PREVIEW: Luton Town v Wycombe Wanderers

Hatters host the Chairboys at Kenilworth Road this weekend

Wycombe have, as expected, found life in the second tier an extremely tough proposition in their opening three games to a first ever season at Championship level.

The Chairboys were unfortunate not to kick things off with a point, beaten 1-0 in the final minute by Rotherham United on the opening day, but were then given a bit of a pasting, hammered 5-0 at Blackburn Rovers.

They lost once more at home to Swansea City last weekend, while didn't even have the respite of a Carabao Cup run to gain some form, going out on penalties to Brentford in round one.

Discipline has been something of an issue too, with Wycombe already having two men sent off, Dominic Gape and Darius Charles both seeing red in their opening four fixtures.

Gareth Ainsworth's side made it to the this level after seeing the League One season ended early during the coronavirus pandemic last term, as they jumped from eighth to third when the division was decided on a points per game system.

It meant that they climbed into the play-offs at the expense of Peterborough United, who had been seventh at the time, leading to Posh chairman Barry Fry stating he felt his club had been 'cheated' out of chance to go for promotion.

While in the play-offs though, Wycombe went up against Fleetwood, winning 4-1 on their travels and then drawing 2-2 at home, to go through 6-3 on aggregate.

That set up a final with Oxford United at Wembley, Ainsworth's men coming through 2-1 to make club history and reach the Championship.

The Chairboys made moves to strengthen their squad in the summer, bringing in striker Uche Ikpeazu from Hearts, paying an undisclosed fee for Jason McCarthy and utilising the free transfer market to add Ryan Tafazoli and David Stockdale, with Hibernian winger Daryl Horgan also agreeing to move south.

Giles Phillips and Curtis Anderson joined from QPR and Man City respectively, while Ainsworth also loaned in Dennis Adeniran from Everton too.

Just this week, it had looked like Luton could be coming up against a host of new faces, with the Chairboys' official Twitter teasing four additions, only for the quartet to turn out as players for the club's new B team.

Although Wanderers are pointless going into the contest, Ainsworth believes they are starting to adjust to the level, as following the Swansea defeat, he said: “We can pick the bones out of the goals. You have to eradicate mistakes at this level.

“But second half I am hoping people will see that and say 'you know what, these may upset some teams this year' because it was much, much better.

"It's a big improvement on last week. I have said to the boys just keep going. I am sure we are not far away from our first win.

"You have got to find a way to win, and that’s what I did in my career.

"Getting that into the boys is going to be important this week but they know what I want, and if they don’t by Saturday then I’ll have some issues.”

Team news: Luton will be without Tom Lockyer for the clash against Wycombe as he missed out on Wales duty with an ankle injury.

Glen Rea has been passed fit following feeling light-headed against Derby recently, but Dan Potts (foot), James Bree (knee), Eunan O'Kane (leg) and Brendan Galloway (leg) are all missing.

Wycombe will welcome back Dominic Gape and Darius Charles back from suspension, while Uche Ikpeazu could also be included.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (4). Chairboys: Daryl Horgan (1).

Milestones: Matty Pearson is in line for his 100th appearance for Luton if he features at the weekend.

The defender was signed from Barnsley in the summer of 2018 and has scored eight goals during his time at Kenilworth Road.

Man in the middle: Graham Scott - Taken two games this season, the Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, sending off Blades defender John Egan early on, plus Manchester United's 3-0 Carabao Cup win at Brighton on Tuesday night.

Refereed 26 games last term, mainly in the top flight, showing 79 bookings and seven yellows.

Did have Luton twice though, the 3-0 home win over Bristol City and 2-1 defeat to Birmingham, dismissing the visitors' defender Harlee Dean with four minutes to go.

That was his first Hatters fixture since the 4-1 victory over Wycombe in September 2016, while he also refereed the 2-1 defeat at Northampton in March 2015.

Officiated two more Luton games way back in the 2008-09 campaign as he had Town's 1-1 draw at home to Morecambe and 2-0 defeat at Brentford.

Assistant referees are Harry Lennard and Robert Hyde, with the fourth official Darren Drysdale.

In charge: Gareth Ainsworth - 47-year-old, who had a fine playing career at the likes of Blackburn Rovers, Northwich Victoria, Preston North End, Cambridge United, Lincoln City and then Port Vale, the Valiants shelling out £500,000 for his signature in 1997.

Earned a move to the Premier League when he joined Wimbledon for £2million a year later, before moving to Cardiff City in 2003 and then QPR where he spent seven years, twice serving as caretaker-manager.

Joined Wycombe in February 2010 and was appointed player manager in November 2012 following the sacking of Gary Waddock.

Has stayed loyal to the Chairboys, leading them to the Championship for the first time in their history and was the longest serving manager in the league, until Harrogate got promotion, with boss Simon Weaver now taking that honour.

View from the dug out: Gareth Ainsworth speaking to the Bucks Free Press: "We've still got a couple of injuries but the boys are raring to go for Luton and we're looking to get off the mark with a point at least to take into the international break.

"Nathan is a great manager. He kept them up in the Championship last year and after his brief break becoming Stoke manager, he’s come back and worked the league out.

“They have started like a train so we are going to have a tough game without a doubt.

“They went through a lot of financial difficulties and got themselves out of the mire, and we're a team that seemed to be alongside them a lot.

“We’ve had some great battles over the years but this is going to be a tough game.

“They’re an inspiration to us to stay in the Championship.

"I’d love to do that, but there’s a lot of work to do before we start thinking about that.

“We need to start getting our first points on the board and I’m looking forward to trying to do that at Kenilworth Road.”

Played for both: Luke Bolton - Manchester City youngster joined Wycombe in January 2018, spending the the second half of the season with the Chairboys, making just 10 appearances, only four of them starts.

Headed to Luton last August for the campaign and went on to feature 28 times for Town, before opting to cut his loan short in the final few weeks.

Sent out again by the