PREVIEW: Accrington Stanley v Luton Town

In there somewhere: James Justin is mobbed after scoring his first Luton goal at Accrington last season
In there somewhere: James Justin is mobbed after scoring his first Luton goal at Accrington last season

As they seem to do every year, Accrington Stanley are looking like they are going to have another campaign in which they give themselves every chance of winning promotion from League Two.

John Coleman’s side came bitterly close two seasons ago, beaten in the play-offs by AFC Wimbledon, before they also threatened last term too, eventually finishing five points adrift of the top seven.

This time round, Stanley began well by defeating Colchester on opening day and then knocked Championship side Preston out of the EFL Cup.

Defeat at Yeovil didn’t dent their confidence too much, as neither did their cup run coming to an end at the hands of Premier League West Bromwich Albion.

Since then they have won six out of 10 games in all competitions, thumping Carlisle 3-0 and picking up away wins at Chesterfield, Port Vale and Forest Green to make four matches unbeaten in the league too, not losing since a 2-1 reverse on home soil to Grimsby on September 12.

Yet again, Stanley have done so without some of their top players as last season’s exploits saw their star performers cherry picked by clubs higher up the footballing echelon, Shay McCartan moving to Bradford City, while Barnsley snapped up Matthew Pearson, with Shrewsbury taking Omar Beckles.

Coleman brought in a number of players on free transfers to try and replace his departed stars, Liam Nolan (Southport), Erico Sousa (Tranmere) and Ben Richards-Everton (Dunfermline) coming in, while he utilised the loan market too, with Brighton duo Tyler Hornby-Forbes and Tom Dallison signing, along with Callum Johnson (Middlesborough) and Farrend Rawson (Derby County)

Crucially, Stanley have kept hold of striker Billy Kee, who is just one away from netting a half century of goals for the club, a milestone he wants to reach tomorrow.

Speaking to the Stanley official website, he said: “Luton were strong last year, they were a good side and this game, like the Mansfield game, will be a sign of how far we have come.

“It will be a big crowd and it’s the games you love to play in. Hopefully I can get my 50th goal.

“I would like to get 100 Accrington goals by the time I finish my time here.

“I am the top league scorer at Accrington and am the top league scorer at Burton which is always nice.

“Reaching 50 will be a landmark though and I hope to do it tomorrow.”

As ever, the travelling Luton faithful will make it a bumper crowd for Stanley, as home boss Coleman also issued a rallying cry to the home supporters.

He added: “I would urge anybody to come down and see what we are all about.

“You’ve got two form teams who both like to score goals, it won’t be a dour game that’s for sure.

“I’ve been saying it for the past few years, we play some terrific football here and if you don’t come along then you’re missing out.

“There’s some real quality in this league and that will be on display Saturday.”

Team news: Luton will leave it late to decide on the fitness of Alan McCormack (groin) and Andrew Shinnie (ankle), but Luke Berry is available after suspension, leaving only Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (banned) and Luke Gambin (international duty) missing.

Stanley won’t have young defender Ross Sykes available after he joined Southport on a youth loan deal until January.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (6). Stanley: Billy Kee (7).

Man in the middle: Martin Coy – first season at Football League level for the official who has had the last four campaigns in the National League.

Showed 84 yellows and one red in 25 games last term, while he has kept his cards in his pocket this term, with just nine cautions and a dismissal in his seven games so far.

Assistant referees are Matthew Parry and Anthony Moore, with Billy Smallwood the fourth official.

In charge: John Coleman - 54-year-old who enjoyed a successful playing career at clubs like Southport, Macclesfield Town and Morecambe, plus a spell in Wales too.

Took his first step on the managerial ladder when became Ashton United player boss in 1997, before taking charge at Accrington two years later.

Spent over 12 years with the Reds, leading them to three promotions, including the Football League in 2006 and was the third longest serving manager when he departed for Rochdale in January 2012.

Had his contract terminated a shade under 12 months in the hotseat at Spotland, and returned to management with Southport in December 2013.

Left six months later, as he headed to Sligo Rovers for a short period in June 2014, before returning to Stanley in September 2014 for what has already been a hugely successful second stint.

View from the opposition: John Coleman talking to the club’s official website: “It’s important that we win a great proportion of our home games.

“You don’t see teams with inconsistent home form going up, the crowd do play a big part in that, they are always up for it against the big teams so we’re looking forward to a good atmosphere.

“We like these games, Luton will bring a big travelling support with them, it possibly brings out an extra couple of per cent in the players.

“We lost this fixture last year and I’m still scratching my head about it, we know all about Luton and they will know all about us.

“I just hope we can get back to playing the way that I know we can play, creating chances and outnumbering the opposition with possession.”

One to watch: Kayden Jackson – 23-year-old striker has been a revelation at Stanley so far this term, scoring six goals in 12 game, including a double in the 3-2 defeat at Yeovil Town.

Started life at Swindon and went to Tamworth, Wrexham and Barnsley, before a loan spell at Grimsby last season where he only managed to score twice in 24 appearances.

Joined Accrington in the summer and netted on his debut against Colchester as he has already beaten his previous best tallies in under two months.

Played for both: Shaun Whalley - pacey winger who headed to Accrington in August 2006, spending two seasons at the club, playing 55 times and netting five goals.

Went to Wrexham and Southport where Luton snapped him up as he had two years with the Hatters, scoring five goals in 42 games.

Released in June 2015 and went to Shrewsbury, where he has been for the last two seasons, racking up 78 appearances and scoring 11 goals.

We’ve got form: Luton have never found going to Stanley an easy task in their history, as they drew their first three visits, before two games last season saw them exit the FA Cup in the fog and then break their winless duck in some style.

In total, Town have scored eight goals, four coming in one afternoon and conceded five during their trips to the Wham Stadium.

Last time out: Luton finally enjoyed victory at Accrington last season as they romped to an entertaining 4-1 triumph.

The visitors led through James Justin’s first goal for the club on 28 minutes, before Matthew Pearson levelled 11 minutes later.

However, in the second period, Omar Beckles scored a comical own goal just four minutes in, while Isaac Vassell (54) made it 3-1, with Jack Marriott scoring a late fourth.

Hatters: Stuart Moore, James Justin, Dan Potts, Scott Cuthbert, Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Jake Gray (Luke Gambin 84), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (Jonathan Smith 79), Olly Lee, Isaac Vassell (Jack Marriott 73), Ollie Palmer.

Subs not used: Craig King, Stephen O’Donnell, Johnny Mullins, Zane Banton.

Attendance: 2,150.

Referee: Christopher Sarginson.