Jones left bemused by ‘horrific’ first half

Scott Cuthbert heads clear against Exeter City
Scott Cuthbert heads clear against Exeter City

Hatters boss Nathan Jones brandished his side’s first half display as ‘horrific’ during their 3-1 FA Cup first round win at Exeter yesterday.

Despite taking the lead through Danny Hylton’s 11th minute penalty, Luton were second best in all departments, losing possession on a number of occasions and looking increasingly jittery defensively as City hit back to equalise when Reuben Reid netted moments before half time.

I wasn’t disappointed. I was bemused because that wasn’t us.

Nathan Jones

Speaking afterwards, Jones said: “It was possibly our worst performance in a first half since I’ve been here.

“I thought we were absolutely nowhere near it in energy levels or the way we pressed.

“We showed one bit of quality from Jordan Cook in the first half with his ball and we managed to get a pen from it, but, apart from that, we were horrific.

“I wasn’t disappointed. I was bemused because that wasn’t us. I know I get an energy from my team whenever we play. Sometimes we’re not as fluent and sometimes teams frustrate us in terms of how they play, but that was nowhere near and we were lucky to go in one-all.”

City’s first goal when it came saw the impressive 16-year-old Ethan Ampadu intercept Olly Lee’s pass and unchallenged, make his way towards the box where his left-footer shot hit the post, only for Reid to tap the rebound home from close range.

On the manner in which Town conceded, Jones continued: “That was a disappointment, but if I was to list all of my disappointments from the first half we’d be here for a long time.

“We lost every header, every time they broke in the box, while, I wouldn’t say they looked like scoring, they got a head on it.

“We didn’t press, we didn’t have any energy, Glen Rea is the only one that put a tackle in in the first half.

“Danny Hylton won all his headers, but apart from those two everyone came off at half time in disappointing fashion.”

However, after a dressing down from Jones at the interval, Hatters responded with a far more committed display in the second period, wresting control back from the hosts.

Enjoying a greater territory, with the likes of Alex Gilliead coming into the game far more, it was Rea who put Town 2-1 in front, with Hylton adding another late penalty, leaving Jones satisfied with their recovery.

He continued: “In the second half we were a lot better, we were the Luton that I know. We stepped it up and I thought we thoroughly deserved it in the second half.

“We were five or six yards higher up the pitch, we stepped on to them, we pressed them when they got it, and it could have been more.

“Cameron (McGeehan) had a great chance, Danny Hylton has cut inside, so has Alex Gilliead, so we’ve had opportunities. We deserved to win in the second half, but it was a contrast in halves.

“All that I asked for was an energy. They gave it to me in the second half and they gave it to me when we were down to 10 men and I asked to be in the hat for the next round, so we’ve done it.”