A crestfallen Luton boss Nathan Jones admitted he felt like his heart had been ripped out by Oxford United’s late winner in the Checkatrade Trophy semi-final at Kenilworth Road last night.
The Town chief had seen his side fight back from 2-0 down to make it 2-2 with just seven minutes left, only for Marvin Johnson to fire a stunning strike past Matt Macey and into the top corner to take the visitors to Wembley.
To concede in the manner we did so quickly after, I feel like my heart’s been ripped out, I really do.Nathan Jones
A visibly emotional Jones said: “It’s difficult because I have such disappointment at the minute, I feel like my heart’s been ripped out if I’m honest.
“It was heartbreaking from coming back to 2-2. We had made real positive substitutions so we were having to readjust again and then to concede in the manner we did so quickly after, I feel like my heart’s been ripped out, I really do.
“I’m gutted, I’m absolutely distraught. I’m proud of the group, I’ve got to be because they do give me everything.
“We got back into it which would have made it a rousing night, I’m just gutted we couldn’t see it out.”
The winner when it came saw Luton pay the price for switching off momentarily from a short corner as Johnson advanced to the edge of the box before thumping into the net.
Jones couldn’t hide his annoyance with his side for their defending, especially as it was a ploy he had earmarked prior to the game.
He continued: “Big games are won on big moments and that was a moment that we should have seen the game out, 2-2 and gone to pens, but it’s a bit of naivety that’s cost us at the end.
“It’s a great strike, but when they go two v one, we know they’re going to take short corners as me and the people at the club watch a load of games, so we show them they’re going to do short corners.
“When they go two out, to send two out, so we know that.
“Then we know he’s left footed and cuts inside, which is a danger, so what we do is, we only send one out, we let him cut in on his left foot, so we give them every opportunity to score that goal.
“It’s a wonderful strike, it really is. But there’s so much that could have been prevented before that and that’s the frustrating thing.”
Jones had issues with his side’s defending all evening against their League One opponents too, with United’s first goal coming when a corner wasn’t cleared, something Town struggled with throughout.
He said: “They scored from a set-play and I think they’ve scored two of their goals from set-plays.
“We didn’t handle that all night and that’s symptomatic of games, when we’ve had big games.
“We coach them, but there’s certain things you just do your jobs.
“When you’re marking on the edge of the box for a corner, you have to mark. When the ball comes in, you have a man, you have to dominate your man.
“When they send two out, you send two out because we do it all the time and those little things cost us again in a big, big game.”
Oxford’s second had a huge slice of fortune to it, Johnson’s cross deflecting into the net via the outstretched leg of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, but Jones once again thought it should be been cut out.
He added: “In the build up to it, I can see something in it and I’m screaming because he’s inside, we’re vacating areas and the danger man’s there.
“It’s something we’ve flagged up because it happened to us, a goal here, as we defend the six yard box but the danger’s in front of them.
“So the goals are so avoidable from our point of view as it’s stuff that we do and stuff that we work on.
“It’s just disappointing, so the more that we go on about it I’m just going to go further into the mire if I’m honest.
“I’m just really disappointed, I am proud of them, but I’m disappointed as we could have done so much more.”