Hatters boss Nathan Jones declared himself happy with the “decent place” his side are in after two games of the Sky Bet League One season, after picking up their first point of the campaign against Sunderland on Saturday.
Newly-promoted Town went down 1-0 at Portsmouth on the opening day, despite controlling much of the game and creating the better chances at Fratton Park, then came from a goal down to draw with the Black Cats in the opening home match.
Speaking to the local media this afternoon ahead of tomorrow night’s Carabao Cup first round trip to Championship big guns West Brom, the Welshman said: “I’m reasonably happy. I don’t think we’ve got the results our performances have merited.
“Saturday was a fair result but I thought we were excellent against Portsmouth. It’s a difficult place to go but I thought we were by far the better side.
“Saturday was a tough game and having looked at it back on video, I don’t think we imposed ourselves enough on the game. I gave a lot of credit to Sunderland, and rightly so because they must have contributed to us not being anywhere near our fluent best, but we still managed to get a point.
“It’s been the toughest of tough starts, and I include tomorrow’s game in that as well, but we’ve really tested the squad. We’ve tested everything about ourselves and I think we are in a decent place.”
Jones believes his side are good enough “to challenge” and “be competitive” at the new level, but couldn’t have asked for a tougher start to test their credentials.
“We are equipped to do well at the level, I believe that wholeheartedly,” he said. “I don’t mean this to be disrespectful to anyone else, because Barnsley have been in good form and so on and so forth, but I don’t think you could have had three bigger games at this stage of the season.
“To go to Portsmouth, and then for the first home game of the season to have Sunderland, and then we also get drawn away to the highest ranked team in the competition…that’s a tough start and we knew it was going to be a tough start, but we’re relishing the challenge.
“The players set their own targets. I have ambitions of where I believe we can be, and I believe that we can challenge. I believe that we are strong enough to be competitive at this level. We recruited that way.
“It might take another year, I don’t know. But we are equipped, we have a group of players that are talented, that are fit, energetic, that want to work hard, that are professional, that can handle a football.
“So providing the manager and the coaching staff provide them with a structure and a know-how to use those, then I feel we can be competitive.
“I’m not going to say ‘Right, we want to be top two, or we want to be this or we want to be that’. We have to respect the level and the clubs that are here, but we believe we have what it takes to be competitive.”
He also wants to be competitive against “the highest ranked team in the competition”, with the Hatters drawing a side only recently relegated from the Premier League in the first round of the Carabao Cup for the second time in three seasons.
The last time, when Aston Villa came to Kenilworth Road two years ago, Jones’ side were victorious. He’ll have to get past the Baggies without striker Danny Hylton tomorrow night, the top scorer of the last two seasons nursing a thigh strain after his first start of the season against Sunderland, but the 45-year-old is looking forward to the test.
“I relish testing myself, and my team and our club, against higher league opposition,” said Jones. “We’ve always enjoyed that – and it’s a wonderful place to go. The atmosphere at The Hawthorns and the fans that they have are superb.
“It’s always good to test yourself, and we’ll know where we are, and what we need to do. We need to improve, we know that, and those are all learning curves that we’re having week in, week out at the minute.”
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