You Don’t Mess Around With the Mighty Hatters – Notes for Luton
Monday, 7th Aug 2017 11:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup tie at Kenilworth Road by delving into their forums.
“Behold the coming of the Lord! Arise Nathan Jones, destroyer of League Two”, “If you aren’t here, this is very special, brethren, very special”, “This is impressive stuff”, “This win will give the team an enormous lift and will make the rest of the league sit up and take notice”, “Let the good times roll.”
“Today will stay long in the memory.” Hatters will not forget Saturday’s events in a hurry. Their 8-2 evisceration of Yeovil set their League Two campaign off to a flying start and banished the memory of last season, when a fourth-place finish was followed by a play-off semi-final defeat to Blackpool.
“The Yeovil game was one of the best I have seen for commitment, skill and working together for a long time”, “It was a superb performance. The scoreline didn’t flatter us and could quite easily have been in double figures. Yeovil were a poor side but to score eight against anyone is an achievement.”
“Wow, just wow. Hand us the trophy now”, “I can’t see three better teams in the league this year.”
“We won’t be invincible or keep all of our best players fit, but we have a good squad with a lot of potential”, “I’m quietly optimistic but we know it is a long season and many things may happen”, “I hate all this talk that we are too good for League Two. We have to let the football do the talking.”
“This is Nathan Jones’s squad and it has taken him three windows to build. The continuity of having a good manager together with his squad building gives us a lot of positives over rivals”, “He has put a good team together”, “We look much better than last year and have made some quality signings.”
“The signings Jones has made are of the utmost quality.” The 44-year-old former Brighton and Yeovil defender was assistant manager to Oscar Garcia in his time in charge of the Seagulls. He took over as manager at Luton in January 2016 and has set about fundamentally rebuilding the squad since arriving.
“Don’t forget that last season was Jones’s first full one as a manager.” Hatters respect the work he has done in the transfer market and his moulding of the team to a clear playing style. “An intense manager full of original ideas. These have yet to fully take shape but he could fly this season.”
Reshaping the Squad After the Play-Off Defeat
“We still need a centre-half to complete the side”, “Jones said that a tall commanding centre-half to go alongside Scott Cuthbert would be his choice.” Jones has strengthened his squad with a blend of quality and experience and there is wide agreement that a centre-half could complete the jigsaw.
Two keepers have been signed, James Shea from Wimbledon and former Town trialist Marek Stech from Sparta Prague. Young full-back Jack Stacey has arrived from Reading along with two capable midfielders in Alan McCormack (from Brentford) and Andrew Shinnie (on loan from Birmingham).
“The back four is our weak link and could stop us winning the league, but we will go up with 100 goals.” The two strikers to join the Hatters this summer are Elliott Lee from Barnsley, whose brother Olly is also a Luton midfielder, and James Collins who scored 20 goals last season at Crawley.
Jones has been happy to see four senior players depart. Stephen O’Donnell has joined Kilmarnock. Midfielders Jake Grey and Cameron McGeehan are now respectively at Yeovil and Barnsley, while former Town youth player and striker Jack Marriott moved away to Peterborough this summer.
The Diamond Formation is Forever
“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, “Nathan Jones has improved the squad and the players he has brought in should be more used to the playing system”, “He loves the diamond formation. It drove most of us mad last season but it has looked good in pre-season and it is the manager’s best friend.”
“Two wide players in a Jones team will never happen.” The starting XI (above) for the Yeovil game was set out in Jones’s favoured diamond formation. It was a full-strength line-up apart from two likely first-choice players, right-back James Justin and striker Danny Hylton, who were out injured.
Hatters’ biggest concern is their defensive vulnerability. “If we can sort out being ‘caught with a hoofball behind the defence’ issue, a top-three is a distinct possibility”, “We were caught out at the back by a long ball with Scunthorpe’s forward unmarked [in a pre-season friendly], just like last season.”
“It’s a pity we didn’t strengthen at centre-back”, “The lack of height in central defence is a factor we need to consider but overall the squad looks pretty good. A bit of height going forward at dead balls would also be an obvious bonus”, “The lack of pace in the middle of the defence worries me.”
“The diamond works well when you have intelligent players, which all our midfielders are”, “I feel a lot of the time when we play the diamond we look terribly narrow and we are stretched if the opposition hug the touchline. This resulted in some fairly average teams beating us last season.”
“Goals are what it’s all about. “The addition of McCormack and Shinnie has transformed the balance of midfield, but it’s the calibre of the frontmen which has set Hatters’ pulses racing. “What a strike force we have”, “We may have to adopt a more Keegan-esque ‘score more than we concede’ approach.”
