Town boss refuses to be 'hoodwinked' by Derby's position at the bottom of the Championship
Hatters manager knows County are far better than their league placing
Luton boss Nathan Jones is refusing to be 'hoodwinked' by Derby’s position at the bottom of the table going into tonight’s clash at Pride Park.
The Rams find themselves at the basement after 12 games, but only due to being deducted 12 points for entering administration last month.
Without the penalty, Wayne Rooney's side would be sitting in 13th place, but instead are now fighting relegation to League One, six points away from safety.
County haven’t let the deduction affect them on the field, losing just once since, that to Sheffield United, and are on a three game unbeaten run, although the last two have been goalless draws.
Jones said: “The club are having problems, the team are not, so it’s a credit to the manager and the staff they’ve got there as they’re doing a good job.
"Effectively they’re bottom of the table, but in reality, with the points they’ve gained, they’re comfortably mid-table.
"It will be a real tough game, we know that, Derby’s always a difficult place to go to, they have a good team.
"Regardless of what’s happening with the people that are running the club, the actual team and the squad, is a good side.
"We can’t underestimate that, we can’t be hoodwinked by thinking we’re playing the team that’s bottom of the table as that’s not the case, yes, in theory it is, but in reality it’s not.”
Like Luton, Derby have kept six clean sheets in the Championship this term, with keeper Ryan Allsop not breached in his last three matches, the Rams also unbeaten on home soil so far this term.
Jones continued: “They are defensively strong, they’ve got good experience there, they keep the ball well so it’s going to be a real tough game.
"But it’s the Championship, it’s a bit like a broken record, wherever you go, whoever you play, everything is tough.
"What we have to do is make sure that we are the best version of ourselves, if we’re the best version of ourselves then that’s all we can affect.”
Although Rooney was under a transfer embargo in the summer, meaning he could only sign free agents on a permanent basis, those he did manage to bring in were those with a real wealth of experience, including former Premier League player Phil Jagielka, Richard Stearman and Sone Aluko.
The dealings have added to what was already an impressive squad for Jones, as he said: "Sam Baldock, Ravel Morrison, Tom Lawrence, these have all been around for a long, long time.
“Nathan Byrne, (Craig) Forsyth, there’s a lot of players there with real good Championship pedigree.
"So it's a tough game, a real tough team to come up against and we won’t underestimate that as we’re not that type of group.
"We don’t take games lightly or get carried away, we have an honesty about us that transcends into performances.”
While the Rams were drawing with Preston North End on Saturday, Luton were also keeping their own unbeaten run and clean sheet record going when winning 2-0 at Millwall, thanks to keeper Simon Sluga, who denied Jed Wallace from the penalty spot in the closing stages.
Jones added: “When I first came back, Luton were a wonderful footballing side but needed two or three to win a game or draw a game.
"We arrested that and we've continued that, now we’re evolving as we’re an aggressive side, we don’t sit in and look to just defend our box, we go after teams.
"We have big energy and to keep clean sheets while doing that shows that we’ve got a group there that wants to work, wants to put their body on the line.
"Barring two 45 minutes I think we’ve been excellent from minute one of this season and we should be a lot higher.
“It (penalty save) could be a turning point, but I don’t imagine we would have lost the game, it would have just made it a little bit more hairy going into the final five, six minutes.
"That's what he’s there for and to be fair to him, he hasn’t had to make match-winning saves very often.
"He made one at Blackburn and he's made one today.
"Now whether we would have drawn or lost the game, I couldn’t really say, but apart from that, he didn’t really have a lot to do, a few shots from distance which you expect an international keeper to make.
"But he’s earned his corn and that’s part and parcel of an excellent team performance.”