McManaman at a 'good level' for Luton while Jones admits there is competition for the number one spot

Callum McManaman caught the eye against Leicester on Tuesday night
Callum McManaman caught the eye against Leicester on Tuesday night

Hatters boss Graeme Jones believes attacker Callum McManaman showed signs of pushing himself back into contention for Town’s Championship side after his display against Leicester City on Tuesday night.

The summer signing from Wigan Athletic hadn’t started a match since the 2-1 home defeat against West Bromwich Albion on August 17 after picking up a groin injury.

James Shea will be hoping for a recall at the weekend

James Shea will be hoping for a recall at the weekend

However, he produced an impressive first half display, with some wonderful moments of individual skill against a high class Foxes side, who contained well over £100m of talent in their ranks.

Whether that was enough to get his back into the squad to face Blackburn Rovers this weekend, Jones said: ““He’s shown that he’s back up to a good level, maybe that level lasted 50, 55 minutes, but I speak a lot about contributions, about getting the minutes right for players who can sustain it.

"I really enjoyed his performance.

"Remember, he probably didn’t train for three weeks, so to go and give us a level like that for 50 minutes, at that level against Premier League opposition, he’s played against a Premier League winners in Christian Fuchs and at times he caused him problems.

"So that’s all you want, you just want to get everybody to their best, because you can split shifts sometimes and they can give you big performances.

"That’s why it’s difficult to speak about exactly what you’re going to do as you’re assessing, constantly assessing people, where they are, but the good thing for me is at least there’s competition for places, it’s about getting that selection right.”

Another player who put his hat into the ring for a recall to the side was goalkeeper James Shea, who despite being beaten four times, made a number of fine stops on the night to prevent the Foxes from running away with the tie.

Jones knows last season’s number one has done all he can to push Croatian international Simon Sluga for his place in the side, saying: “James Shea came in and did really, really well.

“I thought Simon’s performance against Hull was better than the week before against Queens Park Rangers, beneath that we’ve got Harry (Isted) and Marek Stech, so we’re well covered in those areas.

“But competition for places is healthy if it’s handled correctly and there’s definite competition for places in that position.”

With Jones changing 10 players for the clash in midweek, when asked if anyone else had put themselves forward for the trip to Ewood Park on Saturday, he continued: “I’ve got a selection headaches with everybody, seriously.

“When you lose two games, places are up for grabs and what you want to see then is actions, football actions.

“You want somebody to say ‘come and pick me, because I’m ready’ and I got that out of one or two.

“So I’m still assessing, seeing where they are, as we’re still recovering from the game and tomorrow and Saturday will be important for that.

“We’ve looked at 21 players in the last two games, so I think we’re in another point where I’m assessing what’s going on and my job is to pick the best 18 players.

“I’ve looked at the evidence, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

When asked if saw a finishing line to his work assessing the squad in place at Kenilworth Road, Jones continued: “When you start winning football matches regularly your assessment comes to an end.

“We’re still a work in progress, we’re still looking for things, on the back of two league defeats it’s not perfect, even though really we’ve been competitive in every game.

“Forget QPR, because for the last 60 minutes, we took them right to the wire, the game’s over 95 minutes, so it’s just the last seven minutes against Hull.

“The other night (against Leicester) was a mixture of a group of players that haven’t played together that much since Cardiff and an incredible Premier League outfit that have spent a fortune.

"They’ve got world class players on the pitch and it’s not really a level playing field.

“But it’s what aspects to take from it, and there was one or two I was pleased with.”

Full back Brendan Galloway could be back in contention once more this weekend too, Jones adding: “We’re absolutely clear (of injuries), fine.

“Martin Cranie’s still on his way back, Danny Hylton, outside of that we’re okay.”