Town keeper Shea thrilled to get his chance after 'frustrating' 11-month wait since his last Championship outing for the Hatters

Clean sheet number 34 for Luton stopper at Forest

By Mike Simmonds
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 4:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 4:22 pm
James Shea was back between the posts for Luton last night - pic: Gareth Owen

Town keeper James Shea was thrilled to be back in the thick of it once more for the Hatters after his first Championship appearance in almost 11 months last night.

The 30-year-old hadn’t started for Luton in the second tier since Boxing Day last year when he was between the posts for the 2-1 defeat at Reading.

He has had to make do with an understudy role to first choice Simon Sluga since, but with the Croatian number one missing out due to coming into close contact with someone who had Covid during the international break, Shea was back in front of a crowd of over 25,000 for the goalless draw at Nottingham Forest.

Speaking about his return, the former Arsenal and AFC Wimbledon keeper said: “I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was great to be back out there and even better to keep a clean sheet.

“I thought we were pushing for the win, it’s a shame about the penalty but it’s one of those things.

"Elijah (Adebayo) wlll step up again, if he gets one next week I’m sure he’ll put it away, but on a personal note, it was fantastic to be back out there again.

“It was pretty full, they made a good noise, and I thoroughly enjoyed being back out there.”

With Town's defence solid throughout, Shea was rarely called upon, watching Sean McKenna’s header fly over the bar in the first half, before his first and only real meaningful action after the break, using his legs to deny Lyle Taylor.

He continued: “It was the only one, that’s what I’m there to do though, make saves.

"If I make them, fantastic, that’s my job, that’s what I get paid to do, so it's just a save really.

“I thought the boys were brilliant in front me, absolutely brilliant.

"They blocked shots when they had to, as we knew they have a lot of shots from outside the box.

"The boys put their bodies on the line, it was only one little thing really and when they went down to 10 men we kept the ball, so it was just a shame we couldn’t get the goal.

Shea has now racked up 87 appearances for the Hatters since joining in June 2017 on a free transfer, with last night's stalemate his 34th clean sheet.

He has only played 21 times since Luton won promotion back to the Championship though, admitting it has been tough watching on from the sidelines this season and last as club record signing Sluga has made the number one jersey his own.

After just one outing in the Carabao Cup during that spell on the bench, he said: “It’s been a long time, it’s been frustrating as I’m like any player, I want to play.

"To be fair to Si, Si has been brilliant, Si has done really, really well and I’ve just got to be ready when I’m called upon.

"It’s not the first time I’ve done it, so I’m kind of used to it, and I’ll just be ready when I get my chance.

“It is tough though, I’m not going to lie.

"The hardest day of the week is the game day as you want to out there, in front of 25,000.

"I got that buzz today which I was over the moon with, so whatever happens on the weekend, we’ll wait and see.

"It was a bit of fun (the stick from the home supporters), that’s what you miss, having a bit of banter with the away fans.

"I felt a bit rusty and I was speaking to Pilks (Kevin Pilkington, goalkeeper coach) after, it’s just little things, like when you get pass backs, you might have more time than you reailse.

"It's getting back into it whereas it’s been such a long time, but hopefully clean sheet, I did my job, that’s what I’m there to do."

Whether he is back between the posts this weekend when Cardiff City head to Kenilworth Road though, Shea added: "Honest to god I have no idea.

"I didn’t realise I was playing until yesterday evening if I’m honest, so I’ll find out when you find out.

"I don’t know what’s been happening with Si, but whatever happens, Si will be ready to play, I’ll be ready to play, it doesn't really make a difference.

“That’s what I’ve got to do, I’ve got to be ready, Si’s been playing really, really well and it's unfortunate what’s happened to him, but I’ve got to be ready to try and take my chance when I get that.

"If Si plays I’ll be right back behind him and likewise.

"I've had messages from Si today saying 'all the best, good luck, play well' and it’s just the goalkeepers' union isn’t it."