Strength in Depth
This article featured in the official Luton Town matchday programme for the game against Blackburn Rovers (29/1/22), in the 'Dylan's Diary' column.
Tuesday night’s win over Bristol City showed the tremendous strength in depth that the Hatters have within their ranks.
In an intense run of fixtures where Luton play 9 games in less than a month, rotating team selection to keep players fresh whilst continuing to pick up points will be crucially important in the Hatters mounting a late charge towards the play-offs.
Nathan Jones brought back the likes of Tom Lockyer, Glen Rea, Gabe Osho and Luke Berry into the starting lineup after Saturday’s loss to Sheffield United, four players who have hardly featured in the new year but who all epitomise the importance of players being ready to step in and perform.
The inexperienced Osho had the unenviable task of slotting into the centre of the Hatter’s back three in the place of skipper Sonny Bradley and, despite some difficult moments, showed himself to be a very able option should the Hatters need to continue to turn to him in the absence of key players.
Glen Rea came in for his first league start since Luton’s 2-1 defeat to Cardiff City in late November. Town’s long-serving midfielder’s performance will undoubtedly go under the radar – whilst being guilty of giving away possession too easily at times, Rea was crucially important in protecting what was a makeshift back three and compensating for the loss of the aerial dominance of Reece Burke and Sonny Bradley, breaking up the play and deflecting pressure away from the Hatter’s back line. Like any Glen Rea performance it wasn’t particularly easy on the eye, but most importantly it got the job done.
Lockyer scored his first goal for the club on his return and Berry grafted and harried in typical Berry fashion for 60 minutes before being replaced by Alan Campbell. All eyes will be on the former Cambridge man to discover whether he can rediscover the ‘sixth sense’ for space in and around the box that has so far earnt him 5 goals, well and truly shutting down any doubts about his ability to compete in the Championship.
Whilst the performance was flawed and the Hatters rode their luck at points, digging in and finding a way to win is a trait that every team in the Championship needs to be successful.
Bringing in four players who had barely featured in recent months and making an additional two changes will always lead to an element of disjointedness. However, the benefits of those players having minutes under their belts as the games continue to come thick and fast will be felt further down the line. Nathan Jones can now continue to rotate his side, knowing that his squad is match ready, enabling Luton to continue to be the front-footed, high-pressing, and aggressive side that they have set themselves out to be.