Luton chief satisfied with his players' reaction after changing things up at Preston

Town boss Graeme Jones was satisfied with the reaction he got from his squad after changing tactics for their Championship trip to Preston on Saturday.

By Mike Simmonds
Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 9:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 2:46 pm
Kazenga LuaLua was one of four changes to the Hatters team at Preston on Saturday
Kazenga LuaLua was one of four changes to the Hatters team at Preston on Saturday

Although the Hatters ultimately fell to a 2-1 defeat, their seventh successive away reverse, they were produced a courageous and battling performance that was a huge improvement to what they had served up during a 3-0 loss at Stoke on Tuesday night.

Jones had tinkered with the formation and tactics, making four changes and playing just James Collins upfront, while bolstering the midfield, as on the newlook system, he said: “This is some away ground to come to and we had a right go, competed and I let them know that that’s what I wanted, more than anything, because Stoke was very very disappointing.

“We changed the shape, got a massive reaction from the group, so that aspect’s satisfying.

“Because if we continue with that, I’ll never let it drop and I’ve told the players, ‘you need to police it, don’t ever let it drop again, that’s a minimum requirement,’ then I know its a step forward and I know we’ll get results away from home.

“I think we’ve been good in the diamond at home, so I’ll have to look at it.

“I really liked it, I really liked the shape, I think we were a lot stronger.

“I don’t think we played as well as we normally do in terms of getting on the ball and using our spare man, using space and having that possession, we were a bit more direct, but sometimes you have to do that.

“I can easily be pragmatic, it’s no problem at all, it’s trying to get the best out of your group and I definitely got the best out of my group because the boys gave absolutely everything.

“We’ve got to fight and earn the right to be in a stronger position next season, so I know where we are.

"I don’t want to lose football matches because a draw was a fair result today as there was nothing in the game at all, remember these have gone third today.

“I thought they were beatable, is the truth, Alex (Neil) won’t thank me for saying it, he’s my pal, but I thought they were beatable.

"We were in a low moment, so to come to Deepdale, sixth in the table, now they’re third, and they’ve got good players, a healthy budget and they’re a good side.

"I know Alex, I know how he is, I made it crystal clear it would be a competitive game, so the boys knew.

"They are a good side, they’re up there on merit, they’ve got a really good manager, but we should have taken something from the game."

Preston boss Alex Neil, whose side are now sitting third in the table, had been impressed by the visitors’ efforts, saying: “To be fair to Luton, they only had little spells of sitting back, I thought they were quite adventurous, wanted to build, try and play themselves and get amongst us.

"Naturally when you’re away from home and you go one each, then why wouldn’t you sit in and hit on the counter?

"We’ve done that on numerous occasions, so I've got absolutely no qualms with how they played at all.”

The four changes that Jones made saw Callum McManaman, Kazenga LuaLua, Luke Bolton and Jacob Butterfield come in for Harry Cornick, Andrew Shinnie, Alan Sheehan and RYan Tunnicliffe.

When asked how he felt the quartet did on the day, Jones continued: “I was reasonably pleased.

“Butts picked up a dead leg just before half time and a dead leg just after half time and couldn’t continue, Callum had an impact, Kaz certainly had an impact, Luke Bolton I thought was very, very competitive as a right back.

“Remember he’s still learning his trade, I see him tuck round on the cover now a lot more, it takes a few mistakes and a little bit of time and a little bit of working with people to see improvement and that’s a pleasing aspect.

“I said to the players, we’re here to get results, it’s not a huge pat on the back for losing 2-1, it’s a benchmark, it’s a minimum requirement next time we go away from home.

“Wherever we play football for this club, that’s a minimum requirement and I’m not throwing it at them that it’s not been there, there’s been different reasons tactically, accumulation of three games in a week, why we’ve looked like we haven’t competed.

“These boys are honest boys, but I let them know Tuesday night I was very, very disappointed with what I’ve seen and I wouldn’t accept that again.

"I’m delighted with the response but not delighted with the result.”

The winner when it came saw former Hatter Jayden Stockley turn home from close range after Luton just couldn’t get the ball away from a deep Darnell Furlong cross.

Jones felt had his side showed a little bit more composure they could have seen the danger out, adding: “When I saw him (Stockley) come on I had a strange feeling, but we were very, very competitive.

“A goalmouth scramble, everybody’s putting their bodies on the line, I spoke to them in particular about controlling that moment, there’s no need to panic, that’s something we need to get better at.

“I’ve spoken to them a lot about that, that will be the only area of criticism.

“You can still control a moment in that action packed area, you don’t have to sell yourself and that was my only disappointment, the rest I was very, very happy with.”