PREVIEW: Luton Town v Cardiff City

Hatters host the Bluebirds at Kenilworth Road on Saturday

Friday, 7th February 2020, 2:06 pm
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 2:08 pm
Luton are back at Kenilworth Road this weekend

Cardiff are finding that their hopes of returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking hit by becoming the Championship's draw specialists this season.

The Bluebirds have seen 13 of their 30 games finish all square so far, six at home, seven on the road, as they sit slap bang in mid-table, 12 points adrift of the top two, but just four away from the play-offs.

City's inability to register victories has certainly blighted them since December and been a theme of new manager Neil Harris' reign so far, after he replaced Neil Warnock in November.

After three consecutive wins over Stoke, Cardiff and Barnsley, they have now been held six times in their last 10 league encounters, with two wins and two defeats from the other four contests.

The City chief knows the issues of draws has been a concern, but is confident a play-off push remains firmly in sight, telling the club's official website: “Not many defeats during my time here but too many draws.

“It’s fine not being easy to beat and to bounce back from QPR, but we need to get that consistency.

“We’re not always putting it together. That’s why we have added to the squad, we're just asking for a little bit more from the players and some consistency.

“Ultimately, winning games comes down to momentum.”

On their travels, Cardiff have managed just two wins this term, that at Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday, although the Welsh side have gone three without a win on the road, including a 6-1 hammering at QPR on New Year's day.

Harris' men had gone seven games without losing in all competitions prior to Tuesday night though, exiting the FA Cup on penalties to Reading in midweek.

There was some activity in the transfer window at the Cardiff City Stadium last month, with the Bluebirds bringing in Nottingham Forest winger Albert Adomah and Wolves defender Dion Sanderson on loan deals until the end of the season, plus Brad Smith from Bournemouth.

Harris was keen to trim his squad as well, Gary Madine and Lee Peltier going to Blackpool and West Brom on free transfers respectively, while there were loan deals for Joe Day (AFC Wimbledon), and Omar Bogle (Den Haag) too.

Team news: Luton have a virtually fully fit squad to choose from, with only Brendan Galloway missing out due to his serious knee injury.

Cardiff are still without Joe Ralls who has a glute injury, while new signing Brad Smith might not feature until he is up to speed with training

Top scorers: Hatters - James Collins (9). Bluebirds – Danny Ward, Lee Tomlin (6).

Milestones: Andrew Shinnie is just one away from completing his century of games for the Hatters.

The midfielder has had two spells at Kenilworth Road, on loan and then signing permanently from Birmingham City, scoring 10 goals in that time.

Man in the middle: James Linington - Taken 20 games this season, mainly in the Championship, with 53 yellow cards and three reds.

First Luton game since he had the 4-1 triumph at Exeter in League Two , October 2017, while also refereed Town's stunning 2-1 injury time win at Wycombe in September of that season.

Officiated Hatters' Town 3-1 win over Bristol City in the Capital One Cup in August 2015, plus the 1-0 win over Carlisle the campaign before, sending off Luke Wilkinson.

Before that, had Luton twice at Kenilworth Road in the 2008-09 season, a 2-1 defeat to Darlington and 1-1 draw with Rochdale.

Referee's assistants are Michael George and Akil Howson, with Tom Reeves the fourth official.

In charge: Neil Harris - 42-year-old who had a successful playing career, mainly with Millwall, whom he joined for £30,000 from Cambridge City in 1996.

Spent six years at the Den, including a brief spell with Cardiff on loan, signing for Nottingham Forest in 2004.

Was back with the Lions in 2007 though, breaking Teddy Sheringham's record of 111 goals for the club, as he is Millwall's all-time record goalscorer, with 138 to his name.

Finished his career at Southend United, retiring with injury in June 2013.

Had several stints as caretaker manager at Millwall, before taking over permanently in the summer of 2015, leading the Lions back to the Championship in the 2016-17 campaign.

Kept the club in the second tier, but resigned on October 3 last year after the 1-1 draw with Luton, although wasn't out of work for long, named Cardiff boss on November 16.

View from the opposition: Neil Harris talking to the club's official website: “If we're serious about these play-off places then it is time to step up and deliver.

"We need to find ways to win games and close that gap. That's what this week is all about. A run of wins will push us close to that top six.

"It's probably the biggest week since I've been in charge, and I want a points return."

One to watch: Lee Tomlin - mercurial talent who has thrilled fans at times over his career.

Started with Rushden, before joining Peterborough where he made his name, heading to Middlesbrough and then Bournemouth for a fee of £3.5m.

His time with the Cherries was largely forgettable, joining Bristol City for £2.25m, and then on to Cardiff for £2.9m in July 2017.

Was loaned to Nottingham Forest for the second half of the 2017-18 season and then spent the same time back with Peterborough last term.

Finally becoming a first team regular in Wales though, and has made 22 appearances for the Bluebirds this term.

Has always been capable of finding the net, with six this season, including two in his last three games.

Friendly faces: Isaac Vassell - striker joined Luton in July 2016 after being snapped up from Truro City.

Scored 16 goals in 55 games for the Hatters, before Birmingham reportedly shelled out over £1m to take him to St Andrews.

Injuries restricted the forward to just 24 appearances for the Blues, five league starts, and one goal, as he joined Cardiff the summer despite interest from Luton.

Netted on his City debut, with the winner in a 2-1 success over the Hatters, while started the 3-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Town a few weeks later, but injured his thigh and hasn't featured since.

Played for both: Kurt Nogan - Cardiff-born striker actually started his career with Luton, scoring four times in 39 games for the Hatters between 1989-92.

Went to Peterborough and then Brighton, where he made his name, with 60 goals in just over 100 outings.

That saw him earn a £250,000 move to Burnley in April 1995 and then headed to Preston for £150,000 two years later.

Was back at his boyhood club in March 2000 for a fee of £100,000, although he scored just once in 21 games for the Bluebirds, before dropping into non-league.

We've got form: To put it bluntly, Town have been utterly dominant over Cardiff in matches at Kenilworth Road since the first meeting, a 2-0 home Southern League victory in December 1912.

The Hatters then went on a magnificent 18-game unbeaten run, including two Division Three South 8-1 triumphs in 1932, with a hat-trick for Tommy Tait and then 1937, Joe Payne scoring four, with George Stephenson bagging a treble.

They were finally beaten in April 1963, when a Division Two contest finished 3-2 to City, but went seven without defeat once more, reeling off a 7-1 Division Two triumph in September 1978, with doubles for David Moss and Brian Stein.

Cardiff did then win two out of three, but Town are unbeaten in the last four meetings, making it a stunning 19 wins and 11 draws from 33 games, just three losses.

They have only been kept out twice in that time, scoring 81 goals and conceding only 32.

Last time out: Luton were held to a goalless draw by the Bluebirds in their Championship clash at Kenilworth Road on New Year's Day 2007.

The hosts had to play the final 18 minutes with just 10 men after midfielder David Bell was sent off after picking up his second yellow card.

Hatters: Dean Kiely, Leon Barnett, Sol Davis, Russell Perrett, Richard Langley (Steve Robinson 63), Carlos Edwards, Ahmet Brkovic (Peter Holmes 83), David Bell, Dean Morgan, Rowan Vine (Adam Boyd 81), Warren Feeney.

Subs not used: Marlon Beresford, Steven O'Leary.

Attendance: 8,004.

Referee: Andy Penn.