No surprise for Jones as Cuthbert and Sheehan steady ship

Alan Sheehan
Alan Sheehan

Hatters boss Nathan Jones admitted it wasn’t a surprise that Luton have tightened up at the back since Alan Sheehan joined the club.

The Bradford City defender signed on loan until the end of the season and has struck up an immediate understanding with skipper Scott Cuthbert, who he played with while at Swindon between 2009-2011, as the pair have kept two clean sheets in their four matches.

“I don’t want to be manager who wins 5-4, I would rather win 2-0 than 5-4 as then it shows you’re doing things right both ends.”

Nathan Jones

Jones said: “It’s not a massive surprise, because we’re not looking to bring in numbers here, we’re looking to bring in quality.

“So anyone who’s added we think has improved what we have and we believe we did that with Alan.

“He’s showed good experience, a calmness, a quality in possession so they’ve struck up a good partnership.

“They’re two experienced players, they know the league, know football, played together before in their time at Swindon, so they’re no strangers, and we’re happy with that.”

On his partnership with Sheehan, Cuthbert himself said: “I played with Sheens at Swindon for two years, albeit as a left back.

“He’s excellent, he’s got quality on the ball and can defend as well. We know each other’s games and we seem to be working quite well together so long may it continue.”

The stalemate in Jones’ first game in charge against Cambridge United, means Luton have had three shut outs from the new manager’s opening five matches, and it’s something he wants to continue, saying: “Wins are built on tight defences, I don’t want to be manager who wins 5-4, I would rather win 2-0 than 5-4 as then it shows you’re doing things right both ends.

“They’ve worked hard, it’s been a team ethic. Our front ones (Craig) Mackail-Smith, I singled out the other day (against Wycombe), rightly or wrongly, as we need that kind of shift from every single one of our players.

“That’s what he’s contributed to keeping clean sheets as it gives you an opportunity to win and pick up points. If you’re doing that, then there’s goals in the team because we do have quality in the side.

“So we have to continue to do the good defensive responsibilities we’re doing and that stuff we reiterate very day.”

Cuthbert was of the same opinion too, as Luton appear to have put a run of shipping 17 goals in just six games before the turn of the year firmly behind them, as he continued: “That was probably the criticism a couple of months ago that we were conceding quite sloppy goals.

“It’s nice that we’re keeping clean sheets, as a defender we pride ourselves on them, so to get three in five, that’s fantastic.”

The skipper has been part of the same back four for the past four games now too and he believes that has helped as well, saying: “I think he’s got a consistent back four and more of a consistent team now.

“The more you play with each other, especially as a centre back you play with the same centre back, and maybe the same goalkeeper, you start to learn more about each other and pick up on things, it’s all positive at the moment.”

Although under pressure at times during Saturday’s 1-0 win at Wycombe in the second half, the Hatters were always on the front foot, as opposed to earlier in the season, where they were often guilty of trying to hold on.

It was something that pleased Cuthbert too, as he said: “The worst thing as a defender is if you’re defending for your lives every minute.

“I feel that the players that we’ve got, the attackers and the ball carriers in midfield can get you up the pitch and take the pressure right off you.

“I think that showed in the second half. Although we had to defend well at times, we had that pace and then Paul Benson, who came on and was holding the ball up for fun as well, that really takes the pressure off the back line.”

Despite the new-found solidity, Cuthbert acknowledged he couldn’t take his starting berth for granted, adding: “Every week you’re playing for your place regardless. You’re only one bad performance from going out the team and it keeps everyone on their toes.

“We’ve got a big squad, a quality squad, everyone’s on their toes, performances have picked up of late and we’re hoping we keep on going and pushing up.”