PREVIEW: Luton Town v Swindon Town

Alan Sheehan is one of a number of ex-Swindon players at Kenilworth Road
Alan Sheehan is one of a number of ex-Swindon players at Kenilworth Road

Swindon Town are finding life back in League Two isn’t quite what they had hoped after getting a real shock to the system during the last fortnight.

The Robins opening three matches had gone more or less to plan, with wins at Carlisle and Morecambe, along with a draw against leaders Exeter leaving them with seven points out of nine.

However, they were then thumped 3-0 at home by Crawley, before even worse happened, hammered 4-1 at the County Ground by Barnet last week.

That led to the players getting booed off by their own supporters, although defender Ben Purkiss is confident they can recapture their away form at Kenilworth Road this weekend.

He told the club’s official website: “I think we have performed well away.

“Carlisle, a team you probably expect to be challenging up there and we performed well and looked solid, Morecambe, maybe not got the same expectation as Carlisle, but we were solid and hard to beat there.

“I’m sure Luton will be a difficult place to go.

“Again, they have that expectation and that may work in our favour but they will be looking to take the game to us.

“Regarding our (own) expectation at home, we have that expectation because of the quality and the reputation of the players we have, not just the football club and that is something we should embrace and feel confident about.”

Manager David Flitcroft, appointed in the summer when Luke Williams was dismissed, with Tim Sherwood leaving his role as director of football too, had already raided the loan market on deadline day to try and bring in reinforcements.

He managed to get Coventry City goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook on a two-year deal, while also brought in Derby County’s 19-year-old duo Timi Elsnik and Kellan Gordon on season-long loan, plus former Barton Rovers striker and Crystal Palace forward Keshi Anderson for six months.

Those additions came on top of a whole host of signings in the summer, with James Dunne, Paul Mullin, Ben Purkiss, Olly Lancashire, Amine Linganzi, Donal McDermott, Kyle Knoyle, Matt Taylor, Chris Hussey, Harry Smith and Kaiyne Woolery all joining too.

However, midfielder Jesse Starkey left the League Two club after just seven months at the County Ground, with his contract cancelled by mutual consent, while also on their way ahead of the season starting were Callum Gunner, Jordan Stewart, Raphael Rossi Branco, Yaser Kasim and Jonathan Obika.

Team news: Hatters will have Luke Gambin and James Justin available once more, meaning just Lawson D’Ath is missing out with his leg injury.

For Swindon, Kyle Knoyle and John Goddard aren’t expected to feature, but Olly Lancashire should be back.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (5). Robins: Luke Norris, Paul Mullin (3).

Milestones: Dan Potts will make his 50th appearance should he feature at the weekend. The full back who signed on a free after being released by West Ham in the summer of 2015, recently penned a new one year deal and has scored twice in that time.

Man in the middle: Graham Salisbury – experienced referee has taken six games this season, showing 30 yellows and one red so far, doing the 0-0 draw between Doncaster and Peterborough last weekend.

Had 36 matches last term, with 116 yellows and five reds, one coming in his last Luton match, sending off Alan Sheenan in Town’s 2-1 win at Crewe where Jack Marriott and Jake Gray scored.

Had Luton once more, the 1-1 draw against Mansfield at Kenilworth Road, while the previous season, had the whistle for Luton’s 2-1 defeat at Barnet, awarding the hosts a penalty in stoppage time after Scott Cuthbert’s handball and Luton’s 3-1 win at Cambridge, dismissing the hosts’ Harrison Dunk for two yellows.

Officiated Hatters a further eight times in his career, with Town winning five, drawing two and losing just one, showing two more reds in that time, sending off Tom Naylor as Luton won 1-0 at Cambridge in September 2014 and Hatters’ Kevin Nicholls in a 1-1 draw against Plymouth in 2004.

The referee assistants are Graham Kane and Leigh Crowhurst, with Rob Smith the fourth official.

In charge: David Flitcroft - 43-year-old who racked up 500 appearances as a player, starting life at Preston North End, before spells at Lincoln and Chester, until he joined Rochdale.

Spent four years at Spotland and then switched to Macclesfield Town in July 2003 before moving on again, to Bury where he made 100 league appearances until he joined Hyde United.

Returned to Rochdale as assistant manager to Keith Hill midway through the 2006–07 season, while after retiring as a player, was appointed assistant manager at Barnsley, following Hill to Oakwell.

