Adam Watkins came in for high praise from Gary Brabin after Luton Town’s 3-2 pre-season defeat to Gabala, with the manager suggesting the youngster has been the Hatters’ best player this summer.
The midfielder emphasised his growing stature at the club, employed in a central midfield role for the visit of former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams’ Azerbaijani side.
Brabin started with two trialists in defenders Curtis Osano and Will Antwi, while first team stars like Keith Keane, Mark Tyler and Matthew Barnes-Homer were given a rest. With injured defenders Freddie Murray, Dan Gleeson and George Pilkington yet to play a game in the friendly schedule the manager has not been able to field a full strength side yet, but that has been to the benefit of Town’s academy product.
Brabin said: “I want to get a winning mentality, but at this stage of the season I think it’s important to get the players some minutes. I’m trying to treat everyone equally.
“At times it’s frustrating that I’m not playing my strongest side but there’s a reason why I’m doing that.
“If it wasn’t for those reasons then we wouldn’t have young players like Adam Watkins, who I think has been absolutely fantastic this pre-season.
“I don’t want to get too carried away with him but I had a good chat with him before we got back for pre-season, told him what I expect of him and I think he’s grabbed it with both hands.
“I thought today’s performance was outstanding.
“I thought Alex Lawless was outstanding as well but we don’t make too much of a song and a dance about it because everyone knows he does in week in, week out.
“Adam Watkins is a young local lad, who I think has been a little bit frustrated and, if you like, strangled, not being able to perform.
“It means nothing after a few pre-season friendlies but I’ve been really delighted. He’s arguably been our best player in pre-season.”
Despite the defeat that saw Aaron O’Connor opening the scoring and trialist Nathan Elder head a consolation late on, Brabin was delighted with the competitive of the test from the visitors on their first ever tour of England.
“I thought it was a really good game,” said Brabin. “I spoke to Tony Adams before the game and he said that it was the first game that was putting his strongest side out.
“I think it was a real compliment to us and I think it was a really good game of football.
“There was a little bit of niggle to it and I don’t mind that in a pre-season friendly, trying to keep it a bit more realistic.
“We mixed it about again and I was delighted with the performance of all of the ones who were out there.”