Hatters manager Nathan Jones refused to be downbeat about Saturday’s home defeat to Coventry that saw the Town relinquish top spot in Sky Bet League Two before the break for Checkatrade Trophy and Emirates FA Cup action.
Speaking at his Press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s trip to AFC Wimbledon, where a point would be enough to see the Hatters to progress to the knockout stages - as it would the League One hosts - Jones praised Coventry for doing a job on his free-scoring side.
“Give credit to Coventry, they came and did a job,” said the Welshman, who celebrated 100 competitive games in charge of the Town on Saturday.
“They got a goal early and it gave them something to defend. They are a very good defensive team and did that. We had four or five occasion where we could have scored, so it could have been different.
“I’m not too worried about the last two goals. I’m not saying we don’t want to concede them, but I wasn’t too worried about them because we were trying to chase the game and trying to get it back.
“The defeat looks bad, but look it was a very tight, very good game between two promotion hopeful teams, because they’ll have the same aspirations as us and fair play to them, they came away from home and I thought they were excellent.
“We were slightly wasteful in our finishing, but apart from that we might have got something from the game.
“But you can’t cry about spilt milk and I’m going to be honest, because I read enough comments from others that are baffling, so I’m not going to be like that. They came here and did the job that they had to do.”
Despite Saturday’s reversal, Jones is delighted by a month in which his team took ten points from five matches, and won’t worry too much about a host of missed chances late on Saturday that could have brought the scoreline level before Coventry hit two late goals on the break.
“It’s small margins and in recent weeks, let’s not be too critical, we’ve taken lots of chances,” said Jones. “We probably had five chances at Exeter in a 15-minute period and scored three quickfire.
“Against Stevenage we probably had ten or 11 chances in the game and scored seven, and against Yeovil it was the same – probably 12 real good chances and we scored eight. So we’ve been clinical, but it was just one of those things. We dwelt a little bit more.
“If we had scored then, it could have been different. I don’t think we’d have gone on to lose the game then, but whether we’d have gone on to win it is another thing. We would have had to score two goals to win the game.
“We weren’t quite as sharp, but we’ve had a big month. It’s been as productive a month as anyone’s had in the league, if not better, so we are in a decent position.”
Asked whether the trip to the Cherry Red Records Stadium tomorrow night gives fringe players the opportunity to impress him at a good time, Jones replied: “They have (an opportunity), but that has to happen every day.
“You don’t just think ‘Right, OK you do well in one game for me now at a coincidental time that we’ve lost a game – first game in ten – now you are going to automatically change the team?’
“No, it doesn’t work like that. We want players who, if they are in good form over a consistent period of time, they play regularly. We’ve had a down game, in terms of the front three weren’t as productive, and against Crawley, but in recent weeks they’ve been electric.
“We want them at it all the time, and tomorrow – they played Peterborough here last week (in a development game) and won 3-0, and quite honestly, it should have been sixes and sevens because we were very, very good. I want to see that same kind of commitment, same kind of performance tomorrow against a good Wimbledon side.”
The Hatters will be without centre-half Johnny Mullins, who rolled his ankle in the second half of Saturday’s game, and Alan McCormack, who continues his rehabilitation from a minor hernia ‘release’ operation he had recently, but Jones said the rest of the squad is in contention, adding: “We’ll be as strong as we can.”
A win will see them jump above the Dons to the top of Southern Group F, while a point added to the four the Hatters already have – courtesy of penalty shoot-out bonus point wins after draws with both Spurs U21s and Barnet – would also be enough to guarantee qualification.
“We are going to need a minimum point to go through and to extend the competition, so we want to do that,” said Jones. “We’d also like a really competitive game. I’ve been to Wimbledon before, only once in my career, and didn’t fare too well. It was one of my early games, and that taught me a lot about League Two, if I’m honest.
“We are looking forward to the game and it’s come at a good time for some who need minutes.”
Kick-off at the Cherry Red Records Stadium tomorrow night is 7.45pm, with admission being £10 on the day for adults for both seats and terrace, while Under-18 are given free entry – with the Hatters contributing £1 for every U18 away fan and the Dons £1 for every U18 home supporter.