Luton 8 – 2 Yeovil
“A superb day all around the pitch”, “A fantastic example of quick-passing attacking football with so many players with pace”, “The whole team were superb and for the first time we looked confident on the ball”, “It could have been 15, we were completely excellent from the start to the finish.”
“New season and the same old rubbish. We miss two gilt-edged changes and then concede”, “Well you look even more stupid now!” There were groans when the Glovers’ Otis Khan curled a freekick in for the visitors on seven minutes but this only served to ignite a blistering response from Luton.
“What a cracker.” Olly Lee drew Luton level on 12 minutes and James Collins put them ahead eight minutes later after being put through by Andrew Shinnie. Alan McCormack made it 3-1 with a long-range strike on 24 before a quick-fire double from Isaac Vassell on 36 and 38 left the Glovers reeling.
Luton keeper Stech then saved a spot-kick from Otis Khan before the interval to rub salt into Yeovil’s wounds. After the break, Collins added his second on 58 before completing a league-debut hat-trick with a low 25-yard strike eight minutes later to now put the rampant hosts 7-1 in front.
Francois Zoko pulled one back for the visitors a minute later but there was one final goal for the Hatters when Elliott Lee connected with brother Olly’s freekick deep into stoppage time. “Today’s performance reminded me of the old days when we had Ricky Hill, David Moss and Brian Stein.”
“The first half reminded me of why I love football. I don’t care how weak Yeovil were”, “The shape and balance of the team today were great with McCormack and Shinnie two top-class players”, “Realistically, not many teams will play a high line against us after today. Yeovil just didn’t learn.”
“That game had the lot, with Yeovil scoring first, five goals in 27 minutes, Yeovil missing a penalty, Lee hitting the post and us rounding it off in the last minute. Roy of the Rovers couldn’t write a better script”, “Bloody hell, I can just imagine the carnage in the home end. Superb stuff Luton.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“What a joy to see a keeper with a pair of hands you can actually trust”, “Marek Stech is a hero. He did well against Yeovil, a couple of brilliant saves plus the penalty. He commanded his area well too”, “He got in on the act against Yeovil, making a great penalty save and another at point-blank range.”
“Stech looked shaky on the first few things he had to do but he has grown in confidence with more games.” The 27-year-old former Glover “made a couple of gaffes and poor clearances in pre-season and flapped at crosses”, “His judgement on leaving the line and his kicking need a touch of polish.”
“James Shea looks a good solid keeper.” The 26-year-old has impressed Hatters and may start against us. “very calm and composed, exactly the type we need”, “A good signing, calming on the defence”, “He is nothing out of this world but has make some decent saves and looks competent.”
“Jack Stacey is class. How about him and James Justin owning the right side when Justin is fit?” The 21-year-old former Reading youth player was on loan at Carlisle last season. Hatters have liked his industry and pace. “He has lots of energy and he looks a decent signing”, “He looks cool on the ball.”
“Daniel Potts was one of our best players in the play-offs.” Fans are similarly confident in 23-year-old the left-back who arrived in 2015 from West Ham. “A decent solid full-back, he won everything in the air he went for against Yeovil.”
“Glen Rea has good distribution, keeps possession well and makes crucial blocks.” The 22-year-old ex-Brighton man replaced Alan McCormack from the bench at the base of the diamond on Saturday. “Rea is such a conundrum. Jones uses him in the holding role, but he prefers to be at centre-half.”
“Jack Mullins waits for the ball to bounce and misjudges it too often. He has a bad first touch and lacks bottle.” The 31-year-old former Oxford centre-back “is terrible in the air. He just seems weak to me. I don’t have much confidence in him”, “Hopefully he will improve if he remains injury free.”
“Alan Sheehan looks calm and in control.” The 30-year-old former Bantam “is ever willing to bring the ball away constructively with that cultured left clog as he moves out of defence and upfield”. “He is not a man to be beaten”, “Always brave and that left foot always tries to get a move started.”
“It's getting a touch monotonous writing the same words but Scott Cuthbert is just so solid.” The 30-year-old former Orient centre-half “leads by example”, “He is a good, determined player who usually looks very comfortable and in control all match”, “He could become more of a set-piece goal threat.”
“Luke Gambin a bit headless to me and loses the ball too often.” The 24-year-old former Barnet man “carries the ball and can link midfield and attack to create chances for others”, “A good attitude and he will do better against weaker opposition, but lacks the football brain to make the right decision.”
