's what we've done.”

Welsh centre half Lockyer, who was the recipient of Bree’s cross on 42 minutes to set Town on their way, believes he always has a chance of finding the net when his team-mate is standing over the ball.

He continued: "It was an unbelievable ball from Breezy, he’s been doing that all season, the first and the second one.

“That’s exactly what he can do, he’s brilliant when he gets in those situations, so long may that continue.

"I know Eli and the strikers thrive off it, and big Sonny’s (Bradley) cashed in a few times off it this season as well, so it's nice for me to join in that tonight.

"I know when Breezy gets on the ball he's got that real quality to put it in dangerous areas, the gaffer calls them goal balls and that’s what they are.

"He’s put two in tonight and I was lucky enough to get on the end of them, so just keep making those runs and it’s that little bit of luck, if they fall to me I have to be there to try and put them away."

Meanwhile, the return of Sheehan as first team coach has seen Luton up their quality from set-pieces, and with that, their danger to the opposition.

It's not just Bree who is on them, but Naismith now stepping up when Town win a corner on the right, whipping them into the box with his trusty left foot, something Sheehan did time and time again during his lengthy stint as a player for the Hatters.

Jones said: "Alan Sheehan is big on set-plays, we brought him in to control our set-plays and to do that, and that's shown.

"We have people who did that, I did it and Paul Hart did it, but we wanted someone to come in and really dedicate his time to that and that's what he does.

"We’ve got good staff now, in terms of everyone has their role, everyone contributes and it means that everyone can specialise in their things so we’re not stretched, as we were stretched.

"When Mick (Harford) was off and we didn’t have a coach, we were stretched in terms of what we were doing and now we’re able to plateau a little bit so that's good.”

If Luton can start to turn their set-pieces into regular goalscoring opportunities it can only help them take the pressure off leading scorer Adebayo too, as Lockyer added: “Throughout the season you can't just rely on one person to get the goals.

"It was good to get two from set-pieces tonight as we weren't playing particularly well.

"There were times when we could have scored from open play but when you’re scoring from set-pieces it makes a massive difference.

"So it’s good we've added that to our game, but when Breezy puts balls in like that, it’s hard not to."