Smith flashbacks haunted Still during Barnet win

Experienced boss John Still has admitted he kept having flashbacks to Jonathan Smith’s horror injury as he guided his side to a 2-1 victory over Barnet at the Hive on Boxing Day, writes Mark Wood.
Barnet v Luton Town, photos by Liam Smith. wk 52.Barnet v Luton Town, photos by Liam Smith. wk 52.
Barnet v Luton Town, photos by Liam Smith. wk 52.

He revealed every time there was a lull in the action he found himself recollecting the incident and admitted he had wished he’s switched positions on where to watch the game.

Still said: “I was (affected), because it was really weird. If someone had said to me before this if that happens in a game it’s really going to affect you.

“I would have said, ‘no it wouldn’t’, I’m a really, really focused person and put most things out of my head and say this is what we’ve got to do.

“But I couldn’t. If I look back now I’d have probably been better standing over the other side away from where the incident happened and just the atmosphere.

“If the game stopped for any reason, the only thing I could see was the incident and I had it so clearly in my mind how it happened and it just kept flashing through my mind and it was difficult.”

The incident elicited strange feelings in the Town chief, as he continued: “It’s hard to explain, it was as though the temperature had come down colder, it was as though the crowd had got quieter and it was really an eerie feeling I felt.

“I found myself thinking do I need to put another coat on? I felt cold, I know it was cold anyway, but I’m never cold on the line, I wrap up and I’m never cold.

“But I just found it a really eerie situation. I’m not saying players did or didn’t, but I did and I think my staff were the same.”

The incident seemed to have a similar effect on Town’s players as they relinquished their stranglehold on the Bees in the second half and were left holding on against the 10 men.

Still said: “I can’t say it was the same for the players, I’ve spoken to the players, but I didn’t want to bring it up for them.

“I just spoke about we went there to do a job, we were fantastic in the first half, we had to dig in second half, the incident happened and we’ve had to come to terms with that and well done everyone and I’ve moved on.

“We can’t do anything now that will change Smudger’s situation, but what we can do, we can put a smile on his face with our results and keep him in good spirits, that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Reflecting on the game itself, Still was delighted with his side’s ‘outstanding’ first half performance in a tricky local derby.

He said: “I thought our first half performance was very much in-keeping with what we’ve been producing.

“I think on another day I think looking honestly Joe Davis should have scored. He’s had as open a goal as you can probably get and didn’t score.

“Probably that would have been game over, and they hadn’t really had an effort at goal, I thought we were absolutely outstanding, particularly in a local derby.

“Local derbies are harder to win than the other games. Away from home, local derby, I thought terrific.”

That Davis miss, along with a second half one from Luke Guttridge, were thankfully not costly for the Hatters on a day where Smith’s injury proved to be a real ‘reality check’.

Still added: “Second half we weren’t as fluent, but at 2-0 up, I think that Luke’s missed a glorious opportunity to win the game and that probably gave them a little but of extra heart.

“I’ll give them their due, they fought hard, but most of their efforts were long range efforts so I was really, really pleased, because local derbies are hard to win - away from home even more so.

“So I just thought it was another good performance in a line of good performances and we needed a different sort of mentality in the second half because I don’t know if players were affected or not, and I don’t want to use that as an excuse for not being as fluid but, having said that, at 2-0 we created a great opportunity for 3-0 all over and that’s it.

“But we’ve won with an outstanding first half performance, but then obviously the Jonathan Smith incident sort of brought a reality check back to all of us, about what’s important.”

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