This article featured in the official Luton Town FC matchday programme for the game against Blackpool (23/4/22), in the 'Dylan's Diary' column.
This really could happen, couldn’t it? Two games in four days off the back of three games without a win. A catalogue of key players already in the treatment room with three more disappearing into Luton’s very own “Bermuda Triangle” during the latter of the two games. The first game against a team who were unbeaten in nine and had won five games on the spin. Six huge points, done so in a manner that epitomised what this Luton Town team is all about.
After a disappointing defeat on the road to Huddersfield Town, the form team in the Championship came to Kenilworth Road in the shape of Nottingham Forest, with Luton producing an outstanding ninety minutes of football to claim a crucial three points thanks to Kal Naismith’s penalty.
Much of the response to that game on social media and in the press centred around Luton’s gritty, aggressive approach and how their success is rooted in hard work and desire. This is of course true, but Luton’s tactical intelligence and understanding is just as important. Individuals running a lot is pointless without it being done whilst working within a wider framework and collective understanding. It’s about effective running, which is what the Hatters are so good at.
The Town deployed Amari’i Bell on the left of the back three to matchup with the dangerous Brennan Johnson, whilst Fred Onyedinma was critical in foiling the threat of wing-back Djed Spence from left wing-back. Singling out the latter of those two, Onyedinma’s understanding of when to step high onto Spence’s first touch to deny him space was critical in the Hatters keeping a clean sheet against a team that had scored fifteen goals in their previous five games.
Amari'i Bell slotted in at left centre-back and stifled the dangerous Brennan Johnson. Photo: Gareth Owen/LTFC
The same applies to the almost completely new midfield trio of Rob Snodgrass, Allan Campbell and Kal Naismith, going man-to-man and denying space to Forest’s technically gifted central midfielders when Luton’s frontmen forced the ball centrally.
When you mix the psychological and physical characteristics that are so often affiliated with this team with the tactical understanding and cohesion that it embodies, what you get is a team that is as hard to beat as anyone in the league.
After a game that would’ve both physically and psychologically stretched the players, recovering and climbing the second mountain just three day later is arguably an even bigger challenge than conquering the first, especially with the number of injuries to key players. But once again, this squad found a way to win and put the Hatters within touching distance of the Championship play-offs.
With three games of the season remaining, three points should be enough to seal the chance to compete for a place in football’s promised land. Whilst this group’s psychological resilience, drive and work ethic has been central to what they’ve achieved this season, their talent and tactical understanding has been just as important in pushing this club to where it is – and that should not be overlooked.