PREVIEW: Luton Town v Blackburn Rovers

Luton Town host Blackburn Rovers at Kenilworth Road this weekendLuton Town host Blackburn Rovers at Kenilworth Road this weekend
Luton Town host Blackburn Rovers at Kenilworth Road this weekend
Hatters are at home to promotion-chasing Rovers this weekend

Blackburn's inconsistencies are hampering manager Tony Mowbray's ambition for his side to make a sustained challenge for the top six this season.

The former Premier League champions started off with a 3-2 defeat at relegated Bournemouth, which was by no means a disgrace, as was being knocked out of the EFL Cup 1-0 at Newcastle.

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They got their home form off to a flier, thrashing Wycombe Wanderers 5-0 at Ewood Park, before travelling to Derby County and plundering another load of goals in a 4-0 triumph.

Mowbray's side then drew two blanks at home in being held 0-0 by Cardiff and going down 1-0 to Nottingham Forest, but showed their scoring prowess in a 4-2 win at Coventry.

However, their Jekyll and Hyde form returned, going down 4-2 at home to Reading and then losing 2-0 at Swansea City.

A 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough ended the losing run, as they went into the international break with their heads slightly higher, beating QPR 3-1, ensuring they are the leading scorers in the division, finding the net 21 times, with Adam Armstrong's 11 strikes making him the leading marksman.

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Speaking earlier in the season, Mowbray had certainly set Rovers some lofty targets, as he said: “The expectation is high and it's right to set the expectation high.

“Let's make sure everyone expects Blackburn Rovers will be around the top six.

"We have to try and maintain our levels and if we do, I'm sure we're going to win plenty of football matches that will help us to accrue points and be competitive in this division."

To do that, Mowbray entered the transfer market ahead of the window closing, as he flexed his financial muscle to add former Belgian U21 international goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski from Gent for £450,000.

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Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala joined, along with team-mate Ashley Pears, as did Slavia Sofia's Antonis Stergiakis, the latter two both strengthening the battle for Rovers' number one jersey after former Town loanee Christian Walton left in the summer.

He also used his loans wisely, signing talented Liverpool youngster Harvey Elliot, Norwich City midfielder Tom Trybull and experienced Leeds defender Barry Douglas.

Having been in charge since February 2017, Mowbray now thinks his squad is the strongest it has been too, saying: “I've been saying for a long time now we have to try and build the club, and you keep trying to build it depending on where you are going and what your resource is.

"I always hope that we're talking this time next year and we're spending £15m-£20m on the next player, because that's what we want to do.

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"And you'll be saying to me 'is this your strongest team?' Well, I hope so because this is what we're doing.”

Team news: Luton have a clean bill of health with Dan Potts now available following his groin injury, meaning just long-term absentees Brendan Galloway and Eunan O'Kane are out.

For Rovers, Barry Douglas and Amari'i Bell have returned to training, while Ryan Nyambe is expected to be out after suffering a thigh problem and Thomas Kaminski is a doubt after a period of self isolation.

Stewart Downing could be involved, but Darragh Lenihan, Lewis Holtby, Daniel Ayala and Derrick Williams aren't expected to feature, as Bradley Dack is still missing following a long-term absence, while Elliott Bennett is also absent.

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Man in the middle: Gavin Ward - official has had seven games so far this term, with 16 yellows and one red.

Took Luton five times last season, a 2-1 win at Blackburn Rovers and 1-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday at home, plus defeats to Nottingham Forest and Preston North End, with the 0-0 draw at Wigan too.

Ward also officiated Hatters' matches in the 2018-19 campaign, defeats to Portsmouth and Charlton, sending off Andrew Shinnie against the Addicks.

Prior to that, the referee has had the whistle for 14 Town fixtures, with six triumphs, including the 8-2 opening day over Yeovil Town in August 2017, three draws and five losses.

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Assistant referees are Matthew McGrath and Bhupinder Gill, with the fourth official Adrian Waters.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (5). Rovers: Adam Armstrong (12).

In charge: Tony Mowbray – 56-year-old had a fine playing career, starting out at Middlesbrough, leading them back into the top flight and making over 350 appearances, before heading to Celtic in 1991 for £1m.

Moved to Ipswich Town four years later and played for another five years, becoming first team coach at Portman Road once he retired, with a brief spell as caretaker manager.

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Named Hibernian manager in May 2004, before heading to take over at West Bromwich Albion in October 2006.

Signed Leon Barnett from Luton during his time with the Baggies, winning promotion to the Premier League and reaching the FA Cup semi-final too.

Couldn't keep the club in the top flight though, as they were relegated in the 2008–09 season, Mowbray leaving for Celtic in June 2009, but was sacked after a poor run of results in March 2010.

Took charge of former club Middlesbrough in October 2010, leaving the Riverside three years later and after a spell out of the game, was appointed Coventry boss in March 2015.

