The Hatters continued their fine form on Easter Monday to make it 9 games unbeaten as they came from behind to beat relegation strugglers Blackpool. After a poor first half, Luton turned it up a gear and played out a comfortable victory, with Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu scoring a brace and Morris scoring his 17th goal of the season. The playoffs are now almost a certainty for Luton, who are playing even better than last season and are fortunate to be injury free for the run in.
The gaffer, Rob Edwards| Photo copyright of Luton Town/Gareth Owen
A poor start
The Hatters were unusually slow out of the blocks, often being too casual in possession, and giving away needless turnovers. Morris had a couple of half chances, but Luton were not threatening enough, and it was Blackpool who got the first goal from a well worked set piece as right-back Lyons headed the ball in at the 29th minute. The visitors also had some dangerous counter attacks, but their lack of quality showed as they were unable to play a good enough final ball to create many chances.
Perhaps this poor performance was due to tired legs, Reece Burke for Gabe Osho was the only change to a team that had been kept the same for the previous 2 games, but Blackpool also had to play the same amount so it is not really a valid excuse. Thankfully, the Hatters scored their first clear cut chance, with Morris heading the ball back from a set piece to Pelly, who did very well to find the bottom right corner. This goal really rescued a nervy first half for Luton, and laid the foundations for a Luton fightback, to make it 7 points won from losing positions this season.
Great resilience and mentality
Rob Edwards must have given his side a good grilling at half time, as Luton were much improved, and throughout the second half only one team looked like winning. By full time Luton dominated the stats, with 2.70 xG compared to 0.97 xG for Blackpool, according to infogol. Luton also had 57% possession and 21 shots, which emphasises the dominance the Hatters showed in the second half.
The team also did well to score 3, the first time we have done so since the QPR win back in December. It is refreshing to see Luton scoring more than one goal in recent games, as going 2 goals ahead is a lot more relaxing to watch than hanging onto a 1-0 lead for the last half an hour each game!
Nakamba and Pelly superb again
Pelly was in fine goalscoring form against the Tangerines, scoring 2 well taken goals. He has been flawless ever since recovering from that injury he suffered before the international break where we all thought his season was over Since then he has been pivotal in the Luton midfield with his dribbling, intercepting passes, and progressing the ball into dangerous areas. Arguably, Pelly is playing some of the best football of his Luton career, much has been made online about him potentially being the only player to make it from Conference level to Premier League level with the same club. Let's hope that comes true.
This was touched upon in the Watford post match observations but Nakamba has been crucial in Luton's fine form. It was another fine performance from the Zimbabwean, he is surely one of the best Luton players to have put on the shirt in the last 15 years, and certainly the finest loan signing we have made since Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall or even Rory Allen. Marvelous reads the game so well, he is always in the right position to intercept, and his Premier League quality dribbling and passing is noticeable whenever he is on the ball. He also allows the other two midfielders to get forward as well, it is no coincidence that Pelly and Campbell have both scored in the last few games, as they know they have the defensive security of Nakamba behind them.
As the season nears its end, Luton find themselves 9 points clear of those chasing the playoffs, with only 5 games to go. The fixtures left for Luton are mixed, with the Town having to play Rotherham and Reading, who are both battling relegation, mid table Hull, and fellow playoff hopefuls, Middlesbrough and Blackburn. Two wins in those games would assure us of a playoff place, which means Luton should finish the season in a relaxed position, we need to continue our momentum into the playoffs, but it is unlikely we catch 2nd place Sheffield United due to them being 5 points clear, while it is also unlikely we fall out of the playoffs, being 9 points clear of 7th placed Preston.
One interesting stat that should be confirmed next game is that Luton are set to finish above Watford in the standings for the first time since 1997, which is a significant testament to the progress Luton have made over the last 5 years, and the decline of Watford during that time. Long may this continue.
By Samuel Roy