This article featured in the official Luton Town matchday programme for the game against Barnsley (9/2/22), in the 'Dylan's Diary' column.
Four wins, one draw, one defeat. That’s the form that has propelled the Hatters within 3 points of the Championship play-offs after last week’s 1-0 victory at the Liberty Stadium, a night that ended with manager Nathan Jones leaping into the away end and showing just how much every three points means to him and the club.
It marked the end of a month that began with Kal Naismith’s late winner against Bournemouth, with the Hatters maintaining the momentum created by that moment of euphoria, and ended with Harry Cornick’s first time finish to give the Hatters just rewards for an intelligent and hard-working performance against their possession heavy counterparts.
That win on Luton’s return to Championship action after over a month can certainly be viewed as a catalyst for their propulsion up the table in recent weeks. Catalysts are difficult to quantify, but looking back at previous Town campaigns, each season has a moment where the Luton juggernaut truly takes off after a moment much like Naismith’s late winner.
Cast your minds back to the League Two promotion winning campaign of the 2017/18 season. The Hatters had taken just eleven points from their opening seven league games and sat in ninth place – by no means a poor start but one of inconsistency – before 90th and 98th minute goals from Scott Cuthbert and James Collins turned the tide on Wycombe Wanderers and a potential third defeat in eight. The Hatters went on to win five of their next six games and climb to the League Two Summit, eventually securing promotion to League One.
Similarly, as the Hatters battled relegation from the Championship in early 2020, a late 3-2 victory over Derby County sparked a run of four wins in seven games, a remarkable turnaround given the Hatters had only won six of their previous twenty-eight games. That run would prove pivotal in the Town securing survival on the final day of the season after the return of manager Nathan Jones.
So, could Naismith’s late winner prove to be the catalyst for Luton’s season heading towards the lofty aspirations that Hatters fans have dreamed of for years? As Nathan Jones clambered over the barriers to the away end last Tuesday, geeing up his players and thumping his chest with the characteristic passion that Town fans have become so endeared to, perhaps he thought so.
Catalysts don’t define seasons. What defines a season is the way a team performs across 46 games, and there’s no doubting that this Luton team was teetering on the edge of showing what they’re truly capable of before the turn of the year. But what Naismith’s goal has potentially done is light the match that blows the barrel, injecting the club with the energy and confidence that something truly special is possible this season. Only time will tell whether that has been the case.