CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Luton Town v Millwall

Luton will face Millwall this evening
Luton will face Millwall this evening

Millwall will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last season this time around, after they flirted with the Championship relegation zone for far longer then they would have wanted.

Neil Harris's side eventually managed to pick up enough results to remain in the second tier, with the four draws from their final seven games ultimately enough to see them remain above the dotted line, four points clear.

The season before they had been threatening to leave the Championship at the right end, chalking up 72 points, to finish just three away from the play-off positions.

However, the Lions couldn't match that form in what was a tough season in the league, with their brightest moments coming in an FA Cup run that saw them reach the quarter-finals.

Boss Neil Harris set about making changes to his side in the summer, with a number of players released, including midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe, who joined Luton.

He also added to his squad, paying undisclosed fees for Alex Pearce, Matt Smith, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Jason McCarthy, also splashing out a reported £1m on Bournemouth wideman Connor Mahoney.

As if often the case, the loan market was utilised too, Millwall signing Luke Steele (Nottingham Forest), Bartosz Bialkowski (Ipswich) and Jayson Molumby (Brighton).

The Lions made a fine start to the season beating Preston on the opening day and drawing at West Brom, who they then saw off in the Carabao Cup, before defeating Sheffield Wednesday to take seven points from nine.

A 4-0 reverse at Fulham put an end to the bright start though, as Millwall haven't won a league game since their Owls triumph.

They did get a creditable 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough, also drawing with Hull, losing against Blackburn and QPR, ending that mini slump with a 1-1 draw at Huddersfield on Saturday.

Lions defender Jake Cooper certainly believes his side are in a good place to emerge triumphant from Kenilworth Road, saying: “We’ve been recovering from Saturday and now we just need to look to be fresh ahead of Luton.

“We’ll be continuing to look tactically towards the game, and it’s important we’re ready and raring to go.

“If we can pick up a good result on Wednesday, it will give us confidence to push forward ahead of Saturday back at The Den. But right now it’s all about getting the points on the board at Luton.”

Team news: Andrew Shinnie is back in training after missing Saturday's win at Blackburn, while Martin Cranie is close to returning after his knee injury.

Danny Hylton and Glen Rea are both still absent though.

For the Lions, striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (illness) and right-back Jason McCarthy (toe) are hopeful of being included.

However, striker Tom Elliott and winger Jiri Skalak are still not fit, while Shane Ferguson is suspended after his red card at Huddersfield on Saturday.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (5). Lions: Matt Smith (3).

Man in the middle: Darren Bond - has taken seven games this season, five of them in the Championship, showing 27 yellow cards, but yet to get his red out.

Had 37 matches last term, brandishing 114 cautions and dismissing seven players as well.

First Luton game since April 2016, when he officiated the 2-0 defeat at Northampton, while also had Town's 1-0 win at Plymouth just a month earlier.

Refereed Hatters twice in the Conference as well, a 1-0 win over Kidderminster in April 2012 and the 2-0 play-off semi-final first leg win over Wrexham at Kenilworth Road.

Assistant referees are Ian Cooper and Andrew Fox, with the fourth official Dean Whitestone.

In charge: Neil Harris - 42-year-old who joined Millwall as a player in 1998, signed for £30,000 from Cambridge City, spending six years at the club, before heading to Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest and Gillingham.

Returned to the New Den, going on to break Teddy Sheringham's record of 111 goals for the club, as he is Millwall's all-time record goalscorer, with 138 strikes.

Finished his career at Southend United, retiring with injury in June 2013.

Had several stints as caretaker manager at Millwall, taking over permanently in the summer of 2015, leading the Lions back to the Championship in the 2016-17 campaign.

At over four and half years in charge, is currently the seventh longest serving manager in English football.

View from the opposition: Boss Neil Harris after the 1-1 draw with Huddersfield - “I would strive for more consistent levels over the course of 90 minutes.

“In the first half we were dominating, barring a five minute spell where Huddersfield scored against the run of play.

“You want consistent levels but we couldn’t reach those levels in the second half.

"Huddersfield were a bit better – we were poor with the ball in the second half, we gave it away too cheaply.

“I spoke afterwards about taking care of the football to build chances. We finished the game with 10 men for the last 15 minutes. It is a positive we have to build on.”

One to watch: Matt Smith - Imposing centre forward who was snapped up from QPR in the summer.

Began his career at Solihull Borough, joining Oldham in May 2011, before heading to Leeds in June 2013.

Scored 12 times in 42 league games at Elland Road, Fulham shelling out 500k for him one year later.

Only bagged nine goals in his 51 league outings at Craven Cottage, before a loan spell at Bristol City and then going to QPR for the same fee in January 2017.

Netted 21 in 92 games for the R's, joining Millwall this summer.

Bagged two in his first three games, while ended a five game drought with the goal in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Huddersfield.

Friendly faces: Former Manchester United youngster Ryan Tunnicliffe joined Millwall after leaving Fulham in July 2017.

Played 59 times and scored four goals for the Lions, but wasn't offered a new contract in the summer and headed to Kenilworth Road, where he hasn't missed a minute of league football.

Town's head of recruitment Mick Harford was on the coaching staff at Millwall in the 2005–06 season, returning to the New Dean in 2013 to become assistant manager and the head of scouting, leaving in July 2015.

Luton's head of academy coaching and professional player development Adrian Forbes signed for Millwall from Blackpool in January 2008.

Played 16 times for the Lions, having a loan spell at Grimsby and then left for Blundell Park permanently in July 2009.

Played for both: Jake Goodman - came through the ranks at Millwall, signed on loan by Luton in March 2013, playing 11 times in total.

Made his debut in the 0-0 draw at Nuneaton and his last game was a 3-1 triumph at Southport.

Went on to have loan spells with Aldershot and AFC Wimbledon, leaving the New Den for Margate in July 2015.

Been with Braintree and Maidenhead since, while is currently at National League side Bromley.

We've got form: Luton and Millwall have been regular competitors over the years, since the Lions were known as Millwall Athletic.

They had six games at Dallow Lane and then Dunstable Road with the visitors in that guise, Town beaten 4-3 defeat in front of 5,000 back in 1894, as the hosts won one and lost five.

Once they became Millwall, Town started with a 2-0 Southern League victory in 1901.

The Hatters went on a 28-year and 14-game unbeaten run on home soil between 1920-1948, with 6-0 and 5-0 wins secured.

They did have to stomach a four game winless run from 1948 to 1972 though, while after stopping the rot, did go on to lose five in a row between 1997 and 2005, Warren Feeney and Curtis Davies on target in a 2-1 win to bring that to an end.

In total, Luton have faced the their opponents 61 times, with 21 wins, 18 draws and 22 defeats.

Last time out: Luton went down to a 3-1 defeat at home to Millwall in their Checkatrade Trophy group stage clash at Kenilworth Road in November 2016.

The hosts had taken the lead on 58 minutes through a Shaun Hutchinson own goal.

However, Fred Onyedinma levelled in the 72nd minute and a double from Harry Smith (81, 87) saw the Lions triumph.

Hatters: Craig King, Stephen O'Donnell, Jack Senior, Frankie Musonda, Akin Famewo, Jonathan Smith, Jake Gray (Arthur Read 89), Tyreeq Bakinson (Freddie Hinds 86), Craig Mackail-Smith (Zane Banton 66), Isaac Vassell, Josh McQuoid.

Subs not used: Liam Gooch, Jack Snelus, Harry Bean, Kavan Cotter.

Referee: Oliver Langford

Attendance: 2,251.