Graeme Jones happy with Luton’s character in opening draw with Middlesbrough
Luton boss Graeme Jones praised his side’s character as they earned a 3-3 draw against Middlesbrough at Kenilworth Road on Friday night.
The Hatters looked like they were going to leave empty-handed as they trailed 3-2 when Boro were awarded a penalty in the 81st minute.
However, Britt Assombalonga blazed over from the spot and James Collins netted with five minutes to go, ensuring Luton picked up a point on their first match back in the second tier.
Jones, who like Boro boss Jonathan Woodgate was making his managerial debut, said: “Overall I’m really pleased, pleased with the character of the group, pleased with some of the quality as well first half, both technically and tactically.
“Second half, I thought we had to dig in, we lost our way a little bit and then managed to rally with the character that’s in the dressing room.
“I spoke to them before the game about contribution and the subs came on and contributed, the boys that started contributed, Dan Potts came on with a shoulder out of place.
“We managed to save the game, the penalty miss helped, but I think we should have had a penalty at the other end with Dan Potts, so some you win, some you lose.
“I think if you give everything you’ve got, football tends to be a fair game and that’s what it was.”
Woodgate confirmed that Assombalonga, who scored to make it 2-2 in the first half, would remain on spot-kicks.
He added: “It’s one of those things, but Britt will take the next pen and he’ll score, and if he misses that one he’ll take the next one and he’ll score.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Britt Assombalonga, he’s my nine, he’s going to score goals all season.
“It was eventful, I thought especially in the second half we really went out to win the game, I thought we were excellent, especially how we controlled the game.
“We pressed high, played at times, we left ourselves a bit open, but that’s how I want to play, I want to press teams, I want to score goals, I said that from day one.”
In the first half, Ashley Fletcher rose highest to nod home Marvin Johnson’s inch-perfect cross with seven minutes gone.
Town were then back on level terms with a wonderful goal in the 17th minute, captain Sonny Bradley hammering a truly magnificent 22-yard volley beyond Darren Randolph and into the roof of the net.
Luton were in dreamland in the 24th minute, as Andrew Shinnie’s corner was met by Martin Cranie to put the hosts 2-1 in front.
Home keeper Simon Sluga made a huge error with eight minutes of the first half remaining, Assombalonga’s tame effort eluding his grasp.
In the second half, Boro looked to have scored the crucial third goal in the 68th minute, Lewis Wing blasting a swerving drive past Sluga from 20 yards.
Assombalonga skied his penalty and Boro were made to pay late on through Collins.