PREVIEW: Luton Town v Crawley Town

Paul Benson saw this header hit the bar against Crawley last season
Paul Benson saw this header hit the bar against Crawley last season

It’s Crawley Town’s away form that has been the reason they currently sit in that unenviable position of mid-table obscurity going into the final 18 games of the League Two season.

With the Red Devils’ home form impressive, winning seven from 13 and conceding just 13 goals in that time, it’s safe to say Dermot Drummy’s men have suffered from some travel sickness.

Three wins, three draws and nine defeats are the bare facts, while Crawley’s usually tight defence have shipped 29 goals, keeping just two clean sheets in that time too.

All of that means the south coast side are placed 16th in the standings, with no real worries of relegation, 11 points clear of the drop zone, and could still mount a late charge for the play-offs, only nine points adrift of seventh spot.

It’s been a mixed bag of results recently too as Crawley have often won back-to-back games, looking as though they are on just about to put a good run together, before failing to carry that promise through.

Two cases in point were when Drummy’s side beat both Crewe and Newport in December, before suffering defeats to Leyton Orient and Plymouth.

They also did the same in January, after successive home wins over Yeovil and Hartlepool, only to lose to Notts County and Stevenage, although they did well to hold Blackpool to a 0-0 draw on their travels in midweek.

Drummy wasn’t the busiest of managers on deadline day, but did pep up his attacking options before the window shut, re-signing striker Rhys Murphy from Forest Green Rovers on loan until the end of the season.

The 26-year-old former Arsenal trainee bagged nine goals in 16 appearances for the League Two side during a spell on loan from Oldham in 2015, including netting against Luton in a 2-1 victory.

Meanwhile, Crawley also brought in former Northampton Town defender Josh Lelan on an 18-month deal, plus extended midfielder Conor Henderson’s contract until the end of the season too.

On their way out of the Checkatrade Stadium were winger Jason Banton, loaned to Partick Thistle, and midfielder Chris Arthur, who returned to Woking on loan.

Team news: Luton will be able to welcome back Stuart Moore, Lawson D’Ath and Ollie Palmer, who were all cup-tied for Tuesday night’s thumping 5-2 win over Yeovil in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Johnny Mullins sits out the final game of his suspension, while Dan Potts (knee), Danny Green (leg), Akin Famewo (tendinitis) are all still missing.

Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (15). Red Devils: James Collins (16).

Man in the middle: Christoper Sarginson - taken 26 games so far this term, including 10 League One matches, with 78 yellows and four reds.

Had the whistle for Luton as they saw off Solihull Moore 6-2 in the FA Cup in December, while officiated the Hatters twice last term, the 4-1 defeat at AFC Wimbledon, plus a 3-1 viuctory over Morecambe.

Prior to that, has refereed Luton four other times, with three wins over Newport County (4-2), Corby Town (4-2) and Notts County (2-0), plus a 1-1 draw with Chester, when he sent off Kevin Roberts,

Lee Venamore and Ravel Cheosiaua are the assistant referees, with Marvyn Amphlett the fourth official.

In charge: Dermot Drummy, 56-year-old who was appointed head coach at Crawley on a two-year contract in April 2016.

Started his playing career with Arsenal, but never made a first team appearance for the Gunners, with his five Football League matches coming while on loan at Blackpool.

Spent time at Hendon, Wealdstone, Enfield, Ware and St Albans City, before he was appointed player manager at Ware in the 1996-97 season.

Left to become a youth coach at Arsenal, developing players such as Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere and was then appointed manager of the Chelsea Academy in January 2009, leading the Blues to victory in the FA Youth Cup, their first success in 49 years.

Moved to the role of international head coach at Stamford Bridge in June 2014, before he was named head coach at Crawley last year and has won 12 of his 37 games in charge so far, drawing seven and losing 18.

View from the opposition: Dermot Drummy, speaking to the club’s official website: “It will be a very tough game, a different type of game, as we’ve got to be wary of Luton building up from the back and playing a patient game and then attacking with quick pace as they’re very good at that.

“We went there for the Cheltenham game and there’s a great atmosphere, but I think that will suit our players and we’ve got to know what we’re dealing with.

“We’ve worked on some strategies this week and I definitely think we’re more resolute now. I think it will be a good football match, certainly they play but they leave you space to play as well and that suits us.”

One to watch: James Collins - Crawley’s stand out striker so far this season after bagging 16 goals in his 34 matches, including a run of seven in his last nine.

Still only 26, but is an experienced frontman, both sides of the border, with spells at Burton, Shrewsbury, Swindon, Hibernian and certainly knows where the goal, netting over 100 times in his career already.

Spent time on loan at Northampton last term, bagging eight in 21, before Crawley snapped him in the summer and was nominated for the League Two player of the month award for January.

Played for both: Lewis Price - signed on loan from Ipswich in February 2009 and went on to play just two games for the club.

Started with a 2-1 defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge in the league, before having a starring role in the Hatters’ Johnstone’s Paint semi-final success against Brighton, saving penalties from Jason Jarrett and Chris Birchall in the shoot-out as Luton advanced to Wembley.

Had spells at Brentford and Crystal Palace before heading to Crawley on loan from the Eagles in November 2014 until the end of the season, playing 18 times.

Now with Championship side Rotherham after joining the Millers in the summer as the 32-year-old has made 11 appearances this term.

We’ve got form: Hatters have found Crawley tough opponents at Kenilworth Road since their first meeting back in 2009, winning once and losing three.

Things started well as Town triumphed 3-0 back in 2009 when George Pilkington scored twice with Tom Craddock also on target to settle the Conference clash.

The following season saw The Red Devils win 2-1 as after Andy Drury put Luton ahead before Richard Brodie and former Town striker Craig McAllister stole victory in the last 10 minutes.

Crawley then won 1-0 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash in October 2014, repeating that same scoreline in the league last term too.

Last time out: Luton were beaten 1-0 in their League Two clash against Crawley last season.

Despite dominating virtually the entire game, Crawley scored through Matt Harrold’s excellent finish on 12 minutes and then kept the Hatters out, with both Jonathan Smith and Paul Benson denied by the woodwork.

Hatters: Jonathan Mitchell, Stephen O’Donnell, Dan Potts, Scott Cuthbert, Alan Sheehan, Jonathan Smith (Danny Green 66), Cameron McGeehan, Paddy McCourt, Olly Lee, Jack Marriott (Paul Benson 75), Craig Mackail-Smith (Joe Pigott 54).

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Magnus Okuonghae, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Zane Banton.

Attendance: 8,264.

Referee: Michael Bull.