FA CUP PREVIEW: Luton Town v Portsmouth

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Portsmouth haven’t enjoyed quite the return to League One they would have hoped for after ending their stint in League Two last term by somehow winning the title.

An amazing run of form, saw Pompey claim 10 victories from their final 12 games and pip what had looked like the uncatchable duo of Doncaster and Plymouth to be crowned champions on the final day by hammering Cheltenham 6-1 at Fratton.

Manager Paul Cook left after the celebrations had barely died down though, with Kenny Jackett appointed in his place and the former Millwall boss masterminded a 2-0 win over Rochdale on opening day.

However, the elation to their new surroundings was punctured by picking up a mere two points from their next four games, until a 2-0 win over AFC Wimbledon.

Results continued to be a mixed bag though, as Pompey won three and lost three, including losing 3-1 to struggling Northampton Town.

A home reverse to Oldham Athletic was followed by three straight wins in all competitions as Jackett’s side looked to be heading the right way once more, but that resurgence was stopped in its tracks by three straight defeats, losing at Doncaster, Blackburn and then 1-0 at home to Bradford last time out.

That means they sit 14th in the table, only five points off the play-offs in a congested division, although the Blues’ away form is a concern, winning two, drawing one and losing five of their eight matches, shipping 14 goals and scoring just six.

The FA Cup though represents a chance to regain some form and it’s a competition that Portsmouth fans have enjoyed stunning success with in recent years.

They beat Ipswich, Plymouth, Preston, Manchester United and West Brom to the final in 2008, where Nwankwo Kanu scored a 37th minute winner as Cardiff were seem off 1-0, the south coast club lifting the trophy for the first time in 69 years.

Portsmouth were then back at Wembley two years later too, losing 1-0 to Chelsea with Didier Drogba’s goal the difference that day.

Slightly more seasoned supporters will remember the club’s other FA Cup finals though, easily beating Wolves 4-1 in 1939, although less memorable were the two defeats, losing 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers in 1929 and 2-1 to Manchester City in 1934.

Boss Jackett is certainly looking to make progress at Kenilworth Road this weekend as he told the club’s official website: “It’s a great competition, but you’re always looking for a home game if possible and so it’s a tough draw for us.

“To have a cup run this season would be fantastic and I know we’ll be well backed by our supporters, who will go there with optimism.

“We want to reward them and their loyalty with a good performance and, of course, a good result.

“In the past few years this club has won the FA Cup and also had some first round exits, but hopefully we can do well.”

On the test that the Hatters, who have reached one final themselves, losing 2-1 to Nottingham Forest in 1959, will bring, defender Christian Burgess said: “I love the FA Cup and we want to do as well as we can in the competition, so I’m looking forward to playing Luton.

“Everybody playing at this level of the game wants to go through and draw a really big team later on.

“So we’ll be trying our utmost to win on Saturday and it’s always a good test when you face Luton and are battling with Danny Hylton.

“All of our games against them seem to be fairly entertaining and they’re doing well again this season, as they were expected to.”

Team news: Luton will be without the suspended Glen Rea after he was sent off in the 3-0 defeat to Coventry last weekend.

Defender Johnny Mullins is also out with an ankle injury, while Alan McCormack isn’t ready to feature either.

For Portsmouth, striker Oliver Hawkins (ankle) is a doubt, with Damian McCrory returning to parent club Burton Albion for treatment on a knee problem.

Jack Whatmough (knee) is unavailable, but Adam May is back in training and so is Curtis Main (hamstring), although it might come too soon for the latter, while Drew Talbot (groin) remains unlikely to feature.

Top scorers: Hatters - Danny Hylton, James Collins (8). Pompey – Brett Pitman (9).

Man in the middle: Seb Stockbridge - official has taken 14 games so far this season, showing 44 yellow cards and one red in that time.

Had the whistle for one Luton fixture too, the 3-0 home win over Colchester back in August.

Refereed Town twice last season, the 1-1 draw at Hartlepool sending off the hosts’ Nicky Featherstone, plus the 2-0 home win over Cambridge.

Been in charge of Luton four times previously as well, the 1-0 win at Wycombe in the 2015-16 campaign and the 2-2 draw at Accrington the season before.

Also had two Conference matches between Luton and Grimsby, a 1-1 home draw in April 2013 and 1-0 win at Blundell Park for the visitors in October 2011, Tommy Wright on target.

Referee’s assistants are Stephen Brown and Ian Dudley, with the fourth official Robert Massey-Ellis.

In charge: Kenny Jackett, 55-year-old who was able to operate in both defence and midfield during his playing days, where he spent his entire career at Watford, winning 31 caps for Wales, until injury ended it prematurely at the age of 28.

Remained on the coaching staff at Vicarage Road, before being appointed manager in May 1997, returning to an assistant role under Graham Taylor until leaving at the end of the 2000-01 campaign.

Went to QPR as number two to Ian Holloway, leaving in April 2004 to become Swansea manager, staying for almost three years, departing by mutual consent in February 2007.

