PREVIEW: Bristol City v Luton Town
Hatters head to Ashton Gate this weekend
Bristol City's season hasn't panned out anywhere near how either they would have wanted or expected it to this term.
After three campaigns where the Robins finished 11th, eighth and then 12th in the Championship, hopes were high of mounting another play-off challenge once more, although it would be under Dean Holden, with long-serving boss Lee Johnson leaving in July.
Holden's baptism into senior management certainly started well, City winning their first four games to get up and running with the perfect record.
A draw at Barnsley was their first dropped points as they went five games without a win, but three successive victories and a draw against Watford followed as they were sitting in third place, just three points off the top on November 25.
Then came the inconsistencies that have since gone on to hamper City's hopes significantly as they became an all or nothing side from that point on.
They won two out of three to begin with, and then three out of five as on January 26 following a 2-1 success over Huddersfield, were still fairly well placed, in eighth position and three points away from the play-offs.
However, the all or nothing approach then started to crumble into just nothing, the Robins going on a seven game losing spell in all competitions, including a 6-0 defeat at Watford, which saw Holden lose his job in February.
A 1-0 loss at Barnsley followed, but the appointment of Nigel Pearson saw results started to pick up immediately, City winning at both Middlesbrough and Swansea City.
Two home defeats to Bournemouth and QPR hampered the revival as although they won at Birmingham on March 13, the Robins have taken just three points from a possible 21 since, with four losses, including a last-gasp 2-1 reverse at bottom side Wycombe on Wednesday night.
Any hopes of a top six push were ended a long time ago, City now in 15th place and although Rotherham can just about mathematically catch them, they are well safe from relegation.
Pearson certainly wasn't pulling any punches after Wednesday night's defeat at Adams Park, telling BBC Radio Bristol: "That was as good a first 45 minutes as we've played for a long, long time, in terms of control, in doing what we talk about doing, being cohesive as a team and being stubborn as a team.
"In the second half we just had individuals going off on tangents and doing their own thing and not showing the responsibility for the team.
"That is a problem for us and why we underachieve as a team. That's why we continue to frustrate everybody including ourselves.
"Until the players accept the responsibility for their own performance, we're going to continue to be an under-achieving club.
"That's something that is a problem. Time to change people.”
Off the pitch it hasn't been a good few weeks either, with chief executive Mark Ashton announcing he is moving to League One Ipswich Town to take up same role after five years with the Robins, owner Steve Lansdown calling the departure 'disappointing'.
Head of football operations Luke Werhun is expected to join him at Portman Road too, while it remains unclear whether Pearson is staying as well, as speaking to Bristol Live recently, he said: “We’ve spoken about meeting as soon as it’s possible, but of course, then it will be determined by the best way of doing that, and the best place to do that.
"It’s something I cannot disclose at the moment because I don’t know.”
Team news: Luton have a doubt over midfielder Luke Berry after he missed the 0-0 draw with Reading on Wednesday night, pulling out of the team just before kick-off.
Dan Potts is back from his thigh injury, leaving just Tom Lockyer (ankle), Tom Ince (ankle) and Danny Hylton as absentees.
City have a number of long term injuries including Jay Dasilva (shin), Cameron Pring (hamstring), Tommy Rowe (knee), Hakeeb Adelakun (back), Andi Weimann (ACL) and Chris Martin (hamstring).
Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (12). Robins: Nahki Wells, Famara Diedhiou (10).
Man in the middle: John Busby – second Luton game of the season after he had the opening day 3-1 win over Norwich City in the Carabao Cup.
Has taken 31 matches this termn, mainly in League One and League Two, showing 82 yellow cards and six reds.
First Town fixture since he had the 4-0 win over Doncaster in March 2019, while also officiated Luton's 2-1 Checkatrade Trophy victory over Brighton U21s that season.
Had one Luton game in the 2017-18 season, the 1-1 draw with Barnet, also in the Checkatrade Trophy, while had four Town matches in the 2016-17 campaign, a 2-1 Checkatrade Trophy victory at Gillingham, plus wins over Exeter (3-1) and Morecambe (3-1), and a 3-2 home reverse to Cheltenham.
Assistant referees are Mark Russell and Mark Jones, with the fourth official Jeremy Simpson.
In charge: Nigel Pearson – 57-year-old had a lengthy playing career starting at Shrewsbury Town, before moving to Sheffield Wednesday for £250,000 in October 1987.
Captained the Owls to the 1991 League Cup victory and promotion to Division One, heading to Middlesbrough for £750,000 in 1994.
Retired from playing in 1998, as he took his first managerial role at Carlisle United, signing goalkeeper Jimmy Glass on loan who famously went on to score the goal that kept the Cumbrians in the Football League.
Became Stoke City first team coach in 1999, sacked in 2001 and then named West Bromwich Albion assistant in November 2004, going to Newcastle United in 2006 as number two.
In February 2007, Pearson was assistant coach to Stuart Pearce in the England U21s, while became caretaker manager of Newcastle United when Glen Roeder resigned, taking on the position again in January 2008 after Sam Allardyce left.
Was back in the hot seat himself in February 2008 as Southampton manager, although left in the summer, as he took charge of Leicester City in June 2008, winning the League One title, reaching the Championship play-offs the following season.
Left Leicester to take over at Hull City in June 2010, but was back in charge of the Foxes again in November 2011, taking the club to the Premier League in March 2014.
Despite keeping City up, he was sacked in June 2015, becoming Derby boss after a year out, although left by mutual consent after just five months.
Went to Belgium First Division cub OH Leuven in September 2017, sacked 18 months later, before moving to Watford in December 2019, but was dismissed in July even through the club were still out of relegation zone then.
