Luton Town picked up a battling point at Elland Road last night, holding Leeds United to a 1-1 draw under the West Yorkshire lights.
Harry Cornick stepped off the bench to fire Luton into an impressive 50th minute lead and whilst Stuart Dallas responded for the promotion-chasing Whites shortly after, Nathan Jones’ side held firm and picked up a decent point as they fight for their lives in the Championship.
It was backs against the wall stuff for a lot of the final half-hour, but Jones’ side showed real determination to hold onto their point after a gutsy opening 50 minutes, where they weren’t afraid to go blow-for-blow with Leeds, giving them a foothold in the game.
Here we begin to take a look at what we saw from Jones’ side on Tuesday evening…
A bonus point
Games are coming thick and fast, but there is no denying that Jones shuffled his pack in a way that suggested this was a free-hit. James Collins and Harry Cornick were left on the bench, with Danny Hylton earning a first start in over a year; that pair perhaps saved for a day when three points looked more likely.
As it turned out, the fresh legs in Luton’s side impressed and their energy was evident early on as they frustrated the life out of Leeds.
Cornick stepped off the bench at half-time and immediately injected some quality into Luton’s play in the final third, with the 25-year-old breaking onto Ryan Tunnicliffe’s pass and curling beautifully beyond Illan Meslier.
Leeds responded, but Luton’s battling nature earned them a point, which, pre-match, you’d have expected Jones to bite your hand off for.
His team selection told you that.
Jones had promised his goalkeeper he’d pay for his wedding if he repeated the clean sheet heroics we saw in Swansea, and whilst there was a goal squeezed past him, this was a performance of real quality from the Hatters goalkeeper.
The first-half saw Leeds carve little openings, but Sluga was more than a match for Patrick Bamford’s lifted finish on two minutes and Kalvin Phillips’ cross-cum-shot later in the half.
However, on the back of Cornick’s goal, Leeds unleashed a number of efforts on the 27-year-old’s goal; he denied Tyler Roberts and Jack Harrison at his near post, before getting down well to parry a Phillips free-kick and the resulting rebound.
Dallas eventually found a way past him, but Leeds could not repeat that in the final 25 minutes, despite camping in Luton’s half.
An organised defensive unit, commanded by Sluga, saw to that.
Jones’ infectious energy
Eyebrows were raised as Nathan Jones returned to Luton as boss during the EFL’s postponement, but he’s got a reaction out of this group of players and the Hatters are fighting for their Championship status.
Five points from clashes with Preston, Swansea and Leeds is a fine return and, now, Luton are just two points adrift from safety; a position that seemed a million miles away just three games ago.
Jones provides a real energy in the dugout and the benefit of a behind closed doors fixture gives you a chance to see just how much work is done in the technical area on a matchday.
There aren’t many in the Championship that make Marcelo Bielsa and his coaching staff look calm, but Jones certainly provided an interesting watch for those in attendance.
His side thrived off his energy and passion, earning a crucial point.