Appointed reserve team manager at Manchester City and then headed to Millwall in August 2007, winning promotion to the Championship via the play-offs in his second year.

Reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 2013, losing to eventual winners Wigan, and then resigned three days after the end of the season after a slump in form.

Was the new head coach of Wolves in May 2013, leading Wanderers back into the Championship as League One champions, until his contract was terminated by new Chinese owners in July 2016.

Brief spell in charge of Rotherham last year from October 21 to November 28, spending just 39 days and five games in charge, as he was named Portsmouth boss in June once Paul Cook left the club to head to Wigan Athletic.

View from the opposition: Boss Kenny Jackett: “Both sides know a lot about each other after competing in the same division last season and Luton are now one of the fancied clubs in League Two.

“They were not too far away last time out and I’m sure they’ll be pushing for one of those promotion places this time around.

“Luton have got a bit of momentum behind them and quite a big squad to play with, but we’re determined to do well.

“It looks like the two teams are evenly matched, although we don’t have home advantage. I’m sure it will be a competitive encounter.”

Friendly faces: In Portsmouth’s ranks is Drew Talbot who joined Luton for £250,000 from Sheffield Wednesday in January 2007 as he spent over two years at Kenilworth Road, playing 63 times and scoring five goals.

Headed to Chesterfield in January 2009 on loan and moved permanently that summer, making over 250 appearances for the Spireites.

Brief stint on loan at Plymouth in 2015 and then joined Portsmouth in June last year, but has only played 13 times for the club, six of them coming this season.

Hatters defender Dan Potts spent a month on loan at Fratton Park from West Ham in November 2013, playing six times, while goalkeeper Harry Isted was also on trial at the club after leaving Stoke in the summer.

Quite possibly the biggest connection between the sides is Andy Awford, who spent his whole playing career at Fratton Park, making over 300 appearances, before becoming academy manager and then caretaker boss, getting the top job in May 2014.

Relieved of his duties in April 2015, becoming Hatters Youth Academy and Development manager in June 2015.

Luton assistant boss Paul Hart joined Pompey when a Premier League side as Director of Youth Operations in 2007.

Became caretaker manager following the sacking of Tony Adams in February 2009 and continued until the end of the season, when he was appointed permanent manager.

Was sacked in November though and declined the offer of a role as technical director responsible for players aged 18–21, leaving the club.

Town goalkeeping coach Kevin Dearden was also loaned to Portsmouth from Spurs in the 1992-93 season, but didn’t figure for the first team.

Played for both: Striker Tom Craddock was signed by Luton from Middlesbrough on loan in October 2008 and then permanently for £80,000 later that season.

Scored in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final win over Scunthorpe and went on to net 38 goals in 86 games until leaving to join Oxford in 2010.

Spent three years with United until heading to Portsmouth in May 2013.

Suffered a knee injury that kept him out at Fratton Park and he only played 12 times, scoring once, leaving in July 2015 to join Guiseley and spent last season at Spennymoor Town.

One to watch: Brett Pitman – Vastly experienced 29-year-old striker has had an excellent career in front of goal whoever he has played for.

Started out at Bournemouth, where he netted 62 times in 197 games during six years with the club, before a two and a half year spell at Bristol City saw him on target a further 20 times.

Went back to the Cherries on loan in November 2012 and then permanently, as he bagged another 40 strikes until an undisclosed deal took him to Ipswich in June 2015, as he managed 15 goals in 70 matches for the Tractor Boys.

Headed to Portsmouth in the summer and netted twice in on his debut in a 2-0 in over Rochdale, as he has gone on to score nine times in 14 games already, although only one of those has come on the road.

We’ve got FA Cup form: Luton have met Portsmouth four times in the FA Cup over their long history.

The two teams drew 1-1 in their first meeting, that a first round clash back in January 1922, as Ted Bassett scored in front of a crowd of 22,437 at Fratton Park.

The replay was then held on January 11, as Harry Higginbotham and Sid Hoar netted in Town’s 2-1 triumph.

Luton also won a third round contest 2-0 in January 1951, Willie Davie and Willie Havenga sending the majority of the 21,631 supporters at Kenilworth Road home happy.

They also won their last outing in 1988, making it four games without defeat for the Hatters.

However, in all competitions, Luton have struggled against Portsmouth recently, failing to beat their rivals for seven matches, dating back to 1995.

They have lost four from their last five games to make it five defeats from seven, scoring three goals in that time and conceding 13.

Last time out: Luton last played Portsmouth in an FA Cup tie back in the 1987-88 season when they met at Kenilworth Road for a sixth round encounter.

The Hatters ran out 3-1 winners thanks to goals from Danny Wilson, Mark Stein and Mick Harford, to reach the semi-finals, where they lost 2-1 to Wimbledon at White Hart Lane, Harford on target again, as the Dons went on to defeat Liverpoool in the final.

Hatters: Les Sealey, Tim Breacker, Ashley Grimes, Darron McDonough, Steve Foster, Mal Donaghy, Danny Wilson, Rob Johnson, Mick Harford, Mark Stein, Ian Allinson.

Attendance: 12,857.