The gaffer wants to take winning momentum into play-offs
Nathan Jones wants his Luton Town side to maintain their recent run of good form right to the end of the Sky Bet League Two programme, so they will head into the play-offs with a winning momentum behind them.
The Hatters travel to Accrington on Saturday in fourth position and unbeaten in five matches, with last week’s 2-1 home win over Notts County - courtesy of goals from Ollie Palmer and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (both pictured celebrating below) - virtually guaranteeing a top-seven finish as eighth-placed Mansfield sit six points adrift, but the Town hold a 17-goal advantage over the Stags.
At his Press call at Ely Way today, Jones was asked whether the focus for the remaining two league games against Stanley and Morecambe was solely on cementing their current position in the table.
“That’s exactly what we want to do,” said the Welshman. “We haven’t talked about the play-offs really. All we’ve done is put ourselves in a position where it would be difficult for us to fall out.
“Falling out of it would mean that we’d lose our last two games, and quite frankly we don’t want to do that. We want to finish fourth.
“One win would probably do that, but we’d like to finish fourth because we believe we are a good side in this league and we want to establish ourselves.
“Plus, if it does go into the play-offs, then we want to go in there with good momentum. They are clichés, but we want to finish strong. We are on a decent run at the minute and we want to continue that run because sides that go into the play-offs on good runs tend to do well in them.”
Right from pre-season, the 43-year-old Town chief has made no secret of the main goal of the campaign being to finish in the top three.
But with those places already taken by Doncaster, Plymouth and Portsmouth, finishing as close to the promoted trio is now the goal to enable the Hatters to keep hold of any psychological advantage they can gain over potential play-off opponents.
He said: “We want to finish as high as we possibly can. We set our goals on automatic. We haven’t quite done that, so we want to finish the next best thing and that’s fourth place.
“Psychologically it’s a good thing. Normally when fourth-placed teams go in there, they’ve been battling right to the last day and some of them have dropped out and there has been that psychological down that has affected them in the play-offs.
“If we do get into the play-offs, we won’t have that because we’ll know that that is the best we could have done, three or four games from the end.
“So, what we want to do is make sure we get our house in order so that we are finishing the season as strong as possible, because if we suddenly go on an unbeaten run now of another five games, then we will probably get promoted.”
Jones will be without top scorer Danny Hylton (pictured below receiving his award for being named in the PFA League Two Team of the Season last week) as he serves a two-game ban following his red card against Notts County, and midfielder Lawson D’Ath, who went off with a “stiff hamstring” in that game, is available but no unneccessary risks will be taken at such an important stage of the season.
(Photo courtesy of John Walton/EMPICS Sport)
He also added that the Wham Stadium fixture might come too soon for Jordan Cook, who is back training with the squad after limping out of the Good Friday draw against Leyton Orient with a knee injury.
Jones was pleased, however, by what he saw in the reserve game against Derby County on Tuesday, with Jack Marriott, Zane Banton and Jonathan Smith on target in a 4-1 win.
The manager said he won’t be following up interest in the other Town scorer at Kenilworth Road, former West Brom striker Andre Wright (pictured below with Luke Gambin), but a second trialist – young Norwich City keeper Ben Killip – is continuing to train with the club.
He said: “It was a young, fresh Derby side, but what we wanted to do was to get a bit out of the ones who haven’t played minutes, and they did that. There was no complacency shown in the game and that was good.
“They all got what they needed out of it – important minutes for people like Johnny Mullins, Jack Marriott, Jake Gray, Jonathan Smith, Jack Senior, SODS – and they all contributed and showed that they have a hunger to do it.
“That’s brilliant for a manager, because yes, at the minute we haven’t made too many changes to the squad. But over the next minimum four games, we are going to need everyone.”
*A reminder to Town fans thinking of heading north that tickets are still on sale from the ticket office over the phone in person and online.
They can be bought in advance and collected at Accrington on the day or from Luton Town ticket office.
All remaining tickets will be on the turnstiles at the Wham Stadium on Saturday to pay on the gate.