Pelly praised as he approaches 100 games for Luton

Hatters midfielder Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu
Hatters midfielder Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu
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Hatters midfielder Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu is line to make his 100th appearance in a Luton shirt when Hartlepool visit Kenilworth Road this evening.

The 23-year-old joined from West Ham United originally on loan in December 2013 under former boss John Still, before making his move permanent a month later.

Current Luton chief Nathan Jones had spoken in recent weeks about a need for Mpanzu to show more maturity and it's safe to say he’s doing exactly that, catching the eye with a number of consistent displays after switching to the holding midfield role.

Jones believes that a more serious approach by Mpanzu when on the pitch is clearly bearing fruit, as he said: “I’ve been impressed with his application, he’s gone up a level with his application and his concentration levels and his general demeanour really as he’s great to have around.

“He’s a funny kid, and he always involves himself, but sometime that boiled over into his performances.

“But now he’s really, really focused and knuckled down and we’re really, really pleased that he’s done that. I think he’s seen the benefits from it and the team definitely has.”

Mpanzu continued his superb form against Crawley on Saturday, playing with almost a swagger at times, as he continually took opponents on when bursting forward from deep.

However, Jones continued: “We might have to clip that swagger as if we allow him to do that too much, then he’ll start becoming a gunslinger, as he has that way about him.

“But at the minute, we’re really pleased with his focus and how he’s going about his work.

“We like the confidence that he has, but that confidence can’t turn to arrogance or complacency.

“So we’ve just got to make sure he keeps in the vein he is.”

Jones’ number two Paul Hart was also credited with the midfielder hitting something like his best form too, as Jones said: “I’ve got a great assistant and Harty’s on to him every day.

“That’s the brilliant thing about having Harty here as he’s in amongst the and he sees them and he drives them on, things that I don’t pick up on he does and he does stuff that I don’t even know about.

“But he does great work with him and he’s doing great work with Pelly, he invests a lot of time with him.

“Cooky’s (Jordan Cook) the same, because these are people that can go long, long ways if they really knuckle down.”

Meanwhile, Mpanzu’s vastly improved fitness record was also praised as he has started the last eight games, completing 90 minutes on each occasion.

Under previous manager Still, Mpanzu spent a huge period in the treatment room with various ailments, only making 24 appearances in total last term, as opposed to 33 and counting this season.

Jones added: “He hasn’t picked up any injuries since I’ve been here really. We're not tempting fate on that as we do good work and the medical staff do really well here.

"But we’ve also brought in the best sports scientist (Jared Roberts-Smith) I know that has kept ours flying, kept them fit, kept them strong, kept them focused, kept them fresh, and that’s why he was brought in because he was the best I know.”

Another thing Mpanzu has added to his game in recent weeks is assists, setting up Isaac Vassell at Grimsby and then picking out Danny Hylton superbly for his winner against Crawley Town on Saturday.

The goalscorer was clearly a huge fan of his team-mate too, saying: “He’s so good. He’s quick, he’s strong, he’s so agile for a big man and he’s good with the ball at his feet, so I love it when he’s playing and especially when he’s playing well.

"He picked me out at the back stick and that’s what Pelly can do. He’s got that quality. Lets hope that he can keep picking me out and maybe I can score a few more.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Smith knows just how hard it is for opposing teams to come up against Mpanzu, adding: “Pelly’s a top player, I have to play against him every day in training and I know how strong and know how good he is.

"I don’t enjoy training against him to be honest, because I’m usually against him. He’s so strong, got all the attributes and it’s a pleasure to play with players like Pelly Ruddock as he’s got a big future ahead of him.”