PREVIEW: Luton Town v Northampton Town
The Cobblers’ very existence was threatened after being served with a winding up order from HM Revenue & Customs over an unpaid tax bill of £166,000.
They had also faced legal action from the Borough Council over a £10.25m loan, while staff weren’t paid in October as the club appeared on the brink.
However, after an impassioned plea by boss Chris Wilder, former Oxford United chairman Kelvin Thomas eventually completed his takeover of the club from David Cardoza, with the new man stating: “We have the funds in place to take care of the short and long-term needs of the club which has been shown to both the council and the Football League, and we will be working hard over the next few months to understand the areas of investment required and then implement plans accordingly.”
Despite all the off the field issues, they have never once affected Wilder’s side on it, as Northampton have been in utterly superb form recently, with six straight wins in all competitions to climb into the automatic promotion spaces.
They knocked both Coventry and Northwich Victoria out of the FA Cup to set up a third round tie with MK Dons, while also winning at Notts County and Crawley in the league, along with home victories over Mansfield and Yeovil.
That was enough for Wilder to be named manager of the month for November and his form in October was none too shabby either, with four league wins win from six.
In fact Cobblers’ last defeat in the league was back in October 17 at Cambridge as they have put a fine run together, with just one defeat in 14 matches since a surprise home reverse to Dagenham & Redbridge in early September.
Team news: Luton midfielder Nathan Doyle is a major doubt for the game after picking up a knee injury, while Stephen O’Donnell (hernia), Luke Guttridge (hamstring), Scott Cuthbert (hamstring), Dan Potts (hamstring), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (ankle) and Mark O’Brien (ankle) won’t feature.
Jack Marriott could be included, while Scott Griffiths is fit and Paul Benson is available after suspension.
For Northampton, they have a fully fit squad apart from long-term absence Paul Corry.
Top scorers - Hatters: Cameron McGeehan, Jack Marriott (8). Cobblers: Marc Richards (12).
Man in the middle: Mike Jones, Premier League official drops down to League Two after taking the Chelsea game against AFC Bournemouth at the weekend, controversially not giving a penalty for the hosts with the scores at 0-0.
He has taken 14 games so far this term, 11 of them in the top flight, showing 56 yellows and one red, that to Newcastle’s Darryl Janmaat against Swansea.
First time Jones has officiated Luton since a 2-1 win over Dagenham & Redbridge in League Two back in November 2008, when the visitors were managed by John Still, with Magnus Okuonghae netting for the Daggers.
Jones also refereed the 2-0 win over Preston and 1-0 victory over QPR in the 2006-07 season, plus Hatters’ 2-1 triumph at Cardiff and 3-0 defeat against Reading in the Championship, the campaign before.
The official has taken six other games, with Luton winning just once, while he sent off Mark Ovendale after two minutes in the 2-2 draw with Brentford in 2001 and dismissed Graham Alexander during a 3-1 loss at Stoke in 1998.
Harry Lennard and Simon Barrow are the linesmen, with fourth official Darren Deadman.
In charge: Chris Wilder, 48-year-old, who started his career as a trainee at Southampton and played for 11 clubs, with his main stints at Sheffield United, Rotherham United and Halifax.
Begain his management career at Alfreton Town in October 2001, winning four trophies in 27 weeks, before becoming Halifax boss in July 2002.
Led the club for over 300 games until the Shaymen went into liquidation in June 2008 as he went to Bury as assistant to Alan Knill.
After less than six months at Gigg Lane, Wilder was appointed as Oxford boss, leading the club back into the Football League via the play-offs, but resigned in January 2014, taking over at Northampton later that month, saving them from relegation to the Conference in his first season.
View from the opposition: Chris Wilder speaking to the Northampton Chronicle & Echo: “Luton have a lot of quality in the group.
“We went to watch them on Sunday (at Peterborough) and they were unfortunate before the game where they lost a few players, and they are possibly one or two results off putting a run together.
“This is a really evenly-matched game and we are going there looking to keep up our really good form, and John will be hoping his players, with the backing of a positive crowd, can get their season up and and running.
“They will be thinking this is an ideal game for them because it is going to be a great atmosphere and a big crowd, and it is going to be tight.
“If we are focused and right on it then we can get a result, and it’s one we’re really looking forward to.”
One to watch: Nicky Adams - Winger is top of the division’s assist list with 11 to his name after an hugely impressive first half to the season.
Now 29, he began life at Bury before a £100k move to Leicester in the summer of 2008.
Had spells at the likes of Rochdale, Crawley and Rotherham, before signing for Cobblers in May and has made 24 appearances, scoring once.
Friendly faces: Hatters midfielder Luke Guttridge had two spells at Northampton as he was signed from Colchester in August 2008, spending two seasons there, before returning in January 2012, where he had another campaign, until joining Luton.
In total, made over 100 appearances for the Cobblers, scoring 14 times,
Town defender Luke Wilkinson joined Northampton on a month’s loan from Portsmouth in January 2010, but failed to make an appearance, while Danny Green signed his first pro deal with the Cobblers, but also didn’t play a senior game for them.
Played for both: John Moore is a bona fide legend at Luton Town after making 306 appearances and scoring eight goals during an eight year stint at the club.
On leaving Kenilworth Road in 1973, the Scotsman went to Northampton, playing 14 times, before returning to Luton as coach, eventually becoming manager and leading the club to seventh in the first division.
We’ve got form: Luton have a quite incredible record against Northampton at home in the Football League and FA Cup, having been beaten just once since 1921.
In that time, Hatters have won 23, drawn four and lost once, that defeat back in September 9, 2000, with Cobblers winning the Division Two clash 2-0, as soon to be Luton legend Steve Howard was on target.
Overall, Hatters’ home record including Southern League and a United League encounter, reads 30 wins, seven draws and five defeats, scoring 84 times and conceding 40.
The biggest victory has been 4-0, recorded four times, in 1902, 1928, 1931 and the FA Cup in 1961.
Last time out: Luton left it late, but were 1-0 winners over Northampton at Kenilworth Road last season thanks to Luke Guttridge’s last-minute winner.
The midfielder was brought on after an hour against his former club, taking Michael Harriman’s pass to find the net in stoppage time.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkinson, Jonathan Smith, Alex Lawless (Luke Guttridge 60), Andy Drury, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Paul Benson 46), Nathan Doyle (Jim Stevenson 46), Mark Cullen.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Wall, Charlie Walker.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake.