PREVIEW: Accrington Stanley v Luton Town

Jake Howells celebrates his leveller against Accrington last season
Jake Howells celebrates his leveller against Accrington last season

It’s off the pitch where Accrington Stanley completed their biggest signing of the summer, as they renamed their home ground the Wham Stadium in a bumper £200,000 sponsorship deal.

The Reds have secured the three-year contract with What More UK Ltd, with the ground no longer be called the Crown stadium, but renamed under their brand ‘Wham’

Stanley have also confirmed a separate deal with leading online retailer PlasticBoxShop who will take over as the club’s shirt sponsor until 2018.

Although tipped by almost all of the bookies as relegation certainties this season, manager John Coleman insisted that the two new deals in place, can help his club avoid dropping into the National League.

He told the Accrington Observer: “It’s been long documented where we are. We are the poorest club in the League but you wouldn’t say that when you see us on the pitch. We will shock a lot of people next year.

“We need that little bit of a safety net and something like this can take a lot of pressure off a lot of people.”

Like most teams, Stanley were busy in the transfer market over the summer, with one of their stand out additions, forward Billy Kee, who has returned on a one-year contract after his release from Scunthorpe United.

On his decision to move back to the club, he said: “I think I’ve reached a stage when I just want to be happy and I’m happy at this club.

“There are a lot of familiar faces here and I think that I can do well for the club over the next year or more.”

Another experienced signing to come back is midfielder Anthony Barry, who is now in his third spell with Accrington, having won the Conference title with them back in 2006.

He spent the majority of last season on loan with the Reds and penned a permanent deal following his release by Forest Green Rovers.

Barry and Kee aren’t the only players to head back as midfielder Sean McConville who left Accrington in 2011 after they made the play-offs is also onboard once more, after Coleman agreed an undisclosed fee with Chester for his services.

Meanwhile, two goalkeepers were added in York stopper Jason Mooney and Derby keeper Ross Etheridge, while Huddersfield defender Joe Wright has penned a loan deal until January too.

They join Tom Davies (Fleetwood), Adam Morgan (Yeovil) and Matty Pearson (Halifax) who were also snapped up, while there were some important re-signings from the current squad as top scorer Piero Mingoia agreed a new deal as did Shay McCartan and Adam Buxton.

On their way out were the likes of Michael Liddle, James Jenkins and George Bowerman, while striker James Gray, son of former Luton striker Phil, left for Wrexham.

Pre-season has shown some promising signs for Accrington too as they won six matches on the bounce, including victories over League One side Rochdale and Championship outfit Burnley.

They signed off with a draw against Blackpool having only lost the opening two games at Colne and against Blackburn.

Stanley could reflect on a job well done last season too as they finished in 17th place, some 15 points clear of relegation, thanks to a strong home record that saw them win 10, draw six and lost seven of their 23 matches.

Team news: The Hatters are expected to start with Elliot Justham in goal for the trip to Accrington ahead of Mark Tyler.

Mark O’Brien and Josh McQuoid are both slight doubts too, with John Still facing a late decision on whether to feature both Paddy McCourt and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu.

For Stanley, full back Liam Wakefield signed before the registration deadline and is available, while John Coleman must decide between Jason Mooney and Ross Etheridge in goal.

Youngster Keenan Quansah is sidelined by injury with midfielder Andy Procter continuing his rehabilitation from a broken ankle.

Man in the middle: Geoff Eltringham - took 34 games last season, showing 85 yellows in that time, but only dished out seven reds.

The first time he has officiated Luton fixture since the 1-0 FA Cup victory over Wolves in January 2013, his only other Hatters match.

Assistant referees are Joseph Johnson and Ricky Wootton, with Michael Denton the fourth official.

In charge: John Coleman - 52-year-old who had a hugely successful playing career in non-league football for Kirkby Town, Burscough, Marine, Southport, Runcorn, Halton, Macclesfield Town, Morecambe, Lancaster City and Ashton United, netting over 500 goals.

Was appointed player-manager of Ashton United in 1997, before moving to Accrington two years later, who were then in the Northern Premier League First Division.

During his 12-and-a-half-year tenure, Coleman led the club to three promotions to reach the Football League, before moving to Rochdale in January 2012.

Only lasted 12 months at Dale, before he became Southport manager in December 2013, while had a spell as Sligo Rovers boss in June 2014.

However, was confirmed as boss of Accrington once more in September 2014, and enjoyed a decent first season back, ensuring they kept their Football League status.

View from the opposition: Seamus Coneelly speaking to the club’s official website: “Everyone is at pretty much the same level going into the new season, we all can’t wait now.

“The gaffer’s been saying that you want to get into good habits and we seem to have done that in pre-season.

“I think we lost one game, against Blackburn, but then went on to win a number in a row until we drew with Blackpool. The results might not matter but they breed good habits and the expectation to win games.”

One to watch: Billy Kee - 24-year-old striker who re-signed for the club in the summer after his release from Scunthorpe.

Began at Leicester before his first spell with Accrington, where he scored nine goals in 44 games, while then joining Torquay.

Had his most prolific time at Burton Albion scoring 42 times in 117 matches before his move to Scunthorpe which didn’t work out as he would have liked, failing to make a league start and spending time on loan at Mansfield too.

We’ve got form: Hatters are yet to win at Accrington, having drawn both of their previous two trips.

The first, a League Two clash back in February 2009, ended goalless, with only Jake Howells from the current squad, playing that day, replacing Ian Henderson on 56 minutes.

Last time out: Hatters came back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw at Accrington last season, with all the goals coming in the first half.

Stanley flew out of the blocks, moving in front through James Gray and Luke Joyce, before Hatters made a swift change, bringing Luke Guttridge on for Alex Lacey.

That led to Luke Rooney’s lovely effort making it 2-1, while Jake Howells’ deflected free kick completed the come back before the interval.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Steve McNulty, Alex Lacey (Luke Guttridge 22), Jake Howells, Paul Connolly, Luke Wilkinson, Andy Drury, Luke Rooney, Matt Robinson, Paul Benson, Mark Cullen (Alex Wall 79).

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Fraser Franks, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Jim Stevenson, Ross Lafayette

Referee: Seb Stockbridge.

Attendance: 1,562.