PREVIEW: Luton Town v Woking

Janos Kovacs heads Luton into the lead against Woking last season
Janos Kovacs heads Luton into the lead against Woking last season

Woking look to be on course for another season in the Skrill Premier as they have picked up form just at the right time, writes Mike Simmonds.

A sticky start to the campaign saw the Cards win just three league games from their opening 17 matches, suffering nine defeats in that time.

But since November, that has all turned round drastically, with the Cards netting 11 victories from 19 fixtures to sit 11 points from safety with 10 games to go.

Their recent form has been good too, as after a 5-1 hammering at an Alex Wall-inspired Dartford, they have won their last two matches, an impressive 3-1 triumph at play-off chasing Barnet the highlight.

A mid-table away record, with six wins, two draws and 10 defeats to their name doesn’t make for the most inspiring reading, but that does include a 4-3 victory at the home of Halifax, with Woking the only visiting side to leave with three points this season, plus a triumph at Gateshead.

Crucial to their push away from the drop zone has been the additions of strike pairing Jack Marriott and former Town forward Scott Rendell until the end of the season in January.

Rendell spent three months at the Kingfield, netting seven league goals and since joining permanently has increased that tally to 12.

Meanwhile, teenage Gillingham hitman Marriott bagged an impressive eight in seven for the Cards in his first spell, including a treble in the victory at Halifax and after returning to the Gills, is now back on loan until the end of the season.

He has found goals slightly harder to come by since his return, as he’s scored just two in his last nine games.

Team news: Hatters will once again be without Luke Guttridge who has a metatarsal injury, while Jonathan Smith and Danny Fitzsimons remain out until the new season.

Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu is fit after a knock against Cambridge.

The Cards don’t have any injury concerns either, although they are without defender Mike Cestor.

Top Skrill Premier scorers: Hatters: Andre Gray (25). Cards: Scott Rendell (12).

Average Skrill Premier crowds: Hatters: 6,916. Cards: 1,410.

Man in the middle: Christopher Kavanagh - official has taken 16 Skrill Premier games this season, showing 51 yellows and six reds.

Was in charge of Town’s opening game at Southport where he controversially sent off Steve McNulty, with the dismissal later overturned on appeal, while he has also taken Woking’s 3-2 defeat at Macclesfield in the league too.

In his only other league game in charge of the Hatters, also brandished a red, as he sent off Macclesfield keeper Rhys Taylor for tripping Andre Gray in the 1-1 draw last season.

Tonight’s match will be the first he has officiated since February 4 as he’s been on the line for League One games at Walsall and Notts County, plus a fourth official in the Championship at Blackburn Rovers too.

In charge: Garry Hill. Began his non-league managerial career with Heybridge Swifts where he took the village team to the Isthmian Premier and the FA Cup first round for the first time.

Moved to St Albans City in 1999 before taking over as manager of Dagenham & Redbridge.

Led the club to the Isthmian League title and promotion to the Conference in his first season in charge, but missed out on promotion to the Football League on goal difference in 2001-02.

A play-off final defeat to Doncaster Rovers followed during the next campaign, before he resigned in the 2003-04 season.

In May 2004, Hill took over as Hornchurch boss and then went to Weymouth in March 2005, before he was sacked in January 2007.

Appointed Rushden & Diamonds boss in February 2007, but resigned two years later and then appointed Woking boss on January 20, 2011, leading the club into the Conference the following campaign.

From the dug out: Garry Hill on his side’s chances to get to the 50-point mark: “We have a chance and we have to believe it.

“No club has gone to Halifax this season and won, apart from Woking. No team had won away at Gateshead for six months, apart from Woking. Barnet had won their last five league games and got beaten by Woking.

“Luton are a quality side, they have a quality management team and I think they are certainties to win it this season.

“It’s all over bar the shouting but we will, hopefully, give a good account of ourselves because you never know what Woking team is going to turn up but we will have to be at our best.”

On the match itself, which is live on BT Sport, he added: “It will be an atmosphere, without doubt, different to any we have experienced this season, in front of the TV cameras.

“It’s a great night in respect of there being no pressure or expectation but when you look at their results they got seven against Hereford, six against Kidderminster, five against Wrexham, five at Nuneaton, three against Alfreton.”

Friendly faces: Cards midfielder Adam Newton joined Luton in July 2009 from Brentford and made 66 appearances, scoring four goals before being released in May 2011.

Moved to Woking and has featured over 60 times for the Cards including 27 league appearances this term.

Former Town striker Scott Rendell is also at Woking, signing until the end of the campaign.

One to watch: Scott Rendell – you can never look past a player returning to his old club.

The 27-year-old was signed by former Town boss Paul Buckle in the summer of 2012, making 46 appearances, scoring 12 times.

His most famous goal came at Carrow Road, knocking Norwich City out of the FA Cup last year.

Rendell moved to Woking on loan first, penning permanently until the end of the season in January and has scored 12 league goals so far, including five in his last five matches.

We’ve got form: Town have had by far the better over Woking in their previous five meetings.

Town won their Football League Trophy clash back in 2002 thanks to goals from Peter Holmes (26) and David Deeney (57).

They they won 3-1 in the league last season, but lost the return clash just a week later on New Year’s Day 3-1.

This season the sides have met twice, with Town winning 4-0 at Kingfield in the league, before a 1-0 victory in the FA Cup too.

Last time out: Hatters were 3-1 winners over Woking in their Boxing Day meeting last season.

Town took the lead through Janos Kovacs on 15 minutes, before Jon Shaw added a second (37).

Jo McNerney pulled one back for the Cards on 71 minutes, before Scott Rendell killed off any hopes of a comeback from the penalty spot with eight minutes to go.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Janos Kovacs, Jake Howells, Simon Ainge, Ronnie Henry, Alex Lawless, Arnaud Mendy, Jon Shaw, Scott Rendell, Stuart Fleetwood (JJ O’Donnell 83), Andre Gray (Matt Robinson 89).

Subs not used: Dean Brill, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Greg Taylor.

Referee: Kevin Johnson.

Attendance: 6.744.

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