PREVIEW: Luton Town v Southend United

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Southend will be hoping the speculation surrounding manager Phil Brown’s future is just that, as the club have enjoyed a thoroughly promising start to the campaign.

Brown has been linked with move back to his former club Bolton Wanderers, where he worked under Sam Allardyce for six years, as he has been installed as one of the favourites to replace Dougie Freedman who was sacked last week.

Speaking to the Southend Echo though, Brown appears to be more interested in prolonging his future at Roots Hall, rather than looking elsewhere as he said: “I’m meeting with the chairman and the contract is closer to being sorted out than it has ever been before.

“It’s certainly closer than it was at the start of the week and it’s really just a case of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”

Brown’s management staff have stated it’s been business as usual on the training pitch despite the rumours as assistant boss Dave Penney told BBC Look East: “He’s not spoken to us about it. We’re fully focused on Saturday.”

It’s no wonder the former Trotters assistant boss has been linked though as he’s enjoyed an excellent start to the campaign, and was named the Sky Bet League Two manager of the month for September.

In that time, he oversaw four wins and a draw, with victories against Shrewsbury, York, Portsmouth and Cheltenham, along with a draw against Oxford, taking 13 points from a possible 15.

The manager of the month curse appeared to strike prematurely as Southend lost 1-0 at home to Morecambe last weekend, but still sit in fourth pace, just three points off top spot.

With Brown settled in his post before the summer after a play-off defeat to Burton Albion, there wasn’t a massive amount of change within the squad that other clubs may have experienced over the close season.

Some fell by the wayside naturally, with the most high profile exit being club legend Freddie Eastwood, while Marc Laird, Anthony Straker and Mark Phillips moved on too.

Naturally, there were new arrivals with Cian Bolger purchased from Bolton, while Spurs striker Shaquile Coulthirst agreed a season-long loan and has scored twice so far.

Southend also borrowed Jerome Binnom-Williams from Crystal Palace and the England Youth international has already been receiving rave reviews thus far.

Danish centre-back Mads Ibenfeldt also penned a year’s deal, while another undisclosed fee was paid for Billericay striker Isaac Layne, who is yet to start for the first team.

It’s away from home where the Shrimpers have impressed the most so far this campaign, with three victories, one draw and one defeat, with three of the club’s four losses coming in front of their home fans.

Team news: Jake Howells will miss out with illness for the Hatters, while Paul Connolly, Luke Rooney and Fraser Franks, although back in light training, won’t feature. Curtley Williams is also a doubt, so Michael Harriman is expected to make his debut after signing on loan from QPR this week.

Southend have striker Barry Corr available again after he recovered from a knee injury while midfielder Ryan Leonard is also in contention after he shook off a hamstring problem.

Ben Coker remains out for the foreseeable future with an elbow injury.

Top scorers: Hatters: Mark Cullen (3). Shrimpers: Jack Payne (4).

Average League Two crowds: Hatters: 8,350. Shrimpers: 5,889.

Man in the middle: Christopher Kavanagh - reffed eight matches this season, only showing 13 yellow cards so far, and will be his second Southend game, having taken their 1-1 draw at Carlisle.

Was in the Conference last season, brandishing 74 yellows and seven reds in his 22 games.

In charge for Luton’s opening day 1-0 defeat at Southport, controversially sending off Steve McNulty, a decision that was later overturned.

Town haven’t had the best of times with Kavanagh as he also had the whistle for Luton’s 1-0 defeat against Woking that ended their lengthy unbeaten run.

The ref also was in charge for the 1-1 draw at Macclesfield the season before when he sent off home keeper Rhys Taylor.

In charge: Phil Brown 54-year-old who enjoyed an 18-year playing career, making over 600 Football League appearances for the likes of Hartlepool, Halifax Town, Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool.

Became assistant boss to Sam Allardyce while at Bloomfield Road, a position he then kept when moving back to Bolton under Colin Todd.

Following Todd’s departure in 1999, he led the team to four wins out of five and then served under Allardyce again for six years, before his first full-time management position at Derby County in 2005.

Was sacked after just seven months by the Rams before becoming first team coach at Hull in October 2006 and then was appointed boss in January 2007.

Led Hull to the Premier League via the play-offs and just about kept them in the division that season, but was put on gardening league in March 2010 and officially left in June.

Announced as Preston boss in January 2011 but couldn’t stave off relegation to League One and a poor run saw him leaving in December 2011.

After a period out of football, was appointed Southend boss on March 25, 2013, and experienced Wembley disappointment in the JPT Final, losing to Crewe, while suffering play-off final defeat last season too,

From the dug out: Assistant boss Dave Penney - “Luton have a wily old manager in John Still and some good players too so we know we’re in for a test this weekend.

“But it’s one we’re looking forward to, especially as there’s likely to be a big crowd.”

One to watch: Jack Payne - young midfielder is enjoying an excellent season to date and he was in the running for the division’s player of the month award, but was pipped by Hatters defender Luke Wilkinson.

Came to Southend after being released by Spurs and made his debut last year, but has gone on to feature regularly this term, scoring four times, including twice in the 2-2 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy draw at AFC Wimbledon.

Friendly faces: Hatters midfielder Luke Guttridge spent almost two years at Southend between March 2005 and January 2007.

The midfielder joined on a free from Cambridge, and helped the Shrimpers top League One to win promotion to the Championship.

Made over 50 appearances, scoring five league goals until he moved on loan to Leyton Orient the following season and then joined the O’s permanently.

Out of favour winger Dave Martin also had a spell at Southend between January 2012 and July 2013, as he played over 30 times for the club after joining from Derby, but moved to Luton on loan and then permanently.

We’ve got form: Luton have a pretty formidable record against Southend at Kenilworth Road as their last defeat was almost 50 years ago, back in the old Third Division on November 28, 1964, a run spanning 12 games.

In total, Luton have won 19, drawn nine and lost four of the 32 matches played, scoring 62 goals and conceding 30.

The Shrimpers have also failed to score in their last four visits, a duration of almost two decades, since their 3-1 defeat in 1996 and haven’t netted on 15 of their visits to Bedfordshire.

There have been some goal-filled games along the way, a 3-3 and 4-4 draw, while the biggest win for Luton was 5-1 in 1928 in the FA Cup when Andy Rennie bagged four and Lewis Bedford also scored.

Last time out: Calvin Andrew netted the winner after 74 minutes in the last time the two sides met at Kenilworth Road in a League One clash on November 24, 2007 against a visiting side containing Garry Richards, who had an injury-hit spell for the Town.

Hatters: Dean Brill, Jaroslaw Fojut (Anthony Grant 43), Chris Coyne, Richard Jackson, David Bell, Keith Keane, Matthew Spring, Dave Edwards, Marc Wilson, Paul McVeigh (Darren Currie 59), Calvin Andrew.

Subs not used: Alan Goodall, Don Hutchison, Drew Talbot.

Attendance: 6,820.

Referee: Graham Salisbury.