PREVIEW: Luton Town v Cheltenham Town

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Cheltenham looked to have turned things round drastically on the pitch in the early stages of this season after a disappointing campaign last year.

Mark Yates’ side finished in 17th place, but ended up a mere five points adrift of the relegation zone.

A run of four wins and two draws from their opening six games had seen then top the league until Burton Albion beat Portsmouth at the weekend to usurp them.

To show just how far Cheltenham have come, they have already amassed 14 points, a feat that had taken them until October, some 13 games in, last term.

Skipper Matt Taylor is well aware the Robins are have done better than many had thought, but is confident the club have every chance of continuing their fine start.

He told the Gloucestershire Echo: “We have probably exceeded expectations with the start we’ve made, but more so outside the club because the lads have always believed.

“That belief is growing game by game and we knew that if we got ourselves organised and worked hard, we’d have a real chance and the lads have bought into that.

“People will look at the table and see we are up there and that something must be going right.

“It’s a different challenge now because teams will want to beat us so we have to keep improving, which I know we can do because we have been far from perfect.”

Cheltenham boss Mark Yates wasn’t getting carried away though as speaking in his weekly press conference, he added: “We are pleased with the start we have had and we aim to keep it going but the only way we can do that is to take it one game at a time.

“It’s a boring old cliche but the boys don’t need to be reminded (that they’re unbeaten) because they do their best every game and so far they have been exceptional. Long may that continue but it will end some time but it has been pleasing.

“They have been a good bunch so far and I anticipate that will continue. We want to keep picking up points and we are not worried about where we are in the table. We wanted a good start and now we’ve got it but it’s important now to build on it.”

Cheltenham have done some inspired business in the loan market this season, bringing in Millwall forward John Marquis, plus Jordan Wynter (Bristol City) and Birmingham’s Koby Arthur.

Marquis netted in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory over Oxford and Arthur is making quite an impact too, notching four goals already, despite yet to start a league game for the Robins.

Although Cheltenham lost one of their main goal threats in Jamie Cureton during the summer, plus Sido Jombati moved on, Yates added the likes of defender Lee Vaughan, ex-Town man Asa Hall and goalkeeper Trevor Carson, while he kept the majority of the squad together, with leading scorer Byron Harrison remaining

Former Rotherham United player Jason Taylor is back in the fray too after being deemed surplus to requirements and placed on the transfer list at the end of last season, his future now lies at Whaddon Road.

Team news: The Hatters could have Paul Benson back after his slight hamstring injury, but new signing Nathan Doyle is not fit yet.

Alex Lawless and Shaun Whalley are likely to miss out, while Matt Robinson is suspended. Jonathan Smith is now fit again, leaving Andy Parry as the only other injury concern.

For Cheltenham, Lee Vaughan has returned to training having recovered from a foot injury which has ruled him out of the last two matches, but Asa Hall has a calf injury.

Back-up goalkeeper Matthew Gould will be in the matchday 18 for the first time, subject to international clearance.

Top goalscorer: Hatters - Luke Rooney (2). Robins - Koby Arthur (4).

Average attendance: Hatters: 8,285. Cheltenham: 2,472.

Man in the middle: Andy D’Urso - has had a chequered past with Luton Town, since his first game back in 1998, taking 15 games so far, with Town winning four, drawing three and losing eight of them.

Sent off striker Steve Howard in the opening 30 minutes on two occasions against Brentford and Stoke, while also showed sub Adrian Forbes a red when he had been on the field for just 17 minutes after replacing Tony Thorpe in the 0-0 draw with Tranmere.

The last time D’Urso visited Kenilworth Road was in November 2011, when he took the Hatters 1-0 win over Northampton Town in the FA Cup, Adam Watkins netting the winner and booking then Town player Jamie Hand.

Refereed five games so far this season, showing 11 yellows and one red.

In charge: Mark Yates - 44-year-old, former central midfielder who started his career at Birmingham, helping the Blues win the Football League Trophy in 1991.

Sold to Burnley in 1991 for £40,000 before spells at Lincoln City and Doncaster Rovers and then went to Conference side Kidderminster.

Moved to Cheltenham in 1999 for a fee of £25,000, helping the Robins to secure the league title and a place in the Football League.

Remained with the club until February 2004 when he returned to Kidderminster and when his playing days were over, became first team coach at Burnley.

Had his first managerial position at former club Kidderminster in January 2006, before taking charge at Cheltenham in December 2009.

Reached the League Two play-off final in 2012, losing out 2-0 to Crewe Alexandra, he then guided the Robins into the play-off again in 2013, losing 2-0 on aggregate to Northampton Town, for whom Luke Guttridge scored a stunner in one of the legs.

View from the opposition: Mark Yates: “Luton will be big players this season and they are a big club in the Football League.

“It was a brilliant appointment to get John (Still) when they did to get them out of the conference because he has a great record in this league with teams as well.

“You will always know you’re in a game with John’s sides because they will press you but also play lots of good football.

“Although they haven’t had the results they would have liked they have had performances they can be really pleased with.

“The question is whether they can convert those into wins. We need to make sure we are as a good as we have been for the last six games and nothing less because anything less means we get beaten. They have lots of threats, lots of good players and their fans get behind them.”

One to watch: Byron Harrison - The 27-year-old striker finished as the Robins top scorer last term with 15 goals.

Hasn’t had the most prolific of starts this campaign, with one goal so far, but the former Stevenage and AFC Wimbledon forward has reached double figures in the last two seasons.

Friendly faces: Midfielder Asa Hall joined Cheltenham in the summer after he was released by Shrewsbury. The 27-year-old made 89 appearances scoring 16 times in two years at Kenilworth Road club before being released.

Hatters forward Paul Benson played 18 times for the Robins, scoring four goals between January and May 2013 after joining on loan from Swindon.

We’ve got form: Hatters have only ever played Cheltenham four times at home in their history, winning two, drawing one and losing one, scoring seven times and conceding seven.

They were 2-1 winners in their first meeting back in 2001 thanks to goals from Paul Hughes and Carl Griffiths, while they also won by the same scoreline in 2002, with Chris Coyne and Andrew Fotiadis on target.

A League One clash in December 2007 ended 1-1 as Sam Parkin netted, while Town then lost 4-2 in the FA Cup.

Last time out: Luton were beaten 4-2 on Cheltenham’s last visit to Kenilworth Road, an FA Cup second round tie in 2011.

The visitors went ahead through Darryl Duffy’s second minute strike, before Aaron O’Connor levelled the tie.

Marlon Pack put the Robins 2-1 in front before the break, only for O’Connor to swiftly equalise again.

Cheltenham went on to seal victory through Luke Summerfield (64) and Russell Penn (90) although they did have Duffy sent off late on.

Hatters: Kevin Pilkington, Dan Gleeson, George Pilkington, Jake Howells, Janos Kovacs, Keith Keane (John Paul Kissock 76), Alex Lawless, Robbie Willmott, Danny Crown, Aaron O’Connor, Adam Watkins.

Subs not used: Mark Tyler, Dean Beckwith, Jamie Hand, James Dance, Stuart Fleetwood, Tommy Wright.

Referee: Colin Webster

Attendance: 4,516

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