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Resigned in September 2016, named Blackburn head coach in February 2017, although couldn't keep the club in the Championship.

Won promotion from League One at the first attempt though and has led Rovers to finishes of 15th and 11th since.

View from the opposition: Boss Tony Mowbray - “Luton at this time is a pretty difficult game because they've had some decent results against some decent teams and they're working really hard for each other.

“They have set ways of how they're playing, they're good on set-plays and they scored a couple against us from set-plays. They're a threat.

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"So we're very mindful of that and yet I don't want to answer that question of 'do we have to go and win?'

"Our intention is to go and win.

"We always go in with the belief that can beat teams and the teams that we know will be a tough game, we go and make life difficult for them.

"We try to win as well, but we try to keep it more solid.

"We'll be going to Luton with the intention of being really positive."

One to watch: Adam Armstrong - With 12 in 12 so far, then the striker is without doubt the leading scorer not only for Blackburn, but the Championship as well this season, netting 11 league goals to move one in front of Brentford forward Ivan Toney.

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Started off with a goal in the FA Cup against Doncaster and then netted against Bournemouth too, as a hat-trick followed in the 5-0 win over Wycombe, with another strike following against Derby.

Went three games without finding the net, before back-to-back braces against Coventry and Reading, notching another double just before the international break, during the 3-1 win over QPR.

Aged only 23, the forward has always shown real promise since coming through the ranks at Newcastle.

Caught the eye with his loan at Coventry, scoring 20 in 40 league games, as although stints at Barnsley and Bolton were less impressive, he then moved to Blackburn in January 2018.

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Netting nine in 21, Armstrong turned the move permanent from the Magpies in August 2018, as he now has bagged 38 goals in 108 games for Rovers.

Friendly faces: Luton defender Matty Pearson came through the ranks at Ewood Park, but never made a first team appearance.

Had a loan spell with Lincoln and then moved to Rochdale in July 2012, before arriving at Luton in the summer of 2018 after stints with Halifax, Accrington and Barnsley.

Midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe joined Blackburn on loan from Manchester United back in September 2014, spending three months at Ewood Park.

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He went on to make 17 Championship appearances, scoring once in the 2-2 draw against Watford.

Played for both: Roy Wegerle - .attacker who was born in South Africa, starting his pro career with Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1984, as he went to Tacoma Stars, then moving to England in 198 when he joined Chelsea.

A loan spell with Swindon followed, before joining Luton in 1988 and managed 18 goals in 59 games, sold to QPR for £1m in 1990.

Headed to Blackburn in 1992 for £1.1m playing just 11 time and scoring four goals as Rovers won the Premier League title, joining Coventry City in 1993.

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Returned to America in 1996, playing for Colorado Rapids, DC United and Tampa Bay Mutiny, as he also won 41 caps for the USA, with seven goals.

On retiring, managed Colorado Rapids for a while, before attempting to make it as a professional golfer.

Most recently, he was appointed Executive Director of Soccer for SportsEdTV, and now directs the instruction and content development efforts.

We've got form: Luton have enjoyed almost complete dominance over Blackburn in their matches at Kenilworth Road, in the league anyway.

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The Hatters started as they meant to go on back in November 1937, beating Rovers 4-1 thanks to a double from Charlie Ferguson.

Since then they have racked up some huge wins, especially in November it seems, 5-2 in 1949, 6-0 in 1952 and 7-3 in 1954.

They also won 6-1 in the FA Cup in January 1953 too while fast forward to more recent times and Luton are still on top in, suffering their one and only defeat in the FA Cup fourth round in January 2007, losing 4-0.

However, in total, they have won 14 from 22 games, drawing seven and losing just the one, scoring 54 goals, kept out just twice and conceding 22, with Rovers shut out on seven occasions.

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Last time out: Luton triumphed 3-2 in their must-win home clash over Blackburn Rovers last season, with the final day victory ensuring Nathan Jones' side stayed in the Championship.

Rovers went ahead on 10 minutes when Adam Armstrong found the net, but Town roared back in the first half courtesy of two own goals, as both Hayden Carter and Bradley Johnson put past former Luton loan keeper Christian Walton.

James Collins then made it 3-1 from the penalty spot with an hour gone once Harry Cornick had been fouled, as although Sam Gallagher pulled one back with 15 remaining, the Hatters held on to ensure a stunning Great Escape.

Hatters: Simon Sluga, James Bree, Martin Cranie, Sonny Bradley, Glen Rea, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luke Berry, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Elliot Lee (Matty Pearson 78), Harry Cornick (Kazenga LuaLua 71), James Collins (Danny Hylton 72).

Subs not used: James Shea, Peter Kioso, Callum McManaman, Andrew Shinnie, George Moncur, Jacob Butterfield.

Referee: Darren Bond.

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