PREVIEW: FC Halifax Town v Luton Town

FC Halifax’s play-off push this season has been built around a truly magnificent home record, writes Mike Simmonds.
Hatters and Halifax at the coin toss ahead of their FA Cup match at the Shay in 1933Hatters and Halifax at the coin toss ahead of their FA Cup match at the Shay in 1933
Hatters and Halifax at the coin toss ahead of their FA Cup match at the Shay in 1933

The Shaymen, in their first season back in the Conference, have only lost one in front of their home fans, taking 46 points from a possible 57 with 14 wins, four draws and just one defeat.

They have scored an impressive 50 goals too and are only bettered by Luton in the home form stakes.

Strangely, Halifax’s only defeat on their own patch, like Hatters, was against Woking, a 4-3 reverse back in December.

Away from the Shay, it’s a different story, with just three wins from 19 games this term.

Just when it looked like the club’s top five push was stalling after a run of two wins from 10, they have rectified that in some stye, winning their last four matches, conceding just one goal to sit just one point out of the play-offs.

Halifax have had to make do with losing one of the best players in January too, as Dan Gardner joining League Two side Chesterfield for an undisclosed fee.

They did move on Thursday’s loan deadline day though, signing Scott Spencer from already relegated Hyde.

Team news: Shaymen boss Neil Aspin has no new injury fears ahead of the game and could give a debut to new signing Scott Spencer.

Luton will be without Luke Guttridge, Jonathan Smith and Danny Fitzsimons for the rest of the season, while Andy Parry is also out.

Top Skrill Premier scorer - Shaymen: Lee Gregory (26) Hatters: Andre Gray (26).

Average crowds: Halifax: 1,442. Hatters: 6,985.

Man in the middle: Karl Evans - Has taken Luton once this season, the 2-1 win at Macclesfield and also reffed Halifax’s 3-3 draw with Gateshead.

Officiated eight games in total, showing 19 yellows and two reds so far.

Previous Luton match was the 2-0 win over Newport County at Kenilworth Road in January 2012 when he sent off former Hatter Ryan Charles.

Also had the whistle for Town’s 2-2 draw at Chester in League Two in January 2009 and the 2-1 home defeat to Brighton in League One back in April 2008.

In the week, he had the flag for Burnley’s Championship match at home to Doncaster and has also been on the line at Barnsley and Preston recently.

In charge: Neil Aspin - 48-year-old who had a successful playing career, starting life at Leeds United.

Made 244 appearances over a seven-year spell, before being sold to Port Vale for £150,000 where he went on to play well over 300 times.

Had further spells at Darlington and Hartlepool, before becoming manager of Harrogate Town in 2005.

Left the club in 2009 to move to FC Halifax where he has masterminded three successive promotions, taking them from the second tier of the Northern Premier League to the Conference.

Was recently linked with a move back to Vale as a possible replacement for Micky Adams too.

View from the opposition: A statement on the Shaymen’s official website said: “FC Halifax Town entertain Luton Town in one of the biggest games of the Skrill Premier this season.

“A win for Neil Aspin’s side will keep Town with a shout of a play-off place in the first season in the Skrill Premier.

“All four sides of the grounds will be open with a big away following expected to travel north to support the league leaders, YOUR support is vital tomorrow.

“The atmosphere should be electric and the team need your support to try to continue this excellent season.”

One to watch: Lee Gregory - striker has quite simply been in sensational form this season, scoring 26 goals in 29 league games, including three hat-tricks, with two coming in his last six games.

Also on a run of six goals in his last thre games too as he battles it out with Hatters forward Andre Gray for the golden boot award.

Friendly faces: Halifax defender Simon Ainge moved the Shay after being released by Hatters boss John Still at the end of last season.

Signed from Guiseley by previous Town manager Paul Buckle, he made 27 appearances, scoring twice for Town and has played 37 times in the league for his new side, scoring twice, including against Hatters at Kenilworth Road.

Halifax coach Lee Nogan had a brief spell with Town too, playing 11 times in total and scoring twice during 2000-01.

Meanwhile, Hatters striker Jon Shaw enjoyed a prolific time at Halifax, netting 20 goals in 37 league appearances during the 2007-08 campaign when the Shaymen were last in the Conference.

We’ve got form: Luton have a good record at the Shay, winning four of their seven visits, with two draws and one defeat.

They were 2-0 winners in their first ever visit, an FA Cup tie back in 1933 with Arthur Nelson and Tommy Tair scoring.

The only time Town have lost was a 3-0 Division Four defeat in the 1966 season.

Last time out: Luton’s last trip to Halifax ended in a 4-2 victory back in Division Three in the 2001-02 season.

The hosts led through Paul Harsley, but Dean Crowe’s double saw Hatters 2-1 in front.

Ian Fitzpatrick made it 2-2 on 78 minutes, but two goals in the last four minutes from Kevin Nicholls and Adrian Forbes were enough.

Hatters: Carl Emberson, Ian Hillier, Chris Coyne, Russell Perrett, Kevin Nicholls, Matt Taylor, Matthew Spring, Ahmet Brkovic, Dean Crowe, Jean-Lous Valois (Adrian Forbes 80), Steve Howard

Subs not used: Mark Ovendale, Richarad Dryden, Peter Holmes, Andrew Fotiadis.

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