Town boss knows how important the international break is for his promotion-chasing squad

Hatters chief happy to have a fortnight off

By Mike Simmonds
Saturday, 26th March 2022, 11:13 am
Updated Saturday, 26th March 2022, 11:16 am
Hatters boss Nathan Jones gives out his orders
Hatters boss Nathan Jones gives out his orders

Luton boss Nathan Jones believes the international break has come at just the right time for his side following their punishing run of matches since the turn of the year.

After a spell of 29 days without a game due to rising Covid cases forcing a raft of postponements over the Christmas period, Town got back underway with an FA Cup third round clash at home to League Two side Harrogate Town on January 9.

That was the beginning of run of 19 matches in 70 days, as Luton played 16 Championship encounters, the same as Sheffield United, Preston, Hull, Birmingham City and Reading, but unlike their second tier rivals, Jones' side had three FA Cup matches too.

To then pick up the 34 points they did, more than any other side in the division, lifting Luton up to third in the table was a superb achievement, but it came at a cost, Town losing a number of players to injury, with Sonny Bradley, Gabe Osho, Reece Burke, Kal Naismith and Robert Snodgrass all missing the recent 3-1 win at Hull City, Peter Kioso forced off during the match as well.

When asked how much the break was needed ahead of what is a massive final eight games of the campaign, Jones said: “Absolutely, and it’s not just the physical side of it, but the mental side of stuff.

"Because with the crazy schedule and I mean it's crazy, crazy schedule, it’s the monotony and I say that with the greatest respect, of coming in, of debriefing, of then preparing, then of going through the emotion of a game, of deflating, debriefing.

"Then going through the same thing again all the time is tough mentally, and not just on players, but on staff and it’s not a case where you go in and you do five-a-sides as you can’t do those now as we’re going from game to game to debrief and it’s so difficult.

"So the staff need it, the players definitely need it and we’re in a wonderful place.

"Eight absolutely huge games to come and hopefully we'll be far more refreshed."

Defender James Bree also felt the same, saying: "The schedule has been crazy really.

"We’ve had three game weeks for god knows how long and it must just be taking its toll on a few people’s bodies.

"I’m definitely feeling it, so it’s going to be nice to have a couple of weeks off, go and relax and come back and last eight games now, see what we can do."

Luton went into the break on the back of a fine 3-1 victory at the MKM Stadium, Elijah Adebayo, Harry Cornick and Bree all on target in what was a comfortable success as they did the double over their opponents in the process.

The second goal saw Town's attackers nick the ball from the Tigers defender Sean McLoughlin as the hosts continued with their insistence to try and pass their way through the Hatters' press.

Jones added: "They have a certain philosophy that they want to do this and want to do that, so that’s fine, but then that gives us opportunities to go after them.

"We’ll have a gameplan and we watch them, they’re a tricky side to play against and since the manager (Shota Arveladze) has come in they’ve been decent enough.

"Towards the end of Grant’s (McCann) reign they picked up wins, they weren't the side they were in the first half of the season.

"It’s a difficult place to come, this is the Championship, so everywhere is difficult, you’ll have seen people drop points, but what a wonderful performance.

"The energy they showed and the desire and work-rate is phenomenal.

"The goals were excellent goals, the desire and being on the front foot, take the first goal.

"We had almost an identical chance prior to that with Harry and then we’ve robbed their centre half because we keep going after teams, and that’s what happens when you’re relentless.

"I’m just so, so delighted and these are tricky games, especially after you've had two home games against promotion chasing sides then you come here to a side that’s in relative safety and have nothing to fear or lose, or no pressure on them, it’s a difficult place to come to.

"But to score three away from home, to win the game away from home, to almost keep another clean sheet, but we were down to 10 men effectively with Clicker (Jordan Clark), I’m so proud of them and it’s magnificent."