Manager looks ahead as season nears its conclusion
Not since the League 1 days in 2008 have the Town suffered four successive defeats, but tonight the Hatters aim to bounce back to winning ways against promotion rivals Wycombe Wanderers at the Prostate Cancer UK Stadium.
For manager John Still, the game takes on important significance on and off the pitch, with matters on the field – and the prospect of a second successive promotion – particularly pressing with the third-placed visitors sitting in the final automatic promotion spot.
The gap facing the Town and a place in the top three in League 2 is 10 place. Tonight a win could cut that to just seven.
With the games running out as the season reaches its climax, the boss knows is philosophical about the Hatters’ chances.
“For Luton Town now our season is nine games,” Still said at his Monday press conference. “We’ve got to get as many of those 27 points as we can and see where that takes us.
“One thing we feel is that if we can get automatic promotion, and to do that we need to win loads of games, or we if can do enough for the Play-Offs, our squad will look fitter.”
He’s got a point. Should the Hatters’ season be extended into May for what would be the Club’s fifth foray into the end-of-season shootout, Still believes the Town would go into them in with a fully-fit squad to choose from – something that has robbed the boss at various points this term.
“We’ll probably have more players available,” he said. “So we’d go into that in decent shape…probably in the best shape we’ve been all season with Benson, Lawless, Guttridge, Smith, Doyle back, with McNulty and Wilkinson and Tyler.
“It’s been heavens hard work, so one thing I’m not going to do is criticise too much as I know how difficult it’s been and how hard people have worked to get fit and the attitude we have been playing with.”
While the Hatters have lost six of their last seven matches in League 2, five of those defeats have been by the odd-goal – three of them 1-0.
Earlier in the campaign 1-0 wins were the Town’s trademark. Now, the importance of the first goal has been emphasised with the Hatters yet to register a victory having been in a losing position.
“The first goal in games is vital. If you score the first goal in 46 games you’d get promotion. It’s really, really important, so let’s hope we can get it,” said Still.
“I’ve watched the games back and we played our best football when we’ve been behind at Wimbledon and against Morecambe. We played well at Portsmouth anyway, and played our best football in the second half away to Newport.
“We as a staff feel like individual mistakes are costing us. We’re not giving ourselves a chance to get a foothold, conceding goals that are too easy, individually, not collectively.
“When you do that, that that can knock people a little bit when things aren’t going great, but by and large, we’ve responded to going behind in games, that’s been the only pleasing aspect of it.”
There’s no hiding place when a team loses four matches on the spin and the boss isn’t prepared to make excuses.
“We haven’t been playing well,” admitted Still. “But the attitude has been first class. Two-nil down in two games, we could have collapsed and go under, but we’ve never done that, we kept going.
“We remained unaffected by the scoreline and kept going and that shows a little bit of sunlight through the gap in the curtain.”