PREVIEW: Exeter City v Luton Town

Scott Griffiths scores at Exeter last season
Scott Griffiths scores at Exeter last season

Exeter City have made St James Park into something of a fortress this term, suffering just one defeat on home soil in the league so far.

From 10 games so far this season, they have won four, drawn five and just one defeat, that to Wycombe Wanderers back in September.

However, they recovered immediately with a fine 2-1 win at Portsmouth although since then, Paul Tisdale’s side have struggled to record victories in front of their own fans.

They did knock League One Port Vale out of the FA Cup last time out, but prior that, won two and drew the other four, including three successive draws in the league, as Bristol Rovers, Crawley and Notts County all left with a point.

The Grecians have bigger fish on the horizon, with Premier League Liverpool visiting in January for an FA Cup third round tie, although Tisdale has warned his club’s players not to focus on that with Luton coming up.

He told the BBC: “It would be ridiculous if this tie cost us the next two or three games because we’re not focused.

“Normally you’re looking maybe one or two games ahead for a player.

“They have that focus now on the horizon which is six games away. It’s the unusual nature of a long-term focus beyond the next couple of games.

“I’m certainly not going to mention it every day to them because they’ll get sick of me, but I think we all know that they want to do their best to have a chance of being selected.”

Team news: Luton midfielder Nathan Doyle remains a doubt for the game with a knee injury, while caretaker boss Andy Awford confirmed it would be the same squad as picked against Northampton, meaning Stephen O’Donnell (hernia), Luke Guttridge (hamstring), Scott Cuthbert (hamstring), Dan Potts (hamstring), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (ankle) and Mark O’Brien (ankle) won’t feature.

Jake Howells is back in contention now after not being included under former boss John Still.

For Exeter, Tom McCready and Manny Oyeleke have resumed full training, while Matt Oakley is likely to feature and Danny Butterfield is close to being available.

Christian Ribeiro (knee), Jamie McAllister (groin) and David Noble (hamstring) are not expected to play, with Will Hoskins (ankle), Ryan Harley (hip) and Christy Pym (finger) all out too.

Milestones: Jake Howells will be Luton’s 17th highest appearance holder outright if he features, as he is currently on 317 games, the same as Alan West.

Top scorers: Hatters: Cameron McGeehan, Jack Marriott (8). Grecians: Tom Nichols, David Wheeler (7).

Man in the middle: Brendan Malone, official has taken Luton once this term, the 2-0 win over AFC Wimbledon, where he sent off Karleigh Osbourne after 35 minutes.

Has refereed 16 matches so far, showing 36 yellows and three reds, while brandishing 60 yellows and five reds in his 31 games last season, as he took Luton’s 1-0 defeat at Newport County in March, his only other Hatters match.

Assistant referees are Mark Derrien and Brian Durie, with the fourth official Ronald Ganfield.

In charge: Paul Tisdale, 42-year-old, who came through the ranks at Southampton in 1991, although only made 16 appearances for the Saints, with loan spells at Northampton Town and Huddersfield Town.

Spent time with Bristol City, Exeter, FinnPa (Finland) and Panionios (Greece) before returning to spend a year with Yeovil Town, where injury forced him to end his career early.

Took a coaching role with Team Bath in 2000, leaving in 2006, to become Exeter boss, leading the Grecians back into the Football League and is currently the second longest-serving manager in English football, behind Arsenal supremo Arsene Wenger.

One to watch: Tom Nichols - young striker who came through the youth ranks at Exeter and scored the equaliser against Luton from the spot at St James Park last season.

The 22-year-old had a barren start to this campaign, with three goals in 12 games, before scoring the winner against Cambridge United, starting a run of four goals in give matches, as although he hasn’t netted in his last three, now has seven for the season.

Played for both: David Pleat - 70-year-old played for Luton Town between 1964-67, before joining Shrewsbury, and then heading to Exeter in 1968-70, where he made over 50 appearances for the Grecians.

Returned to Luton as manager for two spells between 1978-86 and then 1991-95, famously masterminding an escape from relegation on the last day from Division One in 1983.

We’ve got form: Luton have a decent record at St James Park over the years, stretching back 1908 when the two teams were in the Southern League.

In total, Hatters have won 12 drawn eight and lost 11, scoring 50 and also conceding 50, the worst defeat a 5-1 loss back in 1965.

Town are unbeaten in their last four visits though, including a 5-0 win, as they haven’t lost since a 2-1 reverse in 1967.

Last time out: Luton were held to a 1-1 draw at Exeter last year with defender Scott Griffiths turning from hero to villain.

The full back scored the opening goal on three minutes before conceding a penalty with 18 minutes to go that that Tom Nichols converted.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths (Alex Lacey 74), Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkinson, Andy Drury, Jonathan Smith, Nathan Doyle, Jake Howells (Luke Guttridge 63), Paul Benson, Mark Cullen (Ricky Miller 81).

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Luke Rooney, Shaun Whalley, Jim Stevenson.

Attendance: 5,400.

Referee: Dean Whitestone.