“Nathan Jones rates Olly Lee as the best footballer in the squad.” The 26-year-old ex-Birmingham man “is a Hoddle-esque player”, “He makes superb defence-splitting passes that are so perfectly weighted to create chances for the strikers. He has his critics but he can certainly make a pass.”
“Lee should be a different class of player for us if he is allowed to express his creative side. He is a very talented footballer, so using him as an enforcer last season made no sense”, “He needs to play further forward so that his very good passing ability isn’t just conducted in our half of the pitch.”
“Pelly Mpanzu is staying”, “Wonderful. I know he has not quite produced all we hoped for but this is a good move.” The 23-year-old ex-West Ham youth player “could be some player if we can get the best out of him”, “The odd fan will whinge about his work rate or him not being the finished article.”
“Pelly was at his best when Alan McCormack was on the pitch but we saw the old Pelly when Alan was subbed off”, “Pelly can be a bit of a luxury player. If he starts the other midfielders have to be consistent, solid and not accident prone”, “He looks strong, skilful and, importantly, interested.”
“Having McCormack at the base of the diamond is a big plus, and that has helped free Olly Lee to play his more creative game”, “He is confident and strong”, “With the addition of an experienced defensive midfielder, we will have more positional cover for our opponents’ attacking forays.”
“He was absolute class in that first half against Yeovil.” The 33-year-old former Bee “looks a shrewd player, commanding and impressive ahead of the defence. He puts in robust tackles but tired visibly and was substituted”, “He is certainly the kind of player we have been missing for a long time.”
“McCormack was just outstanding, and hit a great volley from outside the area for our third goal on Saturday”, “I wouldn’t rely too much on his mobility”, “Given his age, he is a player we will have to nurse through the season”, “He has been good in parts but has looked very leggy in second halves.”
“What on earth is Shinnie doing playing in League Two? I hope there are no recall clauses as he looks head and shoulders above everyone in pre-season”, “I have been hugely impressed with him. He’s very comfortable on the ball”, “Shinnie looks really good, a speedier version of Paddy McCourt”,
“The Yeovil win was a Shinniesta fiesta.” The 28-year-old loan signing from Birmingham “has got to be the best midfield player we have had in many years. I hope he can maintain this high level of performance throughout the season and also hope that we can protect him from the hatchet men.”
“Jordan Cook was fantastic for 82 minutes against Scunthorpe and was then brought on for the rest of the game”, “Ouch.” Hatters have been withering in the criticism of the 27-year-old former Walsall man. “He may as well pack his bags and go”, “The bloke is a waste of a wage and a squad number.”
“Cook is average. He wins a lot of freekicks but his overall play is too slow, lacks a cutting edge”, “He goes to ground too easily and takes too much thinking time. Counter-attacks wither at his feet”, “It’s almost like there is an exclusion zone around him, he is running a lot but having no effect on play.”
“Elliott Lee is a clever striker and may generate more goals than he scores.” The 22-year-old summer signing from Barnsley “doesn’t look as clinical as Jack Marriott, but he will probably contribute more from outside the box”, “He is fast and even if he is a bit of a chubster I don’t see that as a problem.”
“Elliott Lee looks a bit heavier than the last time we had him [on loan from West Ham in 2015] but has made an impact and has a fair turn of speed and a good first touch”, “Heavier players are harder to knock off the ball. As long as it has no detrimental effect on his pace it doesn’t bother me.”
“Vassell’s pace is frightening and he’s still not the finished product”, “He’s strong and quick, and he is a better prospect and finisher than Andre Gray was at a similar stage here”, “Jack Marriott lost his place in the side after his emergence last season”, “We need to tie Vassell down on a new deal”,
The 23-year-old ex-Truro City striker added to his growing reputation with a quick-fire brace against the Glovers. “I wonder how many more time we will see Vassell in a Luton shirt”, “He has interested Bristol City and he has come on in leaps and bounds this season”, “He has improved beyond belief.”
“Give James Collins the ball in front of goal and you just know it will hit the back of the net”, “He is going to be sensational.” Hatters are keenly anticipating the pairing of the currently injured Danny Hylton, who scored 27 goals for Luton last season with Collins, who netted 20 times for Crawley.
“James Collins is a classy forward at this level and guarantees goals.” The 26-year-old, who also has played for Shrewsbury, “is a no-nonsense forward who puts himself about. When Hylton is fit, they should link up well together”, “Vassell and Collins were frightening together against Yeovil.”
Hatters’ Views on ITFC and the Game
With the bulk of discussion over the weekend revolving around Saturday’s game, Hatters have had nothing at all to say yet about the game against us. I will update the forum on Tuesday if there is sufficient discussion and link this on my Twitter feed.
Photo: Action Images
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