Hatters boss Still is far from cross at his side’s Salisbury win
Hatters boss John Still was pleased with the number of balls his side got into the box in Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory over Salisbury City, writes Mark Wood.
Luton laboured for long periods with the introduction of Andre Gray just past the hour key as he immediately won a penalty to spur Town on to victory.
On the performance, Still said: “If we had competed as well Saturday we wouldn’t have got beat.
“I’ve said to the players on numerous occasions since then that you’ve got to compete first and we’ve competed first today.
“It’s funny that we lost Saturday on a deflection so that’s hard.
“And I thought we had probably the best of the opportunities, without having loads, but I thought we put loads of balls in the box, so pleased with that.
“So pleased with the amount of balls we’ve got in the box and we’ve scored loads of goals in pre-season and if we can keep delivering those balls in the box I think we are going to score some goals.
“So overall it was a disciplined, hard-working performance without being a spectacular performance.”
Striker Jon Shaw played through the pain barrier with a suspected hernia problem and Still is sure he and the other strikers will benefit from learning how the wide men deliver.
“I think if you keep doing that, you get to know the people that are crossing and you get to know how they cross and the way they cross,” said Still.
“And that helps you find the right gaps and the right areas to get into. We had some great deliveries in today and with the amount of balls that we got in on another day I think that we could come up with some goals from that particular phase of play.”
Gray was pleased that Luton had been able to bounce back from the weekend’s disappointment at Southport, saying: “I think we’ve just had to try and forget about Saturday.
“It was a frustrating game for us and it’s hard to just try and turn it on. It’s not just a switch, it’s going to take time and it will be like that as it was tonight.
“A bit scrappy at times and it’s going to take a while for us to get into the flow of how we play and the best is yet to come.”
Watching on from the sidelines he had feared it was going to be another occasion where a team would come to Kenilworth Road and frustrate the Hatters.
He said: “I thought it was going to be one of them games. It’s going to happen coming against these kind of teams because it’s their biggest game of the season and especially they’ve just got promoted and everybody’s going to be up for it.
“It’s obviously going to be hard to break down teams like that and it’s going to be frustrating at times, but we’ve just got to grind it out and try and get a win even if it take 94 minutes.
“I think all that matters is getting the win no matter how we’re going to do it.”
Midfielder Solomon Taiwo concurred, saying: “I think we’re always going to come against teams that up their game against us because we are the scalping team at the moment.”
But he admitted that Town had perhaps been lulled into a false sense of security by their pre-season performances.
Taiwo said: “I think we got confidence from the friendlies and what not, but when it comes down to the crunch it’s the league and the three points that we work hard for.
“I think it’s kind of hit us a bit late that the season’s started,” he said. “Now we realise that and now every game, every time that we cross that white line, it’s going to be drive and determination and the will to win that’s going to get us over it.”
Town enjoyed a great pre-season last year too, only to be shocked in the opening half of the first game of the season by Gateshead who surged into a 2-0 lead.
Gray said: “I think the same thing happened last season, I think we were flying, I think we didn’t concede a goal.
“And then the first 20 minutes of the first game we conceded two, so I think no-one can look into pre-season.
“I think there’s going to be teams out there that have lost every game pre-season and will win the first five at the start of the season.
“So I think pre-season is false and I think it’s just a matter of getting fit and trying to get your match sharpness back.
“I think it’s hard in pre-season because there’s only a couple of thousand and it’s hard to get used to things, but it obviously helps us in the last 10 minutes when you need them and we are knocking on the door to score - they give you that extra help.”
A healthy crowd of 6,520 packed into Kenilworth Road for the opening home game and Taiwo felt they helped to spur Luton on despite some supporters airing their frustrations.
However, that never transferred to the pitch, as Taiwo said: “Not today, I think everything was more than positive from what I could hear anyway.
“But obviously I’ve got my runners to concern myself about. When the supporters are behind you it’s an extra man, everyone knows that.
“And when there’s 7,000 people pushing you forward, before you know it that extra yard that you thought you couldn’t run, you’re running it.
“It’s good, definitely when you’re winning and they are behind you, positively! That’s always a good thing, so long may it continue.”
And after Gray had won the penalty, converted by Taiwo, diminutive midfield partner Luke Guttridge popped home to head home the second and seal victory.
Still said: “To be fair Jake Howells was our one that popped up against Arsenal. I think we’re quite clever with our set-pieces and sometimes it’s the unlikely headers of a ball that can get in because the big lads are picking up and if you can create a little bit of space for people like him and Jake Howells as we did the other night then we can get goals from that. I’m pleased with that because it’s training ground.”
Taiwo was pleased for his team-mate, saying: “It’s funny because he’s probably the shortest player on the pitch and he’s got his head on it.
“Listen, it’s not about how tall you are, it’s about the movement you make and he made great movement.
“He made a good connection and the keeper had no chance and it made us comfortable so it’s good stuff.
“He’s got a level of experience. We speak and there’s only so much you can say to him because he knows what we’re doing and I know what we’re doing so it’s only just reiterating things really that we already know.”
With so many players joining the Hatters over the summer Taiwo also believes they already have a great unity and strength-in-depth.
He added: “I think the gaffer’s done well to try and integrate everyone. We had a nice little time away in Portugal and I think that kind of knit us together and everyone got their minutes on the pitch.
“And I think whether there’s injuries, whether there’s loss of form, I think everyone’s willing to come in and do a bit for the team.”