Hatters look to crush Imps as they close on top spot

HATTERS boss Gary Brabin is finally hoping to take several steps ahead rather than one forward and two back when Lincoln City come to Kenilworth Road tomorrow, writes Mark Wood.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 16th September 2011, 1:55 pm

Ed Asafu-Adjaye is suspended following his sending off in Luton’s 2-0 win at AFC Telford United on Tuesday night, but on-loan Hayes & Yeading midfielder Jamie Hand is available again after serving his one-match suspension in midweek for having picked up five bookings already this season.

Town have been deadlocked in their battle against injuries and availability, but Brabin hopes there is finally light on the horizon, starting with the visit of the Imps tomorrow.

He said: “We seem to be welcoming one back but losing two.

“We are delighted with the group of players we’ve got at them moment and if we can build on that I would be delighted.”

And while Brabin would like to have more points of the board, he thinks his side have performed well considering the number of injuries they’ve had.

He continued: “You always want more and we probably deserve more. We don’t want to be making excuses about the injury front.

“You hear other teams talking about how unlucky with injuries they are. I don’t think we’ve gone into a game with less than seven out.

“The captain George Pilkington hasn’t trained and is really important to us. We’ve done really well in terms of (coping with) that.

“We’ve had to bring new faces in and other new faces in. They are settling well and it bodes well.”

The injury situation is also easing at Kenilworth Road with Pilkington set for his return to training today.

Brabin said: “George Pilkington should be training today, it’s his first day back, fingers crossed and touch wood, everything goes well.

“We don’t want to rush him into anything. We want to get a good week’s training into him and after the week we will take another look.

“He needs to get through a week with no pain and no ill effects.

“Shane (Blackett) is at this stage now where he is pushing himself to the limit.

“His next step now is being involved in some kind of game, whether it be a behind closed does friendly or a reserve game.

“Freddie Murray’s had the all clear to train and it’s just a matter of stepping it up and being governed by him.”

But Curtis Osano remains a doubt for the encounter, with Brabin saying: “At the moment we don’t know. It’s just one of them where he has stubbed his toe and given him a bit of ligament damage.

“He is in considerable pain but we have ruled out a break.”

Back-to-back victories and clean sheets against Darlington and AFC Telford United have also stood the Hatters in good stead according to Brabin.

“I was delighted with not just the performance but the attitude as well,” he continued.

“I thought they were two tough games. Physically Darlington was very demanding.

“Telford away, certainly the last 20, 25 minutes, the lads defended brilliantly. Two clean sheets, two good wins.”

But he is refusing to read anything into the league table just yet, despite the Hatters now being third and just three point off the top.

“We are not surprised, there’s a lot of competition in this league,” Brabin said. “We are not going to be looking too much at the league. After 10 or 12 games it starts to take shape, Christmas you start having to have a really good look at it and it really starts to matter.

“The lads know what’s expected and are practising doing those things right and picking up points along the way.”

Brabin though is not expecting an easy encounter against Lincoln tomorrow though.

He said: “It’s a club with a lot of expectation. They’ve just come into the league. They are one of the ones picked to be up there at the start of the season but it hasn’t been going great.

“We’ve got to make sure we are right and expect another tough game. We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves.”

Surprisingly struggling near the foot of the table Brabin believes the Imps are suffering like so many former League sides do during their first season in the Conference.

He said: “People outside this league don’t give it as much respect as it deserves. It’s a really competitive league with good players.

“A lot of people think it will be a lot easier getting out of it than what it is.

“A lot of teams don’t find it as easy in their first year.”

Brabin again had words of praise for Keith Keane who has excelled in recent games, playing right-back, centre-half and in central midfield.

The Town boss said: “He has done fantastically for us. I think this is the most consistent Keith Keane has been with that level of performance.”

He was also pleased with the way Morgan-Smith had responded to some recent words of wisdom with his two goals at AFC, and called upon all of Luton’s players to seize their chance when it comes.

Brabin added: “Amari when he first came to the club he really ignited us and looked a fantastic player and then went off the boil.

“He has to do the right things day in, day out, and then he is a really effective player. If he falls below that it won’t be accepted.

“There’s one or two players we don’t want taking their foot of the gas. He has responded well with another two goals.

“I don’t want squad players here or subs but people who all want to play. I want them to believe they’ve all got the chance to play.

“When they come in they’ve got to be ready to take their chance.”