PREVIEW: Luton Town v Newport County

Luton Town host Newport this afternoon
Luton Town host Newport this afternoon

It might still be early in the season, but Newport County appear to have turned themselves from perennial relegation strugglers to potential play-off hopefuls this season.

The Welsh side have battled against the drop for the last two campaigns, finishing third bottom on both occasions, requiring a late goal from ex-Luton defender Mark O'Brien to keep them up on the final day back in May.

However, this term, battles against the drop could well be behind them as the Exiles have begun brightly, particularly at home, where they have won three and drawn one so far.

An away record of two wins, two draws and two defeats have seen them sitting in seventh place, level on points with the Hatters, and they will be looking to make it three victories in a week having defeated Crawley and Grimsby this week

There has been some criticism of how the Exiles have achieved their lofty position, with Crawley boss Harry Kewell labelling them a long ball side in the week.

However, that is no concern to Newport, as boss Michael Flynn told the South Wales Argus: “We were the better team, we stopped them playing and didn’t really look like conceding until that header that went just past the post right at the end.

“To be honest, I’m not too interested in what other teams think of us.

“If they want to underestimate us or not like our style of play it’s entirely up to them.

“I think for the first seven games we created an average of 20 chances a game by playing some really good football.

Team news: Town boss Nathan Jones has a number of selection issues, with Alan McCormack (groin), Andrew Shinnie (ankle), Lawson D'Ath (left), Elliot Lee (calf) and Johnny Mullins all doubts, while Luke Berry and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu are both suspended.

Newport's on-loan midfielder Reece Cole has had to return to parent club Brentford for an operation on a knee injury.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (6). Exiles: Frank Nouble (5).

Milestones: Jordan Cook will make his 50th appearance for the club if he features against Newport.

The 27-year-old signed for the Hatters in the summer of 2016 and has scored four goals for the club so far.

Man in the middle: Mark Heywood - Official has taken eight games this season, showing 33 yellows and just one red, although did brandish seven cautions in his last game, Blackburn's 2-0 win over Rotherham.

Caused controversy last season, with two reds in games involving Luton, sending off Johnny Mullins in the 1-1 draw at Wycombe, with boss Nathan Jones later serving a one match touchline ban for comments made afterwards.

Also dismissed Michael Raynes in the 1-1 draw with Carlisle at Kenilworth Road, a decision that was later rescinded, as last term, he showed 162 yellows in total and seven reds.

Assistant referees are Grant Taylor and Stephen Brown, with the fourth official Carl Fitch-Jackson.

In charge: Michael Flynn – born in Newport and started his career with County, before heading to Barry Town and then Wigan Athletic.

Had spells with Gillingham, Blackpool, Huddersfield, Darlington and Bradford before returning to Newport.

Became director of the club's youth academy in May 2014, leaving in June 2015, before rejoining as first team coach in October, and then was appointed football and business development director.

Was on the coaching staff once more in October 2016 under newly appointed manager Graham Westley, and named caretaker boss in March, leading the club to survival, as he was rewarded with a two year contract as permanent manager in May.

View from the opposition: Sean Rigg, speaking to the South Wales Argus: “It’s a really big game. They’ve done well over the last couple of seasons so it’s going to be really tough for us down there.

“Last season we were robbed of a point when they dived in the box to win a penalty so that was frustrating and we want to go there to prove a point and try to get the win.

“It always sticks in the back of your mind and we want to go and get three points this time.”

One to watch: Frank Nouble - Despite only being 26, the striker is already well travelled in the game having begun life at Chelsea and then heading to West Ham as a teenager.

Plied his trade at a number of clubs since, with loan spells at West Brom, Swindon, Swansea, Barnsley, Charlton, Gillingham, Wolves, Ipswich, Coventry and Southend, before appearing to have found his home in Wales.

Named played of the month for August after scoring five goals, including a superb hat-trick against Chesterfield.

Yet to score since that feat though, now going six matches without a goal.

Friendly faces: Robbie Wilmott. Lively winger who signed for Luton from Cambridge for a fee of £50,000 back in January 2011.

Played 67 games for Town, scoring 15 goals, before being released and heading back to Cambridge once more.

From there, went to Newport in January 2013 for his first spell, but then dropped into non-league, turning out for Ebbsfleet, Eastleigh, Bishop's Stortford and Chelmsford, until returning to Wales in the summer and has made 12 appearance so far, although is yet to score.

Defender Mark O'Brien joined Luton from Derby County back in July 2015, but had a tough 18 months at Kenilworth Road, playing just nine times.

Had a loan spell at Southport, before moving Newport in January this year, and became an instant hero, scoring the superb last minute winner to ensure the Exiles avoided relegation to the National League on the final day.

Gone on to play 28 times for his new club so far, with that one goal to his name, making eight appearances this season.

We've got form: Luton have a stunning record over Newport County at Kenilworth Road in their history, having never lost a game against their Welsh opponents.

From the 30 previous matches, dating back to the Southern League encounters in 1913, Town have enjoyed a staggering 22 wins and eight draws.

There have been some high scoring encounters too, with Luton hitting five three times, six once and racking up seven as well, that a 7-0 triumph in Division Three South back in 1932.

Last time out: Luton were 2-1 winners over Newport at Kenilworth Road last season in a hot-tempered affair.

The hosts led through Cameron McGeehan's penalty on 62 minutes, given for a foul on Danny Hylton, before Jennison Myrie-Williams levelled (70) as his corner flew straight in.

Johnny Mullins then saw red for his second bookable offence with six minutes to go, but in stoppage time, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu was adjudged to have been fouled in the area and McGeehan stepped up to win it.

Hatters: Christian Walton, Stephen O'Donnell, Dan Potts, Johnny Mullins, Scott Cuthbert, Cameron McGeehan, Jordan Cook (Akin Famewo 86), Pelly-Rudddock Mpanzu, Olly Lee, Danny Hylton, Jack Marriott (Isaac Vassell 89).

Subs not used: Craig King, James Justin, Jonathan Smith, Jake Gray, Josh McQuoid.

Attendance: 7,058.

Referee: Charles Breakspear.