PREVIEW: Luton Town v Plymouth Argyle

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu in action against Plymouth last season
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu in action against Plymouth last season

Plymouth are giving themselves every chance of avoiding a repeat of the heartache they suffered last season when they blew their chances of going up.

The Pilgrims looked to be on their way out of the division, with automatic promotion well and truly in their sights when at the same stage last term, they were six points clear of fourth place Accrington.

However, they fell short and lost in the play-offs to AFC Wimbledon, but despite a poor first three games to the 2016-17 season, a lengthy 14 game unbeaten run, put Argyle firmly inside the top three this time.

Although they then went four games without a win before Christmas, the Pilgrims bounced back with anther decent run of one defeat in seven to maintain their charge.

Coupled with their league form was a thrilling FA Cup run too as Plymouth held Premier League giants Liverpool to a goalless draw at Anfield, only losing the replay by a single goal as well.

They have slipped up in the last two games, losing 3-2 at home to Leyton Orient and then drawing 1-1 at Hartlepool, but Argyle still have a sizable eight point gap over Hatters in fourth and very much in the title race too, three off Doncaster with a game in hand.

Derek Adams’ men clearly aren’t basing their success on the old adage ‘win your home games and draw your away ones’, as they have been simply superb on their travels too this year.

Ten victories have been secured, plus one draw and four defeats, a record bettered only by Devon rivals Exeter, who have take one extra point away from home.

Argyle aren’t easy to score against either, conceding just 12 goals from their 15 games so far.

Meanwhile, Adams was busy during the recent transfer window, with a number of signings that are already coming to fruition.

He brought in Cardiff winger Matthew Kennedy on deadline day, who has scored in his last three matches, plus Ryan Taylor, Jakub Sokolik, Nathan Blissett, whom they paid £15,000 for and Antoni Sarcevic too throughout the month.

Taylor has already opened his account, with the talented Sarcevic managing to notch twice in his first three outings as well.

Argyle did lose left-back Ben Purrington to Rotherham for an undisclosed fee and allowed Louis Rooney to head to Hartlepool on loan as well.

Team news: Luton have Dan Potts back in contention know after his knee injury, which means just Akin Famewo (tendinitis), Danny Green (leg) and Cameron McGeehan (broken leg) are missing.

Jimmy Spencer is fit again for Argyle after breaking his angle in November, although Antoni Sarcevici is a doubt and striker Ryan Brunt continues to recover from a serious knee injury.

Top scorers: Hatters - Danny Hylton (18). Argyle - Graham Carey (10).

Man in the middle: Darren Drysdale, experienced official, who has only taken 12 games so far this season, in League One and League Two, showing 39 yellows and two reds, his most recent match Carlisle’s 2-1 win at Wycombe last weekend.

Did mainly Championship and League One fixtures last term, with 80 yellows and two reds from his 34 games.

First Luton game since he had the whistle for the 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth in March 2015, while the season he also refereed a 3-0 home win over Newport County.

Prior to that, had Hatters’ 2-0 FA Cup win at Brentford in 2007 when Chris Coyne and Jaroslaw Fojut netted, while Matthew Spring and David Edwards were booked.

Also refereed Luton’s 5-1 hammering at Preston in the Championship in 2006, sending off goalkeeper Marlon Beresford in the last minute, plus the 3-0 home win over Stockport in 2005, with Coyne again, plus Steve Howard and Kevin Nicholls on target.

Assistant referees are Andrew Hendley and Garry Maskell, with fourth official Nigel Lugg.

In charge: Derek Adams - 41-year-old who spent almost all of his playing career, but for a brief spell at Burnley, north of the border, at the likes of Aberdeen, Ross County, Motherwell, Ayr United and Livington.

Became player-coach at Ross County in November 2006, taking on the position of player-manager the following year.

Led the club to the Scottish Second Division championship in 2008 and also the Scottish Cup final in 2010, before leaving to become Hibs assistant manager.

Returned to Ross County in May 2011 as manager, guiding the side to the Scottish Premier Division, eventually leaving in August 2014 and after a spell out of the game, was named Plymouth boss in June, signing a new four year deal at Home Park earlier this season.

View from the opposition: Derek Adams talking to the Plymouth Herald: “It’s a big game. At this stage of the season every game is.

“But when you are playing against a team that are in close proximity to you it does make it even bigger.

“You have to keep control of the ball for long periods in the game to quieten down their supporters.

“It’s a very good atmosphere when you get there. We are going to take 1,000-plus supporters with us.

“It’s two sides that are pushing hard (for promotion) this season.”

Friendly faces: Isaac Vassell - Hatters striker came through the ranks at Plymouth, making 10 appearances in total over three years at Home Park, although never scored and only started once, that an FA Cup tie against Port Vale.

On his release, dropped into non-league with Truro City before being snapped up by Luton at the start of the season.

Meanwhile, Olly Lee was signed by Plymouth on loan from Birminghan in January 2015, making his debut in the 1-0 defeat at home by Luton.

Returned in March of the same year for his second spell, as he made 15 appearances in total, scoring twice.

Ex-Town forward Ryan Brunt is with Argyle as the 23-year-old signed on loan for Luton from Stoke in November 2011, playing six times.

Had spells at Tranmere, Leyton Orient, Bristol Rovers, York and Stevenage until joining Argyle in January 2015.

Scored 13 goals in 57 games, but hasn’t featured this season due to a serious knee injury.

Played for both: Hitchin-born midfielder Sean Evers began his career with the Hatters in 1994, making 69 appearances and scoring seven times, before being snapped up by Reading for £500,000 in March 1999.

Had a spell on loan at St Johnstone while with the Royals and on his release in March 2000, joined Plymouth, playing 14 times.

Spells at Stevenage and Woking followed until he hung his boots up 2003.

One to watch: Winger Matthew Kennedy has made a flying start to his Argyle career, scoring in three successive games.

The 22-year-old, who has represented Scotland at various youth levels, joined on loan from Cardiff City in January, whom he signed from Everton in February 2015 after three loan spells.

Began his career with Kilmarnock and has also played for Tranmere, Hibernian, MK Dons and Port Vale so far.

We’ve got form: Luton and Plymouth have been playing each other for what seems like donkey’s years, with matches starting out in the Southern League way back in 1904.

Since then, the sides have met at Kenilworth Road a total of 48 times, with Hatters just about on top winning 17, drawing 19 and losing 12, scoring 70 and conceding 62.

The biggest triumph was a 5-2 success in 1930 thanks to Andy Rennie’s hat-trick and a double from Jimmy Yardley.

Argyle have had the upper hand in recent times as Town have enjoyed victory just once in their last six matches, that a 2-0 League Two success in 2008 with strikes from Jarvis and Plummer.

They have lost the last two outings though, yet to beat Argyle on home soil since returning to the Football League.

Last time out: Luton were beaten 2-1 at Kenilworth Road by Plymouth last season after conceding yet another late winner.

The visitors were in front when Carl McHugh (17) scored, before Josh McQuoid levelled on 76 minutes for the Hatters.

However, Ryan Hall was then sent off for his second booking after kicking the ball away and former Luton striker Ryan Brunt pounced to win it in stoppage time.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Sean Long (Ryan Hall 45), Dan Potts (Alex Lawless 28), Scott Cuthbert, Luke Wilkinson, Jonathan Smith, Nathan Doyle, Cameron McGeehan, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (Josh McQuoid 48), Luke Guttridge, Jack Marriott.

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Mark O’Brien, Paddy McCourt, Olly Lee.

Attendance: 8,703.

Referee: Ross Joyce.