PREVIEW: Luton Town v Portsmouth

Luke Rooney celebrates his opener against Pompey last term
Luke Rooney celebrates his opener against Pompey last term

After a massively disappointing season last year, where they ran the very real risk of possible relegation to the Conference at times, Portsmouth are finally starting to show just why they were tipped as one, if not them, strongest favourites to win promotion this term.

The south coast club began on fire, with three straight wins, defeating Dagenham, Championship side Derby in the Capital One Cup and a mightily impressive 2-1 success at Plymouth Argyle.

A draw with Crawley followed, before Portsmouth showed their fighting spirit too, trailing Morecambe 3-0 after 38 minutes at Fratton Park last Saturday, only to fight back and draw 3-3 with a last-minute leveller.

Pompey did suffer a first defeat of the campaign on Tuesday night, when they were knocked out of the cup, going down 2-1 at home to Championship side Reading.

Over the summer, Pompey showed their intentions at making their way back up the leagues, by enticing Chesterfield manager Paul Cook to take the reins.

After previous boss Andy Awford, now with Luton, was relieved of his duties in April, Portsmouth opted for a replacement with the knowledge of winning this division, as Cook had done ith the Spireites during the 2013-14 campaign.

Cook has quickly made his stamp on the squad too, making some excellent signings over the summer after seeing starlet Jed Wallace, who walked away with a host of prizes at the end of season awards ceremony, leave for Wolves in a £275k deal.

Winger Gary Roberts joined him from Chesterfield for an undisclosed fee, while further quality and experienced additions have followed suit in the shape of ex-Sheffield United duo Ben Davies and Michael Doyle.

Some exciting young talent has also been recruited too, with Kai Naismith (Accrington) and Kyle Bennett (Doncaster) on board now as well.

Team news: Luton are without Nathan Doyle and Dan Potts, while Olly Lee won’t be considered after playing 120 minutes against Stoke in midweek.

Magnus Okuonghae also misses out, but could play for the reserves next week.

For Pompey, Kal Naismith (thigh) and Jack Whatmough (knee) are both sidelined, although Enda Stevens is available again after serving a one-match ban.

Top scorers: Hatters - Jack Marriott, Paul Benson, Cameron McGeehan (2). Pompey - Gary Roberts (3).

Man in the middle: Peter Bankes. Taken four games so far this season, showing 19 yellows already, including nine in his opening match between Birmingham and Reading.

Last year, had 27 games, with 98 yellows and seven reds, one of which came in Luton’s 2-0 defeat at Shrewsbury, dismissing Matt Robinson with seven minutes remaining.

Has had five other Hatters game in his career, with Town winning just one, 3-0 over Alfreton, with two draws (Grimsby and Bath City), plus two defeats (Grimsby and Hereford).

The referees assistants are Ronald Ganfield and Marc Wilson, with Daniel Leach the fourth official.

In charge: Paul Cook, 48-year-old, who was a central midfielder in his playing career, making over 650 appearances for the likes of Wigan, Norwich, Wolves and Burnley, while he also featured in the Premier League for Coventry City.

Appointed manager of Conference side Southport in June 2006 but was sacked six months later, and then became Sligo Rovers boss in April of that year.

Secured a UEFA Cup place and although left in January 2009 by mutual consent, returned to the position weeks later.

Eventually departed to become Accrington boss for the 2011-12 campaign, before moving to Chesterfield in October 2012, guiding the club to promotion in the 2013-14 season and the the League One play-offs last term.

However, during the summer, he dropped back to League Two to become manager of Portsmouth, signing a three year deal.

One to watch: Gary Roberts - 31-year-old winger has already made a fine start to his Pompey career, netting three goals in four games, including two against Morecambe last week.

Started his career at Crewe, before spells at Accrington, Ipswich, Crewe again, Huddersfield and Swindon until the Spireites snapped him up.

However, he followed manager Paul Cook from Chesterfield to Fratton Park at the start of the season.

Friendly faces: Quite possibly the biggest connection between the sides is Andy Awford, who was Pompey manager last year before being relieved of his duties and becoming Hatters Youth Academy and Development manager.

Spent his whole playing career at Fratton Park, making over 300 appearances, before becoming academy manager with Pompey and then caretaker boss until he got the top job in May 2014.

Town centre half Luke Wilkinson was with Portsmouth as a youngster, but didn’t ever make a first team appearance, while Paul Benson spent two months on loan at Fratton Park in the 2012-13 season, scoring twice in his seven games.

Defender Dan Potts was also with Pompey, playing six games during a loan spell in the 2013-14 campaign, while Hatters goalkeeping coach Kevin Dearden had a brief spell at Fratton Park during 1992-93 year, but didn’t figure for the first team.

For Pompey, Jayden Stockley spent three months on loan at Luton last season, making 13 appearances and scoring three goals.

Joined Portsmouth on loan until January in the close season and has made four sub appearances in the league, scoring once, plus playing in two cup games too.

Played for both: Paul Walsh - signed by Luton from Charlton in 1982 for £400,000, scoring 24 goals in 80 games before being sold to Liverpool in 1984 for £700,000.

Went on to Spurs and QPR from there and then had two spells with Pompey, from 1992-94 and 1995-96.

Flying full back Matthew Taylor came through the ranks at Kenilworth Road, making over 100 appearances before he was sold to Pompey for £750,000, going on to become a star of the side who won the Division One title in May 2003.

We’ve got form: Hatters have a superb home record against Pompey over the years, with 17 wins, five draws and just two defeats from their 21 meetings at Kenilworth Road, scoring 53 goals and conceding 29.

You have to back to to October 1992 for the last Pompey win, when they triumphed 4-1 in an old Division One fixture.

The only other loss for Hatters was in a 2-0 defeat, some 70 years earlier, during the Old Division Three South.

Luton’s biggest win is 4-1, that coming three times in 1994 and 1998 (both Division One), plus 1923 (Division Three South).

Last time out: Luton were held to a 1-1 draw by Portsmouth in their League Two encounter last season.

Luke Rooney had put Hatters ahead on 13 minutes, before Pompey levelled through Ryan Taylor (36).

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Steve McNulty, Scott Griffiths (Jake Howells 77), Michael Harriman, Luke Wilkinson, Jonathan Smith, Andy Drury, Luke Rooney, Shaun Whalley (Ross Lafayette 61), Nathan Doyle, Mark Cullen (Ricky Miller 72).

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Fraser Franks, Paul Connolly, Jim Stevenson.

Attendance: 10,071

Referee: Darren Deadman.