Skipper Sonny Bradley described the 2-0 win at Rotherham as the “perfect day” as he made his first start since being sidelined by a knee injury in early November.
The 31-year-old lined up in the middle of a back three, with Reece Burke and Tom Lockyer either side of him, and led the Hatters to a tenth game unbeaten and 19th clean sheet of the season at the New York Stadium.
“It’s the perfect sort of game, and result, for me to come back into,” said Bradley. “The boys have been fantastic since I’ve been out. It’s been over five months since I started a game in the Championship, but I’ve been ready for a couple of weeks.
“I played 90 minutes in midweek against Brentford B, so that was a good test for me, not just physically but mentally as well, knowing that I can get through 90 minutes. The boys have done excellently today, and a clean sheet is a pretty perfect day for us.”
Carlton Morris and Cauley Woodrow bagged the goals in the 2-0 win, with the latter also returning to the starting line-up after having to watch from the bench with his former Barnsley team-mate Morris and Elijah Adebayo, who missed out with injury, leading the line.
Asked to compare the current situation to last year’s run-in to the play-offs, Bradley said: “I think this time last season we were suffering with injuries and when we went into the play-offs, we were probably a little bit light. That was due to the amount of games that everybody had to play.
“I think we’ve learned from that. We bulked the squad up and you can see today that I’ve come in, and Cauley has come in, and we’ve both put shifts in and are ready to go.
“You’ve got players now who are not playing, that have got experience at this level. We’ve got Henri Lansbury on the bench today, who we all know is a brilliant player, and that’s just credit to our squad.
“We train hard every single day and the manager speaks about it quite a lot, and it’s true – you have to be ready because there games are intense and everything matters at the minute. Every point matters, so you have to be ready step up. Me and Cauley have come in today and I feel like we’ve done that.”
Having watched patiently for weeks, Bradley made two brief sub appearances in last month’s win at Sheffield United and in the Easter Monday victory over Blackpool at Kenilworth Road before playing 90 minutes in the Under-21s’ friendly with Brentford on Tuesday night.
“I’ve had absolutely no reason and I haven’t really had an argument to go in the gaffer’s office and ask him to be playing,” said the skipper, when asked about the form of Gabe Osho, Lockyer and Amari’i Bell in the centre-half positions in recent weeks.
“I’ve enjoyed watching them. The discipline and the work every day, and the performances that you see on a Saturday and a Tuesday, have been excellent, and full credit to them. But everybody is going to be needed.
“Those boys have played a lot of football this season and it’s natural for us to pick up injuries and knocks. I think the manager can protect players as well.
“Last season players had to play, because we didn’t have much more. Whereas now, even if it’s a slight knock, other players can step in and we can use the squad.
“It’s been brilliant watching, but I can assure you, I’ve been itching to get back out there and we spoke about Tuesday night against Brentford B.
“The manager asked me if I wanted to play, and I said ‘Of course I do, I need to play minutes, I need to be ready’ and I’ve come away from that feeling mentally and physically ready. I’ve been asked to step in today and we’ve got a win and a clean sheet, so I’m delighted.”