Luton chief Grame Jones described midfielder Glen Rea’s performance during Town’s precious 3-2 win over Derby County last night as ‘outstanding’.
The 25-year-old was starting only his second league game of the season after recovering from a long-term knee injury and was wonderful throughout, giving Town the bite and tenacity in the holding role that they have seriously lacked all campaign.
Jones, who sent Rea out on loan to National League side Woking for a month back in November to improve his match-fitness, admitted that he had tried and failed to bring in a player of a similar ilk before the campaign began, before having to wait patiently for the former Brighton defender to return.
Now he is back though, Rea could play a huge part in Town's bid to stay in the Championship, as he was more than a match for Derby's attacking threats, which included England's record goalscorer Wayne Rooney.
Speaking to the press afterwards, Jones said: “Last summer my first priority was to sign a defensive midfield player and we couldn’t get one.
“We lost Alan McCormack and I knew the need to get one, as Glen wasn’t fit.
“It’s difficult at a club like this to give a salary to somebody else when you know you’ve got a defensive midfielder in the club.
“It’s difficult to send him out on loan to Woking when you know that you could do with him in your team, but there’s no easy step to get back to full match fitness at any level, never mind the Championship and Glen had never played in the Championship before.
“Glen’s got something we haven’t got in the group and the effect that he had on the game was difficult to measure, because it’s such an effective role, without glamorously getting on the ball, but I thought his performance was outstanding.”
The inclusion of Rea meant it freed up team-mate Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu to be more of an attacking threat in the contest, which paid off when he blasted home a third goal of the campaign on 67 minutes to draw the hosts level.
Mpanzu was quick to pay tribute to the former Ireland U21 international too, saying: “Glen, he’s the security we need at the back.
"He loves a hard tackle, loves to head the ball, that’s his game, that’s not for me, but he mops up the mistakes that me and Tunni (Ryan Tunnicliffe) do, or whoever is playing in midfield, so it’s a great blanket behind us.
“He is (a leader), always talking, 'left shoulder, right shoulder Pell.'
"If I've given a pass away he's always saying 'come on Pell, you can do better, I know your quality.'
"So having Glen’s leadership skills is a key to us.”