In the blink of an eye, another season has passed us by. It’s been an up and down season in Bedfordshire, with plenty of new faces both on and off the pitch, but the Hatters ultimately just fell short of the play-off places in their second season back in the Football League.
It took some time for the Hatters’ 12 new signings, including Craig Mackail-Smith, Cameron McGeehan and now-captain Scott Cuthbert, to gel as the side didn’t win in League 2 in August, stuttering down in 22nd place.
But a turn in fortune, including Luke Guttridge’s stunning goal of the season strike against Cambridge, saw the Town win five in six to propel back to 10th. The signs of a recovery had been evident from weeks past, as John Still’s side knocked out Bristol City and took Stoke to penalties in an exciting Capital One Cup campaign.
The downs continued as well as the ups, however, as the Hatters took just five wins from 20 approaching Christmas, four of which were away from Kenilworth Road, although one particular highlight came against today’s opponents. Paul Benson’s 100th minute winner gave the Hatters a 3-2 win at Exeter, a fortnight after the Town slipped out of the FA Cup to a strong Peterborough unit.
Peterborough were to feature later in the season as Kenilworth Road bid farewell to one of its longest servants. Mark Tyler, 297 Luton games to his name, rejoined the Posh for whom he played almost 500 times, ending a six-and-a-half year relationship with the Town that covered the entire Conference endurance.
We also said goodbye to manager John Still at the turn of the year. With results and form not in the Town’s favour, the man who brought the Town back from non-league football departed after more than two years in charge, leaving just before Christmas after four successive defeats.
But a couple of weeks later, we welcome a fresh face to Bedfordshire in the form of Nathan Jones. Luton marked a maiden managerial position for the Welshman and former player, who brought positive performances even though results weren’t always in the Town’s favour.
That was none more so than the 4-1 disappointment at AFC Wimbledon, but Jones and co. recovered to win four in a row and reaffirm the play-off push. Consistent inconsistency was to blight the Hatters though, winning three more in a row later on, but that came after three successive defeats, including two at Kenilworth Road, where the side have profited just five times this season before today.
Indeed it’s been on the road where most impressive displays have come, earning fine wins at Plymouth, Oxford and Carlisle – the latter two in the space of five days – to name just a few. But a draw at home to Newport County AFC and a loss at champions Northampton crushed any slim play-off hopes, and the Town will have to play in League 2 once again next term.
But it’s not been all doom and gloom. The emergence of Jack Marriott – in his first full league season – has been a particular highlight with 14 goals thus far, while Jones will look to use summer training to develop encouraging youngsters including Cameron McGeehan, Pelly Ruddock and Zane Banton to their full potential next term.
It promises to be an interesting season ahead so remember to keep your eyes fixed on here and on our social media channels - and let's see what August brings!