Youngster Justin determined to keep his place after late call-up

James Justin advances on the right flank against Plymouth
James Justin advances on the right flank against Plymouth

Town defender James Justin is hoping he has done enough to get his place back in the side after a return to the starting 11 on Saturday.

There was an element of fortune about the 19-year-old ending his run of four league matches on the bench, with Stephen O’Donnell pulling out before kick-off with an ankle injury.

Obviously I would have liked to stay in the team, but he pulled me out and I just had to get back to the basics and work my way back into the team.

James Justin

Justin took to the field instead, and on the late call-up, he said: “It wasn’t much of a disruption really, it’s happened a few times this season.

“It’s happened to me (at Leyton Orient) and he (O’Donnell) had to step in, but you’ve just to got to take it professionally, get on with your job, all the other lads help you so it’s all right.

“Hopefully I’ve done enough to retain the position, but you’ve got to use your squad well at the end of the season and not peak too early.”

On how much warning he was given, Justin continued: “We were aware of it, me and Sods had spoken before, him telling me to be ready.

“Even though we play in the same position, we’re close friends and we help each other out when we can.”

After playing 24 times in his breakthrough season, Justin came out of the side for the 5-2 Checkatrade Trophy win over Yeovil Town.

When asked about the decision to leave him out, boss Nathan Jones said: “James wasn’t dipping, it was just the right time.

“We’ve got good competition here, it was the right time just to take him out of the firing line a little bit, let him regroup.

“The trouble is, we’d not been beaten since and won almost every game since.

“So what I wanted to do was keep a little bit of continuity. We’re at the real business end, but James will play lots of games.

“He’s a wonderful, wonderful talent and I’ve spoken to him about the situation, he’s fine with it.”

Justin himself said: “That’s exactly what he said to me really.

“He can’t really change it when we’re winning games and playing well, as we are and I understood that.

“You have to go with what he says. Obviously I would have liked to stay in the team, but he pulled me out and I just had to get back to the basics and work my way back into the team.

“Then when I got my chance, I have to take it.

“It’s frustrating being pulled out of the team but you’ve just got to get to the training ground, work your socks off and hopefully you’ll get stuck back in.

“I want to play and hopefully I did enough to stay in today.”

Despite being on the bench, Justin admitted that Jones had always kept him in the loop about his situation.

He said: “He’s been reassuring me, saying ‘when I get a chance to put you in I will do’ and I just have to trust the gaffer.

“He told me I’d get a chance and here’s my chance today.

“He’s put his faith in me and hopefully I’ve repaid him.”

Although it was the fourth time this term that Luton have had to change their team so late on, with injuries to Alan Sheehan, Justin and Johnny Mullins previously, Jones was quick to praise Justin for his performance.

He added: “Fortunately enough he played against Barnet in the week so had 90 minutes.

“He probably wasn’t as fresh as he normally is and to have to go in that late was a big ask and he’s a young player, but he gets fazed by very little, so I had no problem.

“It arguably didn’t weaken the side in any way and we’ve had this three or four times this year and it doesn’t seem to disrupt us.

“He probably could have shown a little bit more quality in terms of when he got in advanced areas of picking people out and so on because his final ball let him down a little bit. But they gave me everything and we showed what a good side we are.”