Town boss admits selecting his Luton XI is getting much harder

Hatters boss has a number of options available to him this term

By Mike Simmonds
Friday, 5th November 2021, 7:25 pm
Updated Friday, 5th November 2021, 7:28 pm
Reece Burke was one of five changes for the Hatters on Tuesday night
Reece Burke was one of five changes for the Hatters on Tuesday night

Town boss Nathan Jones admitted that the decisions over who he selects in his starting 11 for the Hatters are getting more and more difficult with the squad in place at Kenilworth Road.

For Tuesday night's clash with Middlesbrough, the Luton chief made five changes to his side from the 2-0 defeat at Preston on the weekend, with Dan Potts, Henri Lansbury, Gabe Osho, Reece Burke and Elijah Adebayo all coming in as the hosts ran out 3-1 winners.

With such a depth of talent, it means Jones could leave Tom Lockyer, Jordan Clark and Carlos Mendes Gomes out completely, while he revealed that he has the option to change his mind even at the last moment, saying: “Team-wise, bench-wise, everything, the decisions get harder.

“We deliberated for quite a long time the other day going with the starting eleven and then the bench.

“It’s very difficult decisions but that is only a good thing because the games keep coming and we want to be as fresh as we possibly can.

“It showed on Tuesday night with the changes we made, second half I thought we were exhilarating at times.

“There is one clip in the 91st minute where we win the ball back and five of our players are breaking trying to get to 4-1.

"That shows the energy we have and we have to be able to do that again.

“We do debate certain things, what do we need for certain games, whether that is a defensive midfield player, whether that is energy in midfield, whether that is pace and power.

"Whatever the decision is we have people to cover that and it was a really late decision.

"We had gone with something and then I decided to change it right at the last minute because sometimes I like to keep faith with certain people because they always do well for me.”

After Jones kept more or less a settled side during his first spell in charge of the club, as Town finished second in League Two and were then up amongst the promotion chasers in League One before he moved on, the manager knows that won’t be the case in such a demanding league as the Championship.

He continued: “Without being disrespectful, at League Two and League One, we could roll out with 11, we were structured and we knew it was all about us.

"In this league, we have to be tactically really good to compete.

"Middlesbrough go man for man so we knew it was going to be very tight early on.

"A lot of people said Middlesbrough controlled the game but I thought it was a really even match.

"I felt we had better chances but they have good players, they caught us on the counter attack but apart from that I can't remember them having a real chance.

"We did, Harry Cornick had a great chance, then (James) Bree and Adebayo got in the way of each other, a couple of situations we should have done better in but apart from that, I thought we really negated them.

"If we had gone in at 1-1, then come out and scored three then everyone would have said ‘wow, what a complete performance’, and that is probably what should of happened.

“We knew Middlesbrough were going to be a man for man team, so we knew it might take an hour to grind them down and as it was, it pretty much did.”

Meanwhile, with Stoke heading to Kenilworth Road tomorrow, then a victory over the Potters would show just how seriously the Hatters should be taken this term, especially following on from the manner in which they beat Middlesbrough on Tuesday night.

On how both matches can be used as a gauge of the Hatters' evolution under Jones, with Town now sitting eighth in the table and just one point adrift of Michael O'Neill's side in sixth, he added: "Middlesbrough would have brought Neil Warnock in to get promoted to the Premier League because that’s what he’s done on a number of occasions in the past.

"So for us to be above them, to be beating them and to be fair, last year, they took four points off us, but we missed two penalties.

"The penalty up there, if we’d scored that to make it 1-1, they go down to 10 men, I believe we would have won the game, and if we’d scored the penalty at home we would have won the game.

"So we’ve been in a decent place and then Stoke have got a massive budget, they’ve got some real quality.

"You look at the team they’ve got, (Tyrese) Campbell, (Nick) Powell, Joe Allen, Romaine Sawyers, they've got players that wouldn’t even actually consider coming to us, so that’s where we are.

"For us to be competing and going into these games shows we're in a wonderful position, but we don’t necessarily now talk as much.

"Yes we can talk about budgets and so on, but it's the work that we do that we’re very proud of and the work starts right from the top.

"I said it midweek in terms of the goal threat right throughout the club, there’s a real process here and we’ve never veered and gone away from that and that’s the good thing, that’s why we’re able to compete.

"So evolution process, yes, we want to start being closer to the sides that believe they are genuine promotion contenders, and we believe we are, because 16 games in, we’re right in the mix.

"So if we were six, seven games in, you might think, you might have had a lucky run of fixtures, might have nicked a result here, but after 10 games it starts to even out, after 16 games, and after 20 it kind of shows a real pattern.

"We’re right on track and what we have to do, we’ve got some tough fixtures coming up and we have to make sure that we show we can compete with these teams.”