Hatters goalkeeper Marek Stech revealed just how frustrating this season has been playing second and at times third fiddle at Kenilworth Road.
The 29-year-old had been a huge part of the club’s rise to League One last term, playing 38 times and being named in the EFL Team of the Season.
It has been a long time and it has been disappointing for 15 to 17 weeks I haven’t been travelling with the squad.Marek Stech
He started the current campaign in goal for the first three games, before being replaced by James Shea.
Stech dropped to the bench to begin with, before undergoing a hernia operation during the latter stages of last year.
He came back from that, but since then has been unable to displace Harry Isted on the bench.
The Czech was back in the starting 11 for Saturday’s 3-0 win at Accrington due to Shea falling ill, as on his time out, Stech said: “It was really tough, especially with what we did and what we achieved last season.
“I had the hernia operation and I came back, it was okay and I sat on the bench.
“At the turn of the year, I had some trouble with it again and had an injection, so it was really up and down.
“But I’ve been fully fit for 17, 18 weeks and I was just waiting for my chance.
“The opportunity came and now I just have to see what happens these next three games.”
Although disappointed to miss out, Stech could understand the reasoning, what with the Hatters flying this season.
He continued: “The boys have just been doing an incredible job.
“It has been a long time and it has been disappointing for 15 to 17 weeks I haven’t been travelling with the squad.
“But I’ve been patient, I’ve been waiting and you never know.
“Sheasy’s been doing an absolutely incredible job, the amount of clean sheets he’s been keeping and he’s been consistent throughout the season.
“It’s very tough for me, but at the end of the day, it’s competition and I’m really glad both of us our performing well and especially H as well.
“He’s been top class in training and pushing me and Sheasy, so it’s been working well.
“For Mick (Harford), it’s really hard to change it.
“You’re on a winning streak, 28 games unbeaten, so I’ve just been patient.
“It’s been difficult, but I played and we’ll see what happens end of the season.”
Despite not playing a first team game since the Checkatrade Trophy penalty shootout defeat to Southend in December, Stech didn’t feel any nerves due to his matches for the development side.
He said: “I was actually all right as the previous week I had a game for the U23s.
“So although I haven’t been playing with the first team, I’ve been keeping fit with the U23s. I’ve played three games over the past four, five weeks and was actually worth it that I played.
“I knew on Friday I was travelling because H was struggling on Thursday with his knee.
“Then when we got to the hotel last night, Sheasy just came off the coach and wasn’t feeling well, so I was just preparing myself to be ready to play.
“He’s woken up in the morning and not feeling great, been sick again, so spoke with Mick and Kevin (Dearden, goalkeeper coach) and said, ‘just be ready, you’re playing.’
“It’s always tough as a keeper as you either play or you’re on the bench, but you might not get this opportunity again.
“So when you come on, you have to do your best and I hope I did that.”
Although Stech didn’t have the busiest afternoon of his Town career, what he did do, he did well, claiming a number of Accrington crosses, with his distribution good as well.
He said: “It was not much to do but really important when it was needed, just come for a couple of crosses and just try to play from the back,
“Supporting the boys when it was needed, anything like that, basically just relax and help the boys.”
On the display of his goalkeeper, boss Mick Harford added: “James came down poorly yesterday, a bit of sickness, he hadn’t eaten for 48 hours, so he wasn’t fit and available to play.
“Marek’s a reliable guy, he’s an experienced goalkeeper, he’s been there, seen it, done it before and he came in and did a great job.
“He’s played the last two or three development games at the training ground and he’s done very well.
“He’s made some good saves and been an absolute rock for some of the younger players, a great example.
“He didn’t have a lot to do, but what he had to do, he looked clean and clinical and I thought he was excellent.”