Luton have no new injury worries ahead of Barnet’s New Year Day visit to Kenilworth Road, writes Mark Wood.
The Hatters will be deprived of the services of Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu following his recall to Premier League West Ham, but they showed they have real strength in depth after he was forced off against Kidderminster Harriers at the weekend with sub Jake Howells scoring twice and setting two up in the 6-0 rout.
Town will obviously be without energetic midfielder Jonathan Smith who suffered a double leg break in the 2-1 Boxing Day victory at the Hive, but they have no other new worries.
The game though has come too soon for midfielder Solomon Taiwo and striker Jon Shaw, who were both back in training on Monday as they continue their returns from injury.
Boss John Still said: “I think the squad that’s been involved will stay involved. I don’t think that we’ll have anyone coming back.
“Jon Shaw has put in another full stint today (Monday) as Solomon Taiwo has.”
Versatile Andy Parry also took some part as he stepped up his recovery from a hernia operation, while promising young defender Alex Lacey is expected to return to training later this week after his protective boot for a cracked metatarsal was removed.
Still continued: “Andy Parry’s trained this morning, not done it all, but trained this morning.
“I think Alex Lacey’s had his boot that he’s been wearing, he’s had that taken off, and I think we’ve also got a letter from his mum that he’s OK to carry on! So that’ll be nice.
“I would like to think he will certainly be steadily (training) by the end of this week.
“So people are making progress. It’s a bit difficult because of the weather and the time of year to get development games in, it’s a bit difficult, but we have one planned for a week today (Monday), and I would like to think that Shaw, Taiwo and possibly Parry would make that.
“So that’s what I’m looking at and that will help. It’s against Reading at the main ground 1pm.”
Barnet, meanwhile, will be without the services of Jon Nurse, who was sent off for his challenge on Smith last week, plus player/boss Edgar Davids and Carl Fletcher who were both dismissed in the Bees’ 2-1 defeat at Salisbury City on Saturday.
It means Barnet are likely to name a very similar side to the one they fielded at the Hive, although top scorer Keanu Marsh-Brown will be available to them after his suspension.
But Still didn’t think their recent encounter would tell them too much about this match, as he said: “It’s whether the team has changed a lot. I know they had a couple sent off on Saturday, they didn’t play against us anyway, Carl Fletcher didn’t play and Edgar Davids didn’t play.
“So I think their team will have a similar look to what played against us.
“Obviously Jon Nurse isn’t going to play, so I would think their team will have a very similar look to what we just played.”
The Smith injury marred the encounter at the Hive and Still was keen for that not to overshadow the game.
He said: “I think that’s gone and that incident, I think that what we have to focus on is just on winning the game.
“I don’t think we owe anyone anything. It was an unfortunate incident for us in terms of Jon’s injury and I don’t want to labour the point, but Jon Nurse has done nothing but apologise.
“As far as I’m concerned I think that if we focus on the game, and I’m not saying that people won’t look back at it after and go that was for Jonathan Smith, that’s OK.
“For me I’ve just got to focus on this game and make sure everyone is fully focused.
“Otherwise you lose your focus and the focus is on revenge, and I’m not always sure that focusing on that is the right thing.
“The focus should be 100 per cent on winning a football match. Now if you want to drag outside influences to help you do that that’s OK.
“But you mustn’t lose sight of where you want to go and that’s what I’m hoping and I know we’re capable of doing that.”
Luton have saved some of their most impressive performances this season for when they have played other top teams in the division, romping to a 5-0 win at Alfreton recently and thrashing Harriers at the weekend.
And Still has been delighted with the way his side have answered all the questions posed to them this season.
He added: “It’s not a style of play, it’s almost like an attitude you’ve got to take to the games with you and I think the players know when there’s tests coming.
“Believe me, before the game they’re all tough, whoever you’re playing they’re all tough and you need different attributes sometimes.
“We were away to Barnet last week on Boxing Day. The first half performance against Barnet on Boxing Day I thought was fantastic, I really did.
“And with the Jonathan Smith situation happening I don’t know if it affected people or not, but we needed another quality and I think whatever the quality is at the moment that we need to have in our game, we come up with.
“It’s really important that we’ve got that because for whatever reason, between now and the end of the season we’re not going to play great every game, we’re not, it’s not going to be like that, whoever you are.
“But you’ve got to have all of the ingredients and at the moment we’re finding all of the ingredients.”