PREVIEW: Luton Town v Braintree Town

Braintree’s decent start to their second season in the Blue Square Bet Premier is fast eroding with a run of seven games without a win, writes Mike Simmonds.

The Iron picked up three wins and a draw from their opening six matches, including a 4-1 triumph at Woking, but have taken a mere three points from a possible 21 since.

Successive away defeats at Macclesfield and Mansfield were hardly cause for major concern, but the 3-2 home defeat against Barrow on Saturday after leading 2-0 with 12 minutes gone, would have started some alarm bells ringing at Cressing Road, as they dropped to 18th in the table, just a point above the drop zone.

Goals have been hard to come for this season for Braintree with just 15 netted from 13 games so far.

Last year’s leading scorer Ben Wright notched an impressive 17 strikes, but left for Forest Green Rovers in the summer, while Sean Marks finally opened his account for the campaign at the weekend.

Boss Alan Devonshire added a number of youngsters to his squad in the close season after they finished an excellent 12th last year, with the likes of James Mulley, Luke Daley and Callum McNish all joining, although he did capture the experienced figure of keeper Danny Naisbitt too.

Proven goalscorer Michael Gash joined on loan from Cambridge, scoring once, but has since returned to the Abbey, where he has been in prolific form.

One of the biggest losses was full back Aswad Thomas to Grimsby, where he is excellent, while they also released a number of players including 11-goal Jai Reason, David Stevens, Joel Appiah-Kubi and Sibu Muwanga.

Team news: Hatters have doubts over Scott Rendell with a dead leg, but Jon Shaw is expected to be fine after his wife gave birth on Sunday.

Dean Beckwith (groin) is still a concern, while Danny Spiller edges closer to a return, but Garry Richards and James Dance are both out.

Braintree had Kenny Davis and Nicky Symons back from injury at the weekend, although Ryan Peters remains a doubt.

Man in the middle: Lee Swabey - taken just three Conference games so far this season, showing nine yellow cards in total.

Top BSBP scorer: Hatters - Stuart Fleetwood (9). Iron: Dan Holman (5).

In charge: Alan Devonshire – As a player, he signed for West Ham United for a fee of £5,000 from non-league Southall, going on to make almost 450 appearances for the Hammers, winning the FA Cup and eight caps for England in the process.

His first managerial role was at Hampton & Richmond Borough, before being appointed as Braintree boss on May 23, 2011.

View from the opposition: Alan Devonshire - “We just aren’t getting the luck at the moment, but they say it works itself out over the course of a season.

“So hopefully we will have got some coming our way in the next few games. Look at some of the games we have had, they have been tough games, so I don’t look at that type of thing. As long as we are picking up points, I’ve got no complaints.”

One to watch: Dan Holman – 22-year-old striker who Braintree snapped up from Histon for an undisclosed fee in the summer after scoring 29 goals for the Stutes last year.

Scored four in his first three games for Iron, before going six matches without a goal until netting in the defeat against Barrow on Saturday.

Last time out: Hatters have only ever played Braintree once at home, which came last season when they ran out 3-1 winners

The scoring was all done and dusted in the first half as Amari Morgan-Smith put Hatters ahead, before Ben Wright levelled on 20 minutes.

Morgan-Smith then added his second on 44 minutes, converting the rebound after his penalty was saved, and Jake Howells netted on 45 minutes as Town took the points.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Dean Beckwith, Jake Howells, Will Antwi, Curtis Osano, Keith Keane, Alex Lawless (Adam Watkins 46), Robbie Willmott, James Dance (John Paul Kissock 89), Amari Morgan-Smith, Danny Crow (Aaron O’Connor 82).

Attendance: 5,703.

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