Naismith and Jones make a case for Luton's defence after another clean sheet in the Championship

Hatters up to 14 as Royals draw a blank

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 7:27 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 7:32 pm
James Bree was part of a defence that kept their second successive clean sheet on Wednesday night
James Bree was part of a defence that kept their second successive clean sheet on Wednesday night

Luton defender Kal Naismith highlighted his side’s defensive solidity as they kept a 14th clean sheet of the season in the league during last night’s 0-0 draw against Reading.

Last year, Town’s inability to prevent the opposition from scoring regularly until the final stages of the campaign saw them breached 82 times in total with just seven shut-outs, keeper Simon Sluga managing six of them.

However, a dramatic improvement this season has seen the Hatters concede just 46 goals, with Croatian international Sluga keeping 11 clean sheets and James Shea three.

It’s now Luton's best tally in the second tier since they managed 16 in the 1992-93 season when Alec Chamberlain was responsible for 14, including a run of seven in a row, while Andy Petterson managed two.

Sluga's tally of 11 is also now the highest number of clean sheets in the second tier since Juergen Sommer also kept 11 during the 1994-95 campaign.

Up against a Reading side who put five past Luton last term, Town restricted their opponents to just one effort on target all night, as the clean sheet followed another against Watford on Saturday, the home defence keeping out a Hornets side who were the fourth highest scorers in the league.

Naismith, who signed in January, and has helped Luton keep five clean sheets in his 13 Championship starts, was impressed by the manner of Town's efforts in both matches, saying: "They’re teams that like to dominate games and keep possession and be in control of matches, but I think both teams will know they had a tough game.

"We controlled large parts of the game against Watford and same again tonight, a really top performance.

"We limited them to not a lot really, (Yakou) Meite got it in the box at the end and Slugs has gone down at his feet and made a great save.

"A couple of long range efforts too, so we’ve limited them to not a lot.

"Defensively, the full shape of the team even the pressing from the front players has been outstanding."

Boss Nathan Jones believes that the defensive play and performance against the play-off chasing Royals shows they are miles away from the kind of side that was hammered 5-0 on home turf at the end of last season.

He added: "Two of the best seven sides in the league and we’ve limited them to very, very little, very little.

“We should have scored far more than we have, but that's the Championship, that’s the next challenge for us at this level, to be more clinical, show more quality, have more belief at this level, as we’ve reached a level now that we weren’t at a year ago.

"A year ago for example we weren’t the same side we are now, we defended, we didn’t take on sides, we allowed sides to come on to us and we got results that we needed.

“That’s exactly what we needed to do, we couldn't be open, and now we’re aggressive, we’re a real front-footed side.

"A side that goes after teams, a side that wants to pass, a side that can go beyond.

"We have loads of facets and we’re starting to evolve into a side that we were in League Two and League One and that’s the good, good thing.”