Luton Town 2 Fleetwood Town 0: Verdict
We are approaching the halfway mark of the League One term and for me this defeat showed more reason for fear than cheer this festive season.
We are approaching the halfway mark of the League One term and for me this defeat showed more reason for fear than cheer this festive season.The league is starting to take shape. Forget pretenders or contenders, Town need to find something you cannot buy – an ability to fight back.Aside from the 3-1 defeat to Barnsley, Fleetwood’s other seven defeats have come off the back of conceding first.Every time they have conceded that first goal they have gone on to lose. They are yet to muster a point from such situations.There were hints at Luton that Town could do so.Dean Marney had chances either side of the break, and had either of those been converted Town could perhaps have achieved what boss Joey Barton set out to do – create groans and grumbles among a Luton fanbase yet to witness a home defeat.But it is about the basics and Fleetwood just did not do them in the 11th minute – from the way they handled the injury to left-back James Husband to the way they defended that flank as he limped off.For starters Kyle Dempsey should have been prepared to come on but it took two minutes to get him ready.The signal should have been sent back sooner that Husband would be unable to continue.Instead Fleetwood faced two minutes with 10 men against a side yet to lose at home. It would be easy to point to that as the cause of Town’s derailment but it was not even from an attack down Husband’s flank that Harry Cornick opened the scoring after 11 minutes.The defending should be better.From right-back Ryan Taylor being bypassed on the wing and Dean Marney failing to pick up Andrew Shinnie, Town failed to do the basics at the back.Nobody covered themselves in glory and Dempsey can’t be made the scapegoat.Town needed to want the ball more, stop the crosses and not get in each other’s way.Town had started with a new 3-5-2 formation, Nathan Sheron moving back to join Craig Morgan and Ash Eastham in defence, with Taylor and Husband on the wings.Ross Wallace, on his 500th career appearance, joined Jason Holt and Marney in the middle.Lewie Coyle and Wes Burns missed out through injury as Conor McAleny moved to the bench.It was a bright start by Town with Paddy Madden firing wide and Ched Evans blasting a shot down James Shea’s throat.But that Husband injury swung the momentum back to their hosts.Dempsey was sent on in a right-sided role as Town reverted to 4-4-2. It was a positive change.But Luton looked more potent throughout, with Town’s defence struggling to contain Shinnie, Cornick and Jack Stacey. They kept targeting the flanks and finding the gaps, James Justin firing wide and Stacey forcing Cairns into a good save.But Town regrouped and began to frustrate the home faithful, Taylor firing over after a seven-man move.They had set-pieces and chances, and if there was a time for that first fightback you felt this could be it.But even though Evans and Madden worked tirelessly, it would not fall for them. Evans steaming in on the left only to see his pull-back just miss the runs of Madden and Dempsey summed up Town’s day.Desire, work ethic and ingenuity were all there, just the execution missing.And as soon as Luton sent on striker Danny Hylton Town’s chance of a comeback disappeared. He gave an already battered and bruised defence nightmares, making skipper Craig Morgan look a novice at times.A delightful piece of skill saw Hylton chip over Morgan and claim a penalty for handball by Sheron. Hylton was furious it was not given, and probably rightly, but he saw a Town team on the ropes.He broke through on the left 10 minutes from the end and Morgan diverted his cross past a helpless Cairns. How Lady Luck shines at times on teams that are winning.That saw Barton make another switch, sending on McAleny to play behind the front two as he trialled a new diamond in the middle.Eastham’s ball from deep was flicked on by Evans to Madden, who unusually fired straight at Shea.McAleny, unlucky not to start after showing spark at Guiseley, did provide bright signs in this new role of a way for Town to field all three attackers. With Burns injured, you’d have anticipated a recall for Ash Hunter despite a dip in form. He was as bright as ever when he came on but it was too little, too late.That substitution, though, was cruel on Dempsey. The midfielder has waited patiently for a chance after being left out of the last two matchday squads.Thrown on early for Husband, Dempsey has clearly worked on the attacking aspects of his game and brought the bite we have seen in seasons past.It might have been tactical or technical, but to bring off a sub for the second time this season left a bad taste.Burns was missed but not as much as Coyle. Town need a centre-half in the January sales but this game also showed why they need to secure Coyle’s services.Taylor failed to fill the injured loanee’s boots. You doubt Luton would have scored that all-important first goal with Coyle on the pitch?Town need him and the ability to fightback... sooner rather than later.