Reading had their toughest home match of the season on Saturday for Noel Hunt’s first game in charge, and Wednesday night’s affair won’t be much easier. Third-placed Luton Town come to Berkshire in search of a result that would maintain their impressive form ahead of a play-off campaign at the end of the season, although there’s still a slight chance of automatic promotion.
It’s been a hugely commendable season from the Hatters, who have gone from strength to strength under Rob Edwards. We discussed all of that with Luton fan and writer Matt Storey, who can be found on Twitter @StoreyMatt.
How would you sum up your season so far?
It has been very, very good. I think most Luton fans hoped we’d challenge for the play-offs again after the summer business but I’m not sure any of us really thought we’d have an outside chance of automatic promotion with four games to go.
This is going to be the seventh consecutive season that we’ve finished higher up the football pyramid than the one before and that is no mean feat. We’re now an excellent Championship side and I think the perfect model for running a sustainable football club. It continues to be a really special time to be a Hatter.
How’s Rob Edwards getting on in the dugout?
Edwards has been fantastic. Replacing Nathan Jones was never going to be easy and while we weren’t in a bad position before the World Cup, we certainly didn’t look like a side who’d comfortably make the play-offs.
Edwards has built on the work Jones did and actually made us a better side. We play a little bit more football than we did under Jones and the loan signings of Cody Drameh and Marvellous Nakamba in January were masterstrokes. He’s also managed to build a good connection with the fans immediately and that was important. I personally had no qualms with his appointment despite his brief stint down the M1, but any fans who did have quickly changed their minds.
What are the main strengths of this Luton team?
Our defensive record is the clear and obvious strength. The win at Rotherham United was our 19th clean sheet of the season, which is either the most or joint-most in the league. Famous last words perhaps, but we never look like conceding from open play.
In the last 16 games, we’ve conceded six goals. Three of them were penalties, one was a header from a free-kick against Blackpool and Millwall scored twice - one a ‘keeper howler and the other should have been ruled out for offside.
It’s a ridiculous run of form and it’s not like Ethan Horvath has made any jaw-dropping saves - teams just haven’t had chances. Tom Lockyer has been immense this season at the heart of the back line and it’s baffling that Rob Page doesn’t start him for Wales.
Our usual front two of Carlton Morris and Elijah Adebayo are also a nightmare to play against. Morris is our record signing but it’s the best £1.7m Luton will spend. He’s strong, holds the ball up well, technically very good and an excellent finisher. We will do well to keep hold of him this summer.
Honestly, and this sounds incredibly arrogant, but over the last two to three months we really haven’t had any. There was a period when we weren’t punishing teams and we won a lot of games 1-0 when it should have been more, but that hasn’t been the case in April.
One issue on Wednesday could be going forward though: Adebayo missed Saturday with an injury and both Morris and Cauley Woodrow limped off after scoring. That leaves the untried Joe Taylor and Admiral Muskwe, who was on loan at Fleetwood Town for the first half of the season, as our only recognised strikers.
How do you see the rest of the season playing out for you?
We’re in a slightly odd situation where we’ll probably secure our play-off spot with two or three games left to play, but unless Sheffield United choke, we’re not going to catch them.
The fact we follow the trip to Reading with games against Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers is interesting because we could play one, or both, of them in the play-offs. So we just need to keep the momentum and make sure all our players are fit and ready for them.
How will the game go and what will the score be?
I appreciate you got a good point against Burnley but you need victories and I think that’ll play into our hands. I’m going for Reading 0-2 Luton. If none of Morris, Adebayo or Woodrow are fit then that could change.