Luton chief expects Rovers to be challenging for the top six this term
Town manager ready to go up against division's highest scorers
Hatters boss Nathan Jones expects today’s opponents Blackburn Rovers to be challenging for a place to reach the top flight this season.
Tony Mowbray’s side have started the season in fine form in front of goal, the division’s leading scorers on 21, with forward Adam Armstrong’s 11 strikes making him the top marksman.
They strengthened well before the transfer window shut too, adding Premier League youngsters Harvey Elliot (Liverpool) and Tom Trybull (Norwich City) on loan, while also have players such as Bradley Dack making his way back from injury soon.
However, they are still only 12th in the table, two places and three points below the Hatters after the opening 11 matches, as Jones said: “They’re an ex-Premier League side that are established at Championship level, have been at that level, are probably one of the favourites to get promoted, not automatically but I definitely think that they are high on the betting to be top six.
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“They are a very good side, some real good players and look, we want to be similar to those in terms of the competitive levels, what they are able to do and who they are able to attract and so on.
“We’re competing on a good level. We're just above them in the league so we’re showing that we are competing at this point, that we are able to maintain our levels against teams like this, week-in, week-out.
“They’re a fantastic side, real good footballers, a fluent side, they can hurt you.
"We saw that in terms of at the end of the season but look, we have strengths of our own that we have to make sure are right at it, if they are right at it, it should be a good game.”
Town’s success so far this term has been built on a solid defence, only conceding 11 goals, a record better than leaders Reading, with four shut outs so far.
It is a far cry from last year under Graeme Jones, when Town were breached with alarming regularity, but the returning Jones does now want his side to improve on their record of just nine goals scored.
He continued: “We built up a reputation of being highest scorers apart from Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain (during his first spell as manager), we were as high scorers as anyone in Europe.
"We have to adapt to levels, we have to make sure we get points because at the end of the day, being as high up the league as possible is the big thing.
"We’re trying to evolve into a top Championship side but that takes time.
"It either takes a big budget or it takes time so ours is going to take time.
"We have a wonderful competitive edge, a great team spirit and we’re trying to evolve into as we said, an even better Championship side than we were last year.
"All those things take time and work, we’ve been able to put a couple of weeks work into them now, that isn’t always the case because of Saturday, Tuesday – Wednesday, Saturday.
"That means you can’t put work into them because it’s just recovery and maintenance so if that means we have to be defensively sound, we work hard and take the points, we will do that.
"But if anything, we would like to be very, very sound defensively and very, very fluent attacking. Lets see where we can go.”
Meanwhile, Town head into a run of fixtures where they will be severely tested before Christmas, with two trips to Wales to face Cardiff and Swansea on the horizon, along with a home game against Norwich City coming after back-to-back clashes with Blackburn at Birmingham at Kenilworth Road.
Jones added: “It’s a difficult league and I think it’s very even.
"You don’t ever look at results and go ‘wow didn’t see that one coming’ because you do.
"It’s so competitive, it really is and it's starting to take shape you would think after 11 games.
"It’s strange because of no fans, it’s strange because of the quickness of games, then you’ve got internationals and so on, but it will start to even out.
"It is such a great and competitive league but it’s tough, every game is tough.
"Even when you have a run of fixtures, when you look at the clubs in context, the likes of Blackburn, Birmingham, Cardiff and Swansea, we’re playing these games and all of them have been in the Premier League so it’s brilliant.”