The heroics of last season’s great escape presented Luton Town with second-tier football for the 2020/21 season. The sensational return of Nathan Jones, and the Hatters’ subsequent form to survive on the last day of the season, resulted in clear optimism for the club’s second successive campaign in the Championship. Although, this optimism was channelled into seemingly the sole objective of comfortably avoiding relegation.
Luton Town Season Review
Bright Start Following Last Season’s Euphoria
With a reduced summer break, the Hatters managed to maintain momentum going into the new campaign.
Luton won five of their opening six games, with two of those coming in the Carabao Cup. League wins against Barnsley, Derby County and Wycombe Wanderers drove the Bedfordshire club to fifth place. Throughout the early stages, the Hatters flirted around the much-desired play-off positions, but it seemed a false reality at the time with Lutons fans still looking over their shoulder at the emerging relegation battle.
Difficulties in Finding Consistency
As the season progressed, the Hatters were consistently inconsistent. Very rarely did Luton put a run of three or four good results, whilst bad games were typically followed up with a near-flawless performance to almost immediately eliminate any fears of the Championship drop.
Perhaps the standout example of this theme was after a 4-0 away defeat against Cardiff City. The manner of the defeat was worrying for Luton fans, but four days later, the Town comfortably beat league leaders Norwich City 3-1.
The same could be said at the end of February. On the back of poor defeats against Cardiff once more and Stoke City, before a late equaliser saw Millwall take an undeserved point, Luton recorded a sensational victory at home to Sheffield Wednesday. In a drab first-half performance, Jones’ men find themselves 2-0 down at the break, but a spirited fightback saw the Hatters score three well-taken goals to earn all three points and diminish Wednesday’s hopes of staying up even more.
Decent Run of Form to Cement a Top-Half Finish
Once the threat of relegation was extinguished, all the attention turned to finishing as high as possible. Luton embarked on a six-game unbeaten run, that started in early April, to earn themselves a definite top-half finish before a trip to Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season.
This run included terrific comebacks against Wycombe and Bristol City, and a historic derby-day victory at home to Watford, which topped off a brilliant season for Luton Town.
Scooping the majority of the end-of-season awards, the loan signing of Kieran Dewsbury-Hall has been a revelation in Luton’s midfield. The 22-year-old’s elegance in possession, coupled with his footballing brain that is years beyond his age, has helped the Leicester City graduate emerge as a firm fans’ favourite.
Chipping in with three goals and six assists, Dewsbury-Hall has proven to be a valuable asset for Jones, albeit he did joke that his assist tally should really have been doubled.
Signings have played a vital part in Luton’s success story this season. Dewsbury-Hall, Jordan Clark, Tom Lockyer and James Bree were all brought in during the early part of the season and have all impressed.
Kal Naismith and Elijah Adebayo were added to the squad in January. The winter signings both went on to play a starring role in Luton’s run-in and it is expected that they will both remain integral in the near future.
Addressing the Goal-Scoring Issue
The Hatters may have conceded 30 goals fewer than the previous campaign, but they scored 13 fewer. Luton scored a mere 41 goals in a campaign that they managed to secure a top-half finish which, coupled with the departure of top goalscorer James Collins, should be an area of prioritisation.
Luton’s goal-scoring struggles worsened away from Kenilworth Road, with the Hatters only managing 16 in away games – the lowest in the division. Interestingly, the first time Luton scored more than a single away goal was during their 40th game of the season, before doing the exact same the following away day.
Luton will be boosted by the fact that Adebayo will have a full pre-season with the club. The 23-year-old has shown plenty of promise in the early stages of his Luton career and is expected to really kick on. But, it seems that another forward will be needed to either push Adebayo to his full potential or partner him.
Next Year’s Aspirations
Luton will always look to progress and have improved their position on the Football League pyramid in the last five consecutive seasons. However, it would be an achievement just to replicate this top-half finish.
Next season will first and foremost be about surviving, and should that concern be eliminated with a few games to spare, it will once again be about finishing as high as possible.
In an attempt to reduce the average age of the squad, 24-year-old pair Fred Onyedinma and Reece Burke have joined the Hatters already this summer. Onyedinma spent last season playing Championship football at Wycombe, possessing the drive, versatility and ability that Jones demands from his players. Burke, on the other hand, made 34 league appearances in Hull City’s League One winning campaign and increases the competition for a spot in Luton’s back-line.