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Nathan Jones proud of Luton achievement after play-off place secured

Nathan Jones is proud of Luton’s achievement after play-off place was secured (Nigel French/PA)
Nathan Jones is proud of Luton’s achievement after play-off place was secured (Nigel French/PA)

Luton boss Nathan Jones was a relieved man after guiding the club to a play-off place in the Championship by beating Reading 1-0 at Kenilworth Road.

Going into the game, Town knew a victory would be enough to finish in the top six and they managed to do so following Harry Cornick’s quick-thinking on the stroke of half-time, robbing visiting goalkeeper Orjan Nyland of the ball and slotting into the empty net.

It was enough for the Hatters to end the season in sixth spot and they will now take on Huddersfield over two legs for a place at Wembley.

Jones said: “It’s relief at the minute. Every time we get promoted, or we do something, it’s relief.

“It was a little bit more euphoric when we stayed up against Blackburn (in 2020) but I’m just so proud, so proud of the group.

“I’m really pleased we didn’t rely on anyone else, lose the game and it be an anti-climax, we had to do it ourselves.

“To get to 75 points which we predicted, it’s a wonderful Championship season and success for us realistically is making sure we don’t go out of the league. Well we might have an opportunity to go out of the league, just at a different end.

“I thought we had a really good start, tinge of disappointment that we didn’t get an early goal as that would have settled everyone and then the second goal would have settled everyone even more.

“But it doesn’t make a difference, we know we can keep clean sheets, we know we can defend our box, they had one chance really and that front four is as good as any in the Championship.

“If (Yakou) Meite, (Lucas) Joao, (Ovie) Ejaria and (Junior) Hoilett are at it, you will struggle to contain those.

“I thought we defended really well, limited them to very little, and I’m really pleased.”

Town wasted a glorious chance in the opening minute as Jordan Clark sent Cameron Jerome clean through but the experienced striker could only shoot low down at Nyland.

Allan Campbell then fired over the bar, also heading straight at Nyland, while Reading threatened to spoil the party when Ejaria broke into the box and his deflected attempt was parried by the body of home keeper Matt Ingram.

James Bree sent a free-kick narrowly wide but just before the break, Cornick grabbed the only goal in inspired fashion, waiting for Nyland to put the ball on the floor and then taking it off him to slot home.

After the interval, Bree curled off target and Jerome was close to make it 2-0, slamming against the bar.

Reading had their own opportunities too, Michael Morrison’s header saved by Ingram while he was also denied by a superb block from Sonny Bradley.

Royals interim boss Paul Ince backed Nyland to bounce back from his mistake, adding: “I’m just glad it wasn’t a game we had to get something from.

“To be fair to him, he made a wonderful save in the second half, tipped one on to the bar, but it’s just the defining moments of the game.

“You don’t like to see any goalkeeper, I’ve seen enough back in the day, these things happen but you just don’t want them to happen to you or to your goalkeeper.

“It’s something he’ll get over, he’s a big, strong lad, he’ll be devastated, obviously, yes it’s a mistake, as you always look over your shoulder, but I was fine with him and he kept us in the game second half.

“I’m just glad we didn’t have to win the game or draw the game and that’s a credit to the players, credit to the club, to the fans, who have stuck with us and even second half, we played ever so well.

“We were the best team, had some chances, but I’m so, so pleased for Nathan.

“We did our pro licence together and they’ve shown togetherness, as they are working class people, and what you can achieve if you stick together.

“I’m pleased for him as he’s done an unbelievable job.”