(Photo: Gareth Owen)
By Ben Baker
OLLIE Palmer staked his claim for more starts in dramatic fashion last weekend, coming off the bench to score a last-gasp Luton winner against Blackpool.
But the on-loan striker admits he is happy to play whatever part he can as the Hatters eye up League One next term.
Since he arrived from basement boys Leyton Orient in January, Palmer’s has earned the praise of manager Nathan Jones for his performances in a Luton shirt, especially when the forward played against Exeter last month just 24 hours after becoming a father for the first time.
However, starts have been few and far between. In his 11 appearances prior to this weekend, the 25-year-old had started just once.
But against Blackpool he showed exactly what kind of impact he can have as he netted his second Hatters goal, leaving fans feeling like they had just won big at ComeOn.
It was a crucial one, too, the only goal of the game, which kept the Hatters in the play-off places.
“It was a great feeling to snatch a goal in the 90th minute,” he said. “I had an opportunity to do it at Newport, but it was cleared off the line, so I had to make sure it went over the line this time!
“We have drawn a few games of late and the gaffer had talked about nicking a late winner. I was delighted to be the one to get it and it was an important one, too.
“I feel I have had a positive impact since I’ve been at Luton. The gaffer has come out and said it and the fans seem to be happy with me, so everything has gone really well.
“I feel I have been coming off the bench and doing well, so now I just need to stick with it.
“I want to be starting more games, but it is difficult when you have the likes of Danny Hylton, who is one of the top strikers in this league.
“There are other top strikers here, too, and competition for places is strong. But, as long as we are picking up the three points, I am just happy to be involved and help out in any way I can.
“Everyone wants to start and score goals, but I am happy doing a job in trying to get the team promoted.
“We are still fighting to get into the automatic promotion places and, if we can put a strong of results together then we believe that is still a possibility.”
Palmer wasn’t the only sub to make an impact against Blackpool. The initial shot that let him pounce after a goalkeeper fumble was from fellow replacement Luke Gambin.
Jack Marriott also came on to turn the game in the Hatters’ favour and Palmer is not surprised that boss Jones was able to have such an impact with his decision-making.
“Nathan has been fantastic with me from the beginning,” Palmer added. “This is a fantastic club and he is still a very young manager, but he is doing a great job.
“I think he is probably the best young manager outside of the Premiership. There aren’t many managers his age doing as well as he is.
“He works us hard but gets his point across well and I have really enjoyed working with him.”
Whether on-loan Palmer remains playing under Jones next season is still up in the air.
Even though the striker’s contract at Leyton Orient expires at the end of this campaign, Palmer is simply focussed on giving League One football to Luton fans next season.
“It is difficult,” he admitted. “I feel bad for Leyton Orient at the state they’re in. It is a massive club going in the wrong direction.
“They were a team fighting for promotion not long ago, but that is not the case any more.
“But there is not much I can do. I am out of contract in the summer. The gaffer at Luton has made it clear I am in his plans and the fans seem happy. Right now, I just want to be part of a squad that gets promoted.
“I am free in the summer and we will see what happens.”