Graeme Jones says he is pleased with how his Hatters team have continued to grow in each game so far this season, despite coming out on the wrong side of 2-1 scorelines in the last two matches against two favourites for promotion in Cardiff and West Brom.
The Town boss spent four hours on Saturday night watching the Baggies loss back, then another two on Sunday morning before training – and said he hadn’t changed his mind that apart from the “difficult six-minute period” in which the visitors scored their two goals, his side were “as competitive as West Brom”.
Speaking to the local media at The Brache this afternoon ahead of tomorrow's trip to Sheffield Wednesday, Jones said: “I watched four hours on Saturday and that took me up to their second goal, had another two hours here in the morning, before presenting it to the boys after training yesterday.
“So there’s a lengthy process, but I think when you’re working in back-to-back games, three games in a week, seven games in 21 days – whatever it is – I think that’s where the work is, because you can’t get out on the training pitch as much to put it into practice.
“You’re pinching moments that are important for your next game, but we did that and we didn’t hide anything. We did it in an open and honest manner, which is how I am, which is how this football club is.
“We face it, we understand that it’s a period we’re going through and we use it to get better, we keep growing and we’ve grown every single game. But we’ve got to keep on that line and I expect us to do so.”
Despite coming up against three of the Championship’s big hitters so far, all of whom have been in the Premier League in the last three seasons, Jones is delighted with how his side have approached each game.
“Not once have I talked about budgets and there’s a huge difference and there was a one-goal difference in the game,” said Jones. “I’ve got to praise the players for having the courage for example to play three against two in our own box, a newly-promoted team at home, and the players have done what I’ve asked them to do.
“They’ve done it with total commitment and great courage, and as long as we keep doing that going forward, this style of play will take us a lot further than different styles.”
The Hatters boss also found time to praise striker James Collins and goalkeeper Simon Sluga, with the former having already been named in the provisional Republic of Ireland squad and the latter expected to be called up by Croatia for their upcoming internationals.
On how well Collins has adapted to the new level, including a goal in the opening night 3-3 draw with Middlesbrough, Jones said: “He’s a 100 percenter is James, and at the weekend what people won’t know is that I asked him to do a job off the ball on Romaine Sawyers – that was a bit of the game plan – so it took away a little bit from his natural game, and his attacking threat.
"But the adaptability of the player and the willingness of the player is what we asked for and he’s been fantastic so far.”
On how Sluga has settled, the manager added: “If you can imagine us now going to Croatia and learning a different language, and a different style of play, living in a hotel – all those challenges, all those variables – I think he’s coped with it extremely well and he’s given us a good level.
“I think that he has the equipment to be an outstanding goalkeeper, and with the two goalkeeper coaches – Kevin Dearden and Imanol Etxeberria – I think eventually he’ll be a top goalkeeper in the Championship for Luton Town.”