This article featured in the official Luton Town matchday programme for the game against QPR (13/3/22), in the 'Dylan's Diary' column.
Luton are flying. No team in the Championship has earned more points than the Hatters in 2022 apart from current league leaders Fulham. Thirteen games, nine wins, one draw and three defeats have yielded twenty-eight points, three less than the league leaders and three more than Sheffield United who sit third in the 2022 form table.
Perhaps the most striking statistic is that despite dominating the league thus far in the calendar year, the Town have done so with a positive goal difference of just five. Just two of Luton’s nine wins have come by more than one goal – the 2-0 win at Reading in January and the recent 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at Kenilworth Road.
That marks a stark contrast to the teams around Luton that have started 2022 in a similar vein – Fulham’s attacking talents have brought about several big wins and a goal difference of +27, the Blades +12 and Huddersfield Town +10.
That contrast immediately struck me because it goes to show that the nature of Luton’s surge since the turn of the year is equally unique as it is remarkable. The Hatters rarely do flashy big wins with scintillating football that blows their opponent of the park, and Tuesday night’s win in Coventry showed that in its purest form. A slow start was counteracted by a classic Luton route one goal, with emergency loan goalkeeper Alex Palmer claiming the assist after beating the Sky Blue back three with his clearance and Elijah Adebayo slotting home after cutting inside from the left.
From there, every Hatters fan knows what Luton do best when they take the lead, especially on the road in midweek. Slowing the game down, making positive changes that enable the Hatters to get the ball up the pitch and as the returning Alan Sheehan said post-match, ‘doing the basics properly.’
Why is that? Why are the Hatters going about their promotion charge in a way that puts them under the radar but firmly in the driving seat? It’s because this group isn’t one that has the type of quality that the likes of Fulham and Sheffield United have. There are no Mitrovic’s or Gibbs-White’s in this team that can single handedly blow teams away. That puts the emphasis on the collective to work as one to do the basics well, work harder than anyone else for each other and grind out wins by showing resilience and moments of quality.
Luton aren’t just ‘smashing and grabbing’ their way to the play-offs. They are controlling games in their own way, because having the ball isn’t the only way to control a game – they control it with discipline, aggression, complete understanding of a game plan and the psychological strength that’s required for a team competing on a bottom three budget to bridge the gap with the big spenders of the division.
Long may it continue!
(Featured image: Copyright - Gareth Owen/Luton Town Football Club)