PREVIEW: Cambridge United v Luton Town

While Hatters may be struggling to find the net on their return to League Two, that has been of no concern to Cambridge United.
Luton Town FC. Stock images.Luton Town FC. Stock images.
Luton Town FC. Stock images.

The U’s are the division’ leading scorers so far, scoring an impressive 15 goals from their eight games to date.

Richard Money’s side started with a 1-0 triumph over Plymouth, but after going out of the Capital One Cup at Birmingham, stuttered on their resumption of the league football.

Defeats against Portsmouth and Morecambe, saw them take just one point from nine, after also drawing with York, before that run was ended in style as Carlisle were dismantled 5-0.

The U’s then put in two very creditable displays, drawing at Newport and winning 3-2 at Dagenham & Redbridge, to go three games unbeaten.

They were brought crashing back to earth on Tuesday night though with a surprise reverse at home, Exeter City, previously without a win, claiming all three points.

Injuries have hit the R Costings Abbey Stadium side badly, so much so, that they were were forced into the emergency loan market on Thursday, bringing in midfielder Tom Naylor from Derby County for a month.

Commenting on the signing, Director of Football, Jez George told the club’s official website: “Tom fits the bill perfectly, he’s played a number of Football League games, he has the attributes that we were looking for and he’s been really keen to come here.”

Recently, striker Ryan Bird also rejoined the club on deadline day after leaving Portsmouth and has already scored twice in his first four matches.

Money strengthened well over the summer too, bringing in the likes Sam Whittall, Michael Nelson and Matteo Lanzoni, with the most popular addition, striker Kwesi Appiah from Premier League Crystal Palace, who has joined on a six month loan deal.

While all seems to be moving in the right direction on the pitch for Cambridge, it’s off it where the worries appear to lie.

The opening clash with Plymouth was attended by over 6,000 supporters, but United’s next three gates have been just over 3,000.

Speaking to BBC Cambridgeshire, boss Money was worried that the low turnouts would affect his ability strengthen the squad.

He said: “If our income is what it is, there will be no income to spend on players.

“Our first three home attendances are worrying to say the least.

“Five thousand of our own support against Plymouth, but our next attendance only gives us 3,000 supporters.

“Where that 2,000 have gone and why they would want to stay away is worrying.

“Attendances alone look like they are not going to give us an opportunity to grow the club the way we want. So the club has to grow off the pitch extremely quickly. That’s simple mathematics.”

Team news: Tom Champion (cheekbone) and Liam Hughes (wrist) are out for over a month, while Ian Miller (Achilles) is unlikely to feature before the turn of the year.

Luke Chadwick (hamstring) is also out, but Kwesi Appiah played for over an hour in midweek, with Tom Elliott and Robbie Simpson also in contention.

For Luton, Alex Lawless is definitely out with a recurrence of his hamstring injury, as is Andy Parry, while there are doubts over Paul Benson, Jake Howells and Curtley Williams.

Paul Connolly, Shaun Whalley and Nathan Doyle may be fit enough for the bench, Steve McNulty is back after his partner gave birth and Matt Robinson’s suspension has now ended.

Top League Two scorers: United: Kwesi Appiah, Ryan Bird, Tom Elliott, Robbie Simpson, Jayden Stockley (2). Hatters: Luke Rooney, Mark Cullen (2).

Average League Two crowds: Cambridge: 3,985. Hatters: 8,162.

Man in the middle: Graham Salisbury - Vastly experienced referee who has officiated seven games this season from Championship to League Two, showing 24 yellows and one red, that in his last game between Shrewsbury and Carlisle.

Last season, he only showed his red twice in 30 matches, with 84 cautions too.

It will be his first Hatters game since the 2007-08 campaign when he took the 1-0 win over Southend in League One, as Calvin Andrew scored the winner.

Prior that that, he has taken Luton a further six times, with Town winning three, including a 4-1 hammering of MK Dons, drawing two and losing one, although he did send off Kevin Nicholls during the 1-1 draw against Plymouth in 2004.

In charge: Richard Money - 58-year-old who began his playing days at Scunthorpe as a defender, before spells at Liverpool, Luton, Portsmouth and Fulham among others during the 1970s and 80s.

At Anfield he was an unused substitute in the 1981 European Cup Final, having played in the semi-final.

Became caretaker player/manager of Scunthorpe at the end of his playing career, before being appointed youth team coach at Aston Villa and then coach first Nottingham Forest and then Manchester City.

Was academy director and first team coach at Coventry City, before moving to Sweden where he had spells at AIK, then at Västerås SK, also coaching in Australia with Newcastle United Jets.

Returned to England to become manager of Walsall in May 2006 and then took the role of academy director at Newcastle in June 2008.

Became Hatters boss on October 30, 2009, but had a difficult relationship with Luton fans and left on March 28, 2011.

Was announced on October 4, 2012 that he had joined Cambridge United as head coach, with then current manager, Jez George, returning to his role as director of football and led the U’s to promotion and the FA Trophy last season.

One to watch: Kwesi Appiah - 24-year-old striker who signed a six month loan deal at Cambridge from Premier League side Crystal Palace in the summer.

Had a splendid loan spell at the club last season, scoring 10 goals in 14 league matches, before he was recalled by the Selhurst Park club.

Moved to Notts County and AFC Wimbledon, but was allowed to return to the U’s by the Eagles.

Friendly faces: There are plenty of links between both side, most notably, ex-Town boss Richard Money, who is in charge at the Abbey.

The former Luton chief managed Hatters between October 2009 and March 2011, while he also played 49 times for the club, scoring once during 1981-82.

Alan Neilson is assistant at the Abbey too, with the 41-year-old making 63 appearances for Town, scoring once during 2002-05.

He then became part of the management staff, having three spells as caretaker boss during four years, before leaving last summer.

Defender Greg Taylor who made 43 appearances, scoring once for Town is at United too and has played over 50 times.

For Luton, midfielder Luke Guttridge spent five years at Cambridge, making over 150 appearances, scoring 17 league goals.

Town first team coach Hakan Hayrettin enjoyed a season at the Abbey Stadium too, making 17 appearances in the 1994-95 campaign.

We’ve got form: Hatters have been tough to beat in the league and FA Cup clashes at the Abbey, winning four, drawing six and losing two of their previous 12 meetings, scoring 21 goals and conceding 18.

Town’s best win was 3-1 back in Division Two in 1980 thanks to David Moss’ penalty, plus goals from Clive Goodyear and Brian Stein.

The Hatters did enjoy a 4-3 win in 2009 , when down to 10 men after Liam Hatch’s red card, they turned a 2-0 half time deficit into a 4-3 victory thanks to goals from Kevin Gallen (2), Rossi Jarvis and Jake Howells.

Luton’s biggest loss saw the hosts triumph 3-1 in League Two in 1999 as Martin Butler, Trevor Benjamin and Michael Kyd scored, with Liam George bagging Town’s late consolation.

Last time out: Mark Cullen’s last minute strike saw Town earn a 1-1 draw at Cambridge last season, all but sealing the Hatters’ Conference title.

It was Cambridge who had led through Tom Elliott’s 62nd minute strike, but with the match in injury time, Cullen swivelled to volley home, sending Hatters’ 2,286 strong travelling army into wild celebrations.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Ronnie Henry, Scott Griffiths, Fraser Franks, Steve McNulty, Jake Howells (Matt Robinson 71), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Andy Parry 80), Alex Lawless, Cameron McGeehan, Paul Benson, Andre Gray (Mark Cullen 78).

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Jon Shaw.

Referee: Kevin Johnson.

Attendance: 6,050.

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