Was back in the game in February this year, appointed manager of Bristol City on a contract until the end of the season.
Manager record: Hatters boss Nathan Jones has come up against Bristol City twice as manager before, losing 2-1 when at Stoke in September 2019, but engineering a 2-1 win over the Robins for Luton earlier this season.
Nigel Person has managed just the once against Luton, that when West Bromwich Albion boss back in September 2006, a 2-2 draw at Kenilworth Road.
The two have never come up against each other in a competitive clash though.
View from the opposition: City boss Nigel Pearson talking to the club's official website: “Luton have had a good season but again we talk about the reasons we haven’t done as well as we should be and that’s about us, rather than the other team.
“We need to maximise what we have and we haven’t done that. For where we aspire to be and where we are there’s a difference which we need to work on and address.
“I think we all believe we should be achieving more here, we’re not and that’s the reality.
“We’ve had a trend of doing okay and then trailing off, so we need to address that.
"We have to tried to find solutions for the immediate problem and that’s our form and results, but the bigger picture is something different.”
One to watch: Striker Nahki Wells began his carer at Carlisle, moving to Bradford on a free in June 11, as he scored over 50 goals in his two-and-a-half years for the Bantams.
Went to Huddersfield for £1.6m in January 2017, finishing just just short of his half century there as a £5m switch to Burnley in August 2017 didn't work out with just 10 substitute appearances at Turf Moor.
Had two loan spells at QPR, scoring 24 goals for Rangers, before moving to Bristol City for £5m in January 2020.
Has netted 15 goals in 64 games so far and reached double figures for the campaign in the 3-1 defeat to Coventry at the start of the month.
Friendly faces: Town midfielder Joe Morrell came through the ranks at Bristol City but only made six appearances in his seven years at Ashton Gate, with just one substitute outing in the league.
Had loans at Sutton United and Margate, spending the 2017-18 season at Cheltenham where he played 39 times, scoring three goals.
Went to Lincoln City last term, making 32 appearances and scoring once, moving to Luton for an undisclosed fee in October 2020, although has featured just 11 times for the Hatters.
Town's assistant manager Mick Harford spent a year at Bristol City as he joined the Robins from Newcastle United for £160,000 in August 1981.
Sold to Birmingham in March 1982 before Luton shelled out £250,000 for him in December 1984, as he went on to score 92 goals in 217 games for the Hatters over two spells.
City midfielder Tyreeq Bakinson was part of the academy at Kenilworth Road, as he played six times, mainly in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Headed to Ashton Gate in October 2017 and had a successful loan stint at Newport County and then Plymouth Argyle before breaking into the Robins first team this term.
Has made 37 appearances this season and is in a good vein of form in front of goal, with two in City's last two games, and has three in his last six.
Defender Jay Dasilva was as Luton as a youngster until snapped by Chelsea in 2012, along with his brothers Cole and Rio.
Never made a first team appearance while at Stamford Bridge, spending time on loan at Charlton and then Bristol City, making the switch permanent in June 2019.
Has made 67 appearances for the Robins, but has only played 10 times this season following an injury.
Attacker Freddie Hinds made two appearances for Luton in the Checkatrade Trophy after impressing in the youth team, then joined City for an undisclosed fee in January 2017.
Made four appearances for the Robins, scoring twice in the League Cup, but has been out on loan in recent seasons, at Cheltenham, Wrexham, Colchester and Bath City.
Played for both: Goalkeeper Nathan Abbey came through the ranks at Luton playing 68 times between 1995-2001 before moving to Chesterfield, where won the supporters player of the year award, but left after failing to agree a new contract
Had brief stays at Northampton, Ipswich, Burnley, settling with Boston United for two years, before a move to Bristol City in February 2006.
Made one substitute appearance for the Robins when replacing the injured Adriano Basso for the final 35 minutes of a 1-0 defeat against Southend United, then heading to Torquay United, Brentford, MK Dons, Rushden & Diamonds, before dropping down into non-league, playing for Kettering Town, Arlesey Town, St Neots and Dunstable.
Had management roles at Arlesey, St Neots and most recently Bedford Town, leaving the Eagles in January 2020.
We've got form: Luton have found it incredibly tough to get results at Bristol City over the years.
They started with a 6-0 defeat in the United League back in 1898, before a shocking run when Division Three South games started, with six more straight losses, including 6-0, 5-2 and 5-1 beatings.
The rot was stopped with a 0-0 draw in 1934, before they finally won in March 1935, Jack Ball and Fred Roberts netting in a 2-0 success.
Town followed that up with another two victories, before being brought back down to earth in 1963 with a 5-1 reverse.
Although Luton managed back-to-back wins in 1972 and 1973, they then had to wait just over 30 years years and 11 matches to win again, Chris Coyne and Enoch Showunmi scoring in a 2-1 League One success in 2004.
In total, Luton have made 30 trips, winning just six, drawing seven and losing 17, scoring 25 goals, unable to find the net on 15 occasions, conceding 64 times.
Last time out: The Hatters were beaten 3-0 on their last trip to Ashton Gate in December 2019 last season.
The loss was on the cards from early on as Marley Watkins put the hosts in front and then Famara Diedhiou added the second just before half time from the penalty spot after a dubious foul by Kazenga LuaLua on Jack Hunt.
Andreas Weimann then completed the scoring on 66 minutes from close range.
Hatters: James Shea, Luke Bolton (Martin Cranie 46) James Bree, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley, Ryan Tunnicliffe (George Moncur 60), Luke Berry, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Harry Cornick, James Collins, Kazenga LuaLua (Alan Sheehan 81).
Subs not used: Marek Stech, Callum McManaman, Andrew Shinnie, Jacob Butterfield.
Referee: Oliver Langford.