Last night we caught up with Town boss Nathan Jones to get his thoughts on having the first confirmed fixture of the 2018-19 season put in the calendar with yesterday’s Carabao Cup first round draw.
Jones will take his newly-promoted side to the Hawthorns to take on a West Bromwich Albion outfit who have just been relegated into the Sky Bet Championship, despite a late run that saw them win three and draw two of their last six matches to almost pull off a Premier League escape act.
In a change to the schedule of the competition this term, the Welshman will have two League One games before the first round tie in the week commencing August 13th – with equally enticing ties against Aston Villa and Ipswich at the same stage in the last two seasons coming immediately after the opening league match.
“First and foremost, it’s a very tough draw because West Brom have only just come down from the Premier League, but we are excited by it,” the Welshman told lutontown.co.uk.
“It’s another chance for us to test ourselves against higher league opposition. We like doing that, and with the history involved in West Brom and a club of the stature that it is, we’ll go there and look forward to the occasion.”
Villa were in the same position as their West Midlands neighbours a couple of years ago when the Hatters hosted the side who had just suffered the drop from the top-flight, coming from a goal down to win 3-1 and book a second round tie at home to Leeds United, who won 1-0 at the Kenny.
“There are similarities to the Villa draw a couple of years ago as it’s another club coming down, and they are a big pull because they are one of the favourites to go back up, so we know that it’ll be a tough game, but it’s definitely one to whet the appetite,” said Jones. “It’ll be a great test for us, a great place to go and we know we are going to have to be right at it.”
Town last met the Baggies in the Checkatrade Trophy group stage in 2016-17, coming out 2-0 winners with goals from Alex Gilliead and Jake Gray (see video above).
West Brom played four of their most experienced senior players in their Under-21 side, as that competition’s rules allowed, with Boaz Myhill, Jonas Olsson, Craig Gardner and Callum McManaman – who saw a penalty saved by Craig King – all playing 90 minutes.
“It’s a different cup so it’ll be a different kind of occasion, and this is geared for a different level of competition, but we have met them in cup competitions recently,” added Jones. “To go to the Hawthorns to test ourselves against an ex Premier League side is a big draw for us. It’s one everyone will be looking forward to.”
And with six weeks now having passed since the Hatters’ final game of the promotion-winning season, Jones says he is looking forward to the return for pre-season training on Wednesday week with that first confirmed fixture in the diary.
“I think we’ll all be ready to go back to work, we’ll all be rested,” he said. “I know myself that I’m well rested and now really itching to get back. I’m looking forward to getting the squad all in place, getting back for pre-season and working towards that first spell of the season, which we now know will include a game against such attractive opposition at a top stadium.”