Returning to league action tomorrow night (Tuesday) at play-off hopefuls Macclesfield is something of a ‘fresh start’ for Luton boss Paul Buckle, writes Mark Wood.
With Luton now out of all cup competitions, after good runs in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy, they can now firmly concentrate on the league.
Virtually all of Town’s rivals have prospered due to Town’s inaction, with the Hatters now 14 points off top sport and nine behind the play-offs - although they do have games in hand.
And Buckle is looking forward to getting back into league action, saying: “We said to the players this morning all the cups are out of the way now.
“To get to the middle of February and just be ducking out of the FA Cup, it’s a brilliant achievement by the players but gone now.
“It’s a fresh start and we’ve been in this morning and the players have looked bright and we look forward to the league tomorrow night.
Despite Saturday’w disappointing defeat the mood in the camp remains good and Buckle believes victory over the Silkmen would be the ideal tonic.
“I think on Saturday we played OK, quite well and created a lot of chances,” he said. “It was just disappointing because of the way we’d been, to keep two clean sheets against two really good sides.
“To do what we done was disappointing. We’re only human and that hurts, it takes a certain amount of time to get it out of the system, it’s very difficult. But ultimately there’s no better place than the training field for that. They’ve been in good spirits this afternoon.
“And tomorrow night they know how important it is, the players know how important tomorrow night’s game is, I do and they know now ultimately we are on big, major catch-up.
“We are on catch-up in the league both in games and in points and we’ve got to marry the two together and try and get on a run, because we are more than capable of going on a run.”
Town’s busy fixture list sees them play Tuesday/Saturday until the end of the season and Buckle admitted it had been difficult to prepare for the Millwall challenge at the weekend.
He said: “I think the good thing for Millwall was that they did get the opportunity to come and watch us as well.
“I didn’t have an opportunity to go and watch them. That’s not an excuse, it’s just with our fixtures that we’ve had, two or three days preparation looking back on it was a big ask.”
With the Silkmen also hopeful of claiming a play-off place, victory at Moss Rose would be no mean feat.
Motivated Macclesfield also number former Hatters John Paul Kissock, Matthew Barnes-Homer and Yaser Kasim in their ranks, while Arnaud Mendy would figure against his former club for the first time since signing for the Hatters if named.
Buckle continued: “I think the biggest thing for us is to concentrate on our game now. It’s a fresh start. It’s been a strange, strange season, it’s been a crazy league. We’ve seen a number of teams occupy the top spot and what we’ve got to do now, we’ve got a lot of games in hand, we’ve got to really come strong now and that starts tomorrow night.
“It’s a really tough league full of ex-League clubs so you are expecting it to be difficult and they all done well Saturday, but we’ve got an opportunity tomorrow night now and a big game at Macclesfield.
“To keep a clean sheet is the biggest thing on the agenda tomorrow night. I think that’s the one things that’s let us down away from home.
“Earlier in the season we were very solid which gave us a good platform. I think of late, the last two away games conceding a goal the way we did was disappointing.
“So I think we need to get back to clean sheets.”
With no more cup games he’s also hoping consistency will help, saying: “With the cup and the team having to change on a regular basis this gives us a chance now with 18 games to go to try and get some continuity within the team.
“The easiest thing for a manager is when a team doesn’t have to change. If the team can stay the same and it makes life a lot easier.
“It is the way you get success if the team doesn’t change. But ultimately for the team not to change we’ve got to keep clean sheets now and we’ve got to get some wins on the board, especially away from home.”
And if Luton can get their defence sorted, Buckle has no worries about doing the business at the other end, as he continued: “I don’t think scoring goals has been a problem for us this season as a rule. I think if you’d said to me at the start of the season over the halfway point we’d have the goals that we’ve got I’d be happy, because it’s a good number of goals we’ve scored.
“It’s always nice if you can have a midfielder banging in a few goals, but ultimately all of our strikers are on double figures.
“The problem has been keeping goals out and that’s the one thing we’ve got to address as a group.”
With Luton’s promotion rivals seemingly taking advantage of their inactivity at every turn, Buckle know they have a lot to do, but believes it is only right to judge when parity in games has been restored.
He added: “We’d rather have the points on the board than the games in hand, of course we would.
“But it’s not been like that this season. I can’t do nothing about all the games in hand.
“Of course the teams have won them games in hand, which means they’re ahead of us.
“The league’s not going to show a true picture is it until we’ve played even games, so it would be unfair on the players to judge them at this moment in time in terms of the league table because everyone has played more games than us.
“And some of them have played a lot more home games than we have as well. We’ve just got to be positive. Win tomorrow night and the picture changes entirely.”