Made caretaker manager of the Tykes when Hill was sacked during the 2012–13 season and after keeping them up, got the job permanently, signin a rolling contract in May 2013, but was sacked in November after a 3-0 home defeat by Birmingham City.

Became Bury boss in December 2013, staying almost three years at Gigg Lane, before losing his iob in November 2016 after a run of 11 games without a win.

Was out of work for over six months, and then named Swindon boss in June this year.

View from the dug out: Swindon boss David Flitcroft - “They’ve had nearly two years of work building towards where they are now and they’ve got a very experienced team.

“Nathan (Jones) has been there a good time now and he’s spent a good chunk organising the infrastructure, making sure that he’s learnt from not going up last season and he’s gone for the very best and the most experienced players in this league in terms of Alan McCormack.

“He’s really gone for an experienced group of players to make good decisions out on the pitch.

“When you’ve got the two strikers, James Collins and Danny Hylton, who are top, top performers at this level then you are going to score goals and create chances.

“That is what Nathan has been able to do over a massive period of time.”

One to watch: Luke Norris - 24-year-old striker is having a fine start to the season having scored three goals in his first six games.

Found it tough going in League One last term, notching just six goals in 46 matches after joining from Gillingham where he netted 15 goals in 79 games.

Started life at Brentford, before loans with Northampton and Dagenham & Redbridge, until he headed to the Gills in 2014.

Played for both: Full back Sol Davis started his career with Swindon, as he played over 100 times for the Robins before moving to Luton under Joe Kinnear, where he became a firm fans favourite, playing 229 times and scoring three goals.

Named Players Player of the Year in the 2004-05 season, and left Luton in 2009, having spells with MK Dons and Kettering.

Friendly faces: Swindon defender Matt Taylor came through the ranks at Luton, making his debut back in August 1998 and spending four years with the club, playing 146 times, scoring 17 goals, before a £400,000 move to Portsmouth.

Big money moves to Bolton and West Ham followed, while he had a two year spell at Burnley and then spent last season with Northampton before heading to Swindon last month, making two appearances so far.

Luton have a hefty ex-Swindon contingent in their ranks, as James Collins spent the 2012-13 season at the County Ground after joining from Shrewsbury, scoring 18 goals in 51 games, before heading to Hibernian in a £200,000 deal.

He was part of the side that contained Alan McCormack too, who was there from July 2011 to June 2013, playing 98 times, scoring twice, as with Collins, he helped the club to the League One title, eventually moving to Brentford in June 2013.

The pair joined the Robins just after Luton skipper Scott Cuthbert left, as he made 96 appearances for Swindon between July 2009 and June 2011 before heading to Leyton Orient.

With Cuthbert was Alan Sheehan too, who had two spells, once on loan and then signing from Leeds permanently in August 2010, as he played 49 times in total, scoring twice before heading to Notts County on a free in June 2011.

Meanwhile, Luton assistant boss Paul Hart Hart was named in charge of the Robins on March 3, 2011, but left the next month managing just one win from his 11 games in charge.

Goalkeeper coach Kevin Dearden played once for Swindon in March 1990 too after joining on loan from Spurs.

We’ve got form: Luton have a stunning record at Kenilworth Road against Swindon throughout their games spanning well over 115 years from Southern League to Football League.

Town set the tone back in 1891, winning an FA Cup tie 4-3 as in their 52 meetings, they’ve won an impressive 35 times, drawn nine and lost eight, scoring 124 goals and conceding 54, with a 7-1 win Southern League triumph back in February 1896 their best so far.

However they haven’t won since since March 12, 2005 when Kevin Nicholls (penalty), Ahmet Brkovic and Peter Holmes scored, with Swindon claiming the spoils in the last two encounters.

Last time out: Luton were beaten 2-1 by Swindon in their most recent meeting at Kenilworth Road, that a Capital One Cup first round tie in August 2014.

Luke Rooney put Luton front in from the penalty spot on 52 minutes only for Michael Smith’s spot kick (76) making it 1-1 with the striker then winning it five minutes later.

Rooney was also sent off for a highly contentious second yellow in stoppage time when he was harshly adjudged to have dived in the area.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Paul Connolly, Scott Griffiths, Fraser Franks, Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkinson, Andy Drury, Luke Rooney, Matt Robinson (Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu 78), Paul Benson (Ross Lafayette 72), Mark Cullen (Luke Guttridge 66).

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Lacey, Jake Howells, Alex Wall.

Attendance: 4,410

Referee: Paul Tierney.