Breaking old habits has been the challenge for Bradley and Pearson

Sonny Bradley clears the danger against Bristol City
Sonny Bradley clears the danger against Bristol City

Breaking old habits for the defensive pairing of Sonny Bradley and Matty Pearson has been one of the main challenges thrown at the duo by Hatters boss Graeme Jones this season.

The former Wigan, Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Belgium assistant boss set about redefining the pair’s roles in Town’s back-line after taking charge in the summer.

Matty Pearson tussles for possession on Saturday

Matty Pearson tussles for possession on Saturday

It paid off with a first clean sheet of the Championship season against Bristol City on Saturday, as Town triumphed 3-0.

Speaking immediately after the game, Jones had said: “I’m especially pleased with Sonny Bradley and Matty Pearson who have been thrown more challenges and demands by me than any other players at the football club.

“It's been tough for them, they’ve broken barriers, but they’re two Championship players now, two very good Championship players.

“They’ve stood up to it, showed courage and they have responded.

“It’s been really difficult at times, and then when you eventually break through those barriers, you grow as players and I think you can see that.

“I think the two boys were getting more and more frustrated not getting a clean sheet, but with the greatest respect it’s the first time we’ve had a defensive midfielder (Martin Cranie) out on the pitch for two months, and I think that was a key factor.

“So I’d really like to applaud the two boys as they’ve been superb.”

When asked during his pre-Fulham press conference on Monday for more detail about just what those challenges for his centre half pairing, who are yet to miss a minute of the league season entailed, Jones continued: “Breaking old habits, asking them to play out from the back under pressure, asking them to stand when they’re two v one or three v two.

“Asking them to always give a passing line, asking them to show composure in the heat of the battle, when we’re winning, not when you’re getting beat, when you’re winning.

“And then defensively I’ve asked them to take responsibility for organising and effecting people around them, communicating.

“Now, they had a fresh challenge at the weekend of how to put that into practice in a back three with an extra man, but not an extra man in front of you in midfield.

“So I’ve been very, very abrupt with them at times when we didn’t always get what we wanted, and I’m sure they had a period where they really disliked the manager.

"But then when you see the proof in the pudding that I saw at the weekend, especially on review of the game, it’s been worth it.

“They can achieve anything them two, Matty’s composure is just night and day, his decision-making, night and day, the difference.

“Sonny’s got a slap pass in between lines, like I don’t know any other six foot three centre half who’s got that, maybe (Virgil) Van Dijk, but it’s up to them to maximise what they’ve got.

“I keep telling the whole group that the best period of my career was when I realised what my weaknesses were, and you stop trying to be David Beckham and realise what God’s given you really.

“I think the boys are at that point, they really know what their strengths and weaknesses are they’ve been really putting it into practice.”