It remains very much a case of job well done for Nathan Jones and Luton Town this season, heading to TW8 tonight 12th in the Sky Bet Championship as we tick past the midway point of the campaign.
The Hatters have won nine and lost nine in the league this season. They've taken four points off AFC Bournemouth in recent weeks, won at home to Norwich City, and beat Reading 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup Third Round ten days ago to set up a weekend game against Chelsea.
If Luton want to close the eight-point gap to the top six it is goals they need to find. Even though they've won four of their 12 on the road only Watford (5) have scored fewer away goals than The Hatters (6).
In general, Jones has made his side much more solid defensively than they were last season when they shipped a league high 82 goals in 46 games. This time round they have only conceded 26 times in 24 games but do average under a goal scored a game, finding the net just 21 times so far.
Pontus Jansson and Christian Norgaard (both ankle) are out as is Shandon Baptiste (knee). Josh Dasilva serves the second of his three-game ban but Mads Roerslev did return for our Emirates FA Cup win over Middlesbrough ten days ago. Jan Zamburek is also back in training following his recall from Shrewsbury Town.
For Luton, veteran centre-back Martin Cranie and midfielder Eunan O'Kane are the only absentees.
Nathan Jones endured a nomadic start to his playing career, first in his native Wales, then with Luton Town and finally in Spain before he found a home at Brighton and Hove Albion. The midfielder spent five years on the south coast at the start of the 2000s, making more than 150 appearances as The Seagulls went from Division Three to The Championship. He then spent seven years with Yeovil Town before retiring in 2012 after more than 550 professional appearances.
His first steps into coaching came within the youth setup at Charlton Athletic before jumping to a First Team role at Brighton & Hove Albion. It wasn't, however, until he returned to Luton in January 2016 that he began to make a real impression. He won 11 of his first 21 games to ensure The Hatters' EFL survival before leading them to the Play-Offs the following campaign. He went one better in 2017/18 and had Luton second in League One when he left for Stoke in January 2019. His 38 games at Stoke City brought about just six wins but, back in Bedfordshire, he is once again proving a fine manager at this level.
⚖ Stephen Martin takes charge of our visit from The Hatters tonight
🆚 Mike Simmonds of The Luton News previews tonight's game