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26 November 2015

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Town must plug the gaps at the back says the boss

At this point in the season 12 months ago, after 19 matches, the Hatters had scored just 23 times but conceded a mere 12. Conceding goals wasn’t a problem.

Yet a year on it’s an issue with the goals against column which has flummoxed John Still. 

Tuesday's 4-3 home defeat to Carlisle encapsulated the Town's record in attack and at the back: The Hatters might have scored nine more goals so far this campaign – but 13 more have flown in at the other end. 

“I’m disappointed and I’ll tell you why,” the manager began at his Thursday press conference. “We came up a division and last season finished one place off the Play-Offs. We made a conscious effort this year to make us stronger defensively and attacking but we’ve not defended well enough.

“This time last year we’d only conceded 12 but now we’ve let in 25. As a manager I don’t think I need to look anywhere else.”

In the close season Still recruited Scott Cuthbert, Magnus Okuonghae, Dan Potts, Stephen O’Donnell and Mark O’Brien to strengthen the Hatters’ defensive ranks.

“I’m disappointed because the lads are hard-working, conscientious and have enough knowledge,” said Still. “They’ve got enough about them to make me think they’ve been the right changes. We’ve had little spells where we’ve looked solid but other spells where that’s not been the case.

“I think they, the whole defence, are all aware that that is their area of the pitch and that has really given us problems. 

“The first goal against Carlisle was a basic mistake – you can’t get any more basic. But we’ve worked hard and I have liked what I’ve seen at times. I’ve seen it work in difficult games and I was pleased against Stevenage. We’d gone three games without conceding the league before Tuesday. I can honestly say none of us – me, the staff and the players – could not see that coming [the Carlisle game].”

On the plus side, however, the Town have improved their record in front of goal – Still’s side are the third-highest goalscorers in League 2 with 32.

“We’ve got people who can score,” said the manager. “Jack can score, Josh has showed he can now, Benno, although not in the team, he can score, and we know Craig can. In midfield we’ve got Cam, Danny and Jonathan Smith so we know we’ve got plenty of goals in us.

“As I’ve said, we made a conscious effort at the end of last season and the beginning of this season to make us a little bit better in terms of goalscoring at one end and make us a little bit better and give us more competition in the defensive areas.

“We’re filling the bath up but we’re taking the plug out and we’ve got to make sure the plug is left in.”

Watch the boss's pre-Newport press conference here on Hatters Player.

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