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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Luton diamond fails to sparkle at Barnet

Mark Langdon turns the spotlight on the Hatters

Luton boss Nathan Jones
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Sky Bet League Two
Barnet 1  Luton 0
J Taylor 90

Luton were promoted to Sky Bet League Two favouritism after scoring eight against Yeovil in their opening match and remain joint-market leaders despite losing to a last-gasp Jack Taylor goal at Barnet.

It was the one moment of quality in a dire contest.

There were legitimate excuses for the poor standard - three first-half injuries contributed to a match which lacked rhythm and both managers complained about the state of the "sticky" pitch - but have Luton learned their lessons from last season's near-miss?

The jury is still out as the Hatters failed to take the initiative in front of a large travelling support who made up more than half of the 3,555 in attendance at the Hive.

Luton, fourth last term, drew 17 matches in 2016-17 with ten of those stalemates coming on their travels (joint-most in League Two) and the Hatters seemed content with a point before Taylor's magic.

That's not good enough for a side with automatic promotion ambitions and boss Nathan Jones was annoyed with his side afterwards, telling Luton's official website: "We didn't pass the ball well enough, we didn't cause them enough problems. We didn't win our headers, we didn't win the second balls."

The key part of that assessment was Luton not passing the ball well enough as their midfield diamond failed to sparkle and Town hit far too many long balls up to their feared front two of Isaac Vassell and James Collins, which played into rugged Barnet's hands.

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, a class act on the left of a narrow midfield, was the one Luton player who looked as if he may unlock the home defence but the problems were at the base and tip of the diamond with Alan McCormack and Andrew Shinnie way below par.

McCormack gave away possession in the lead up to the goal and spent more time telling the referee what to do rather than giving Luton a platform to dominate, while Shinnie had a shocker.

Shinnie sizzled behind the front two last week with four assists against Yeovil but he was hustled by Barnet's hard-working midfield and will have to get used to a similar level of treatment as that position is so important in supplying Luton's front men.

Another disappointing aspect was Jones failing to change the flow of the game when it was clear Luton were being crowded out centrally. It was calling for something different - maybe a bit of width from recent signing Harry Cornick  - but the pattern stayed the same.

Luton were solid enough at the back and have real quality in the final third but on this occasion Collins and Vassell were starved of service.

Their only two chances came from set-pieces with Dan Potts seeing an early header tipped on to the bar, while Olly Lee came close to rescuing a point at the death with Barnet keeper Jamie Stephens making smart saves on both occasions.

Luton didn't deserve to lose and were rarely troubled until sub Taylor curled home from distance, but they didn't do enough to win and that's a familiar problem they need to solve.

Barnet 5-2-1-2: Stephens; H Taylor (J Taylor 36), Santos, Nelson, Tutonda, Johnson (Clough 6); Weston (Fonguck 71), Vilhere; Campbell-Ryce; Coulthirst, Akpa Akpro.

Luton 4-3-1-2: Stech; Stacey, Cuthbert (Rea 20), Sheehan, Potts; O Lee, McCormack, Mpanzu; Shinnie (Cook 71); Vassell (E Lee 89), Collins.  

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Another disappointing aspect was Jones failing to change the flow of the game when it was clear Luton were being crowded out centrally
E.W. Terms
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