Pep Clotet seeking momentum

The Blues team in a huddle at Luton
The Blues team in a huddle at Luton

It is a case of looking upwards in the table again and trying to build on these victories in the FA Cup and league

Pep Clotet

Pep Clotet is urging Blues to keep that winning feeling going.

After a vital victory at Luton Town, following on from another gritty success in the FA Cup over Blackburn Rovers, the Head Coach is hoping Blues are turning the corner.

"The win at Luton was important especially because it has been a tough month for us, December," he said.

"We had a few injuries. We were unfortunate to have injuries to two senior centre-backs, leaving Harlee Dean in that position. So it has been difficult for us.

"Last week we got Jake Clarke-Salter back into the team, we got a very good win against Blackburn Rovers despite being down to 10 men for half-an-hour.

"So coming from that to win at Luton, we have accomplished a couple of goals: the first to put some clear air between us and the teams at the bottom; the second to get us back with that winning feeling in the league. That's two in a row, in both competitions, which is very important.

"Now we have our eyes again on getting a fully fit squad and competing again against Cardiff City at home on Saturday.

"It is a case of looking upwards in the table again and trying to build on these victories in the FA Cup and league."

Clotet went with an experienced, resilient and combative side against Luton, like he did when Blues travelled to an in-form Blackburn Rovers in the league.

As he and players have always reminded, the change to a more possession-based, attacking and open style after so many seasons as a low block, countering side, was never going to be instantaneous. The work in that respect remains ongoing.

On the more pragmatic, needs must, approach at Kenilworth Road, Clotet said of the Championshp-savvy line-up: "Obviously we analysed Luton very well. We knew their strengths and weaknesses.

"We played a side that could cope very well with Luton's weaknesses and defend very well Luton's strengths.

"It was very important for us to not leave gaps, to be very solid in defence and to have the experience to know we could control the game in possession.

"The fact that we scored first made it that we conceded a little bit more possession than normal. But we were feeling very comfortable.

"The good thing is that we came to a very tough place, despite what the table may suggest, and we picked a team for the job we had to do. The bench were all prepared and ready to make a contribution as well if we needed it."

Blues were without the suspended Ivan Sunjic for the game, and had to see off Luton for the last four minutes of normal time plus six added, after Harlee Dean's sending-off.

"It was important that the line-up picked, everyone was aware of what we had to do and played to their strengths," said Clotet. "Experience plays a big part in understanding the game plan, yes.

"But any player, those who were on the bench, are as good as the others. I had to pick 11 - yes, I'd like to have picked 14 or 15! - and it proved to be the right mix."

"We spoke to the players in the week about Blackburn and how to play against 10 men, and how we can use that if it happens again to us - that it did was unusual.

"But I felt the team was very clear in knowing what they had to do when Harlee was sent-off.

"We did, again, show a lot of commitment, a lot of unity, for the badge, including the whole bench, who were trying to help the lads.

"The fans, as well, helped us. But I didn't feel the team was suffering or struggling when we went down to 10 men. We kept our organisation and focus."

Going into the match, Blues had lost five out of six Championship games and shipped 16 goals in those five defeats. In the last two matches, even when reduced numerically due to red cards, the two goals conceded both came from the penalty spot.

Clotet added: "I'd like to take this moment to thank the fans who have been with us through these hard moments.

"The team always works to its best and maximum. You saw that spirit again at Luton. Everyone was on it.

"We have been in a difficult period. Hopefully we are now becoming more solid again and we can build on this win and the FA Cup win."