Manager Nathan Jones has called on his players to respond to being knocked off the top of the Sky Bet League Two table by making the most of the “wonderful position” they find themselves in ahead of tomorrow night’s trip to Coventry.
The Hatters head to the Ricoh Arena having surrendered top spot for the first time since a 3-0 victory over Carlisle took them to the summit on November 21st, with second-placed Accrington moving two points clear thanks to a stoppage-time winner at Kenilworth Road on Saturday.
Jones was not disappointed with how his team played against Stanley, when they dominated the majority of the game, saw several efforts cleared off the line or saved by visiting keeper Aaron Chapman, and were denied a blatant penalty for handball in the opening two minutes.
The Welshman’s side have a six point buffer over fourth-place in the hunt for automatic promotion, and he says he saw a good response in training at The Brache this morning.
Jones said: “There was a real focus in training today and we’ve got some big games coming up. We’ve been at the top of the league for the best part of three-and-a-half, four months, and we’ve shown that we have been a good side.
“Accrington are in wonderful form and they’ve taken over that accolade and now it’s about how we react to that. I’ve seen a good reaction today and we go again tomorrow.
“It’s a massive game tomorrow, a massive game on Saturday (away to Newport) and we’ve got a real exciting time to go because we are in a wonderful position, let’s not forget. We are in a wonderful, wonderful position and we have to make sure that we cement that rather than let it dangle.”
Jones likened the manner of the defeat, with the goal coming in the 93rd minute leaving no time for the Town to respond, to the play-off semi-final defeat against Blackpool at Kenilworth Road last season, when an injury-time goal saw the Seasiders through to Wembley.
“I didn’t speak to the players much after the game because we were disappointed, but the good thing about this disappointment is it was comparable to the Blackpool one, but we couldn’t do anything about that one and we had a summer to stew on it,” said the 44-year-old.
“Now we have ten games to do something about it, so I hope that that motivates them. I hope they are hurt by it, because I was, and let’s see how we react.”
Coventry sit one place outside the play-offs, but have the best defensive record in the division. They proved what a dangerous side they are when they came to Kenilworth Road and won 3-0 last October.
Jones believes it’s a good thing to have a game so soon after Saturday’s result as the Town look to move immediately back into pole position with Accrington not in action again until Saturday, when they host Forest Green Rovers.
“I think so at this point, because it’s been sporadic I think since the wonderful performance against Crawley,” said Jones. “We then had ten days without a game and I think it’s hit us in terms of that because we stuttered a little bit, ten days later, against Cheltenham.
“Then the Cambridge one where I have no doubt that if we hadn’t gone down to ten men, we’d have been fine. And if the referee had been slightly more decisive in our favour then I’m sure it’d have been a different outcome on the weekend.
“But we’ve got to make sure now that we react from the last three games because they haven’t been good results, but we can’t linger on them. We’ve got ourselves into a wonderful position so that was the buffer, but we can’t let any more of that buffer go.”