Dorchester Town make their first visit to Kenilworth Road on Saturday for their FA Cup second round tie, part two of their ongoing saga with Luton Town, writes Mike Simmonds.
What Hatters had hoped would be their final clash with the Blue Square Bet South side, is now the second game of three and possibly even four, after Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw in the FA Trophy.
Luton had looked like they were going to edge through to a second round clash with Matlock Town after Stuart Fleetwood put them ahead in the second half, only for their set-piece woes to strike again, as the hosts levelled in the final seconds through Charlie Clough.
Having come up against against a full strength Hatters team in that game, a trip to Bedfordshire doesn’t hold any worries for Magpies boss Phil Simkin now, as he said: “That was their best side – they have nothing else to throw at us.
“They are a strong and powerful side, and in Stuart Fleetwood, Scott Rendell and Andre Gray they have three top front men but even though they scored twice I thought we defended well for most of the game.
“It is going to be a bit different up there on Saturday but I thought we did well in difficult conditions and thoroughly deserved the equaliser at the end.
“In fact, I was a bit disappointed that we did not go on and win it because after we got back to 1-1, I couldn’t really see them scoring.
“I was extremely disappointed with the manner of their second goal but the lads kept going and they got their reward, and once again I was very proud of each and every one of them.”
To get to this stage, Dorchester have already played four ties, and have won them handsomely, scoring scoring nine goals and conceding just one.
First they knocked out Wootten Bassett Town in the second qualifying round, before defeating Basingstoke 1-0, Bury Town 3-1 and then League Two Plymouth Argyle 1-0 in front of the ITV cameras to set up the tie with Luton.
Unlike their tremendous home record, Magpies’ away form hasn’t been the best this campaign though with three wins, five defeats and one draw from the nine games on their travels.
Team news: Dorchester welcome back Ashley Nicholls from suspension and that is a huge plus as far as boss Simkin is concerned.
The 31-year-old midfielder, who started his career at Ipswich has played over 50 times for Darlington, while also had spells for Cambridge and Rushden and, as his manager said: “I think with Ashley Nicholls back from suspension, Luton will be in for a surprise in terms of the quality of football we are capable of playing.
“We missed Ash a lot (in the first game) and the reason we have played so well at times this season has been down to him.
“He is a Football League player playing in non-League and having him back on Saturday will be a big plus for us and give them something different to think about.”
Recent signing Richard Logan, who made his Dorchester debut against Luton on Tuesday is cup-tied though after coming on for former club Wycombe as a ninth minute substitute in their 4-1 first round defeat at Crewe Alexandra.
Simkin added: “It is unfortunate because I thought he had a really good debut. I was also impressed with Dan Thompson’s first appearance too. It was only a little cameo but he showed he can be a real handful.”
Hatters boss Paul Buckle has hinted that both Jon Shaw and Arnaud Mendy could well be on the bench for the match. Defender Simon Ainge is cup-tied once again, but Jonathan Smith should be available, leaving just Danny Spiller and Garry Richards missing from action.
Man in the middle: Carl Berry - has taken 13 games from the Championship to League Two this season, showing 38 yellow cards and four reds.
His most recent match was the League Two encounter between Southend and Rochdale, while last campaign, he dished out 78 yellows and five reds in his 25 games.
One to watch: Jake Gosling – the Exeter City youngster is currently on loan at Dorchester and had a fine game against Hatters in the Trophy. He has already played a huge part in the Magpies’ FA Cup run so far too, scoring the winner to knock Plymouth Argyle out in the first round.
Saturday is his last game for the club, but boss Simkin is hoping to extend the deal as he said: “I have spoken further with Steve Perryman down at Exeter and he said there is a way they can do it with a youth loan. They are going to find out more about it but he thinks it is quite likely he will remain with us.
“They are really keen for him to stay here a while longer and in many ways it is no surprise as he has come on leaps and bounds.
“When he first came here he was a bit of a slow starter and it took him a while to pick up the type of football.
“Getting used to the physical side of it at this level is not easy for a young player but he has worked at it and has been one of our top performers now for several weeks.”
View from the opposition: Skipper Mark Jermyn: “If we use the atmosphere in the right way tomorrow it can help make us stronger.
“We are the underdogs and the longer the game remains tight the more they will start asking questions of themselves and the more their fans will begin to get on their backs.
“If we can make that happen it will then be us who look like we are running downhill, and from there who knows?”
For all the latest Luton Town FC news, reports, stats, player profiles, live match updates, MOM poll, prediction table and a complete fixture list, visit our Hatters Microsite.