After a fantastic performance on Saturday in the EFL Championship opener against Peterborough, Luton got embarrassed by their lowly neighbors in Stevenage in the first round of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night. With a much-changed side, like in previous years, Nathan Jones seemed happy with the overall performance, but, given these are players who could play major minutes in the championship, privately he must be fuming. This was a chance for a number of these players to stake a claim, none of which were taken.
James Shea, in particular, will give Jones a headache as the backup goalkeeper could have possibly done better for both Stevenage goals and looked uncomfortable all night. Should anything happen to Croatian shot-stopper Simon Sluga, Luton would most definitely have to dive into the transfer market for a replacement. In particular, the first goal was a complete howler, with there being no reason for Shea to come off his line.
He wasn’t the only one who underperformed with Elliot Lee possibly playing his last game in a Luton shirt. The attacker went on loan to Oxford United at the end of last season, and I think most felt the move would be made permanent. With the squad needing to be trimmed and no added cup fixtures to rotate players, it’s likely players like Lee will be allowed to move on. Minus his part in Luton’s second goal, which was the only bright spot, it was an otherwise lackluster performance from the attacker.
Carlos Mendes Gomes also showed glimpses but was far too inconsistent. Considering the hype when he signed in the offseason, it was a poor first start for the former Morecombe player. The step up from League Two, where he scored 15 goals last season, means an adjustment period will be needed, but playing against Stevenage should have been his level. Instead, he rarely threatened.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though, as I liked the performance of Peter Kioso both offensively and defensively. Both Kioso and Gabriel Osho could not be blamed for either goal, and Kioso showed an experience beyond his years to pick up positions going forward. This led to him opening up space on the right for Lee to feed into for Admiral Muskwe’s goal. The only down point was his game time could now be limited with the cup exit.
And that is something the “it’s only the Carabao Cup” crowd isn’t fully grasping. Luton got embarrassed by their lowly neighbors Stevenage, but in the grand scheme of things, players like Kioso will now have less development time in games that mean something. That’s the part that hurts most. We were never going to win the competition, but a decent run would have meant more development time for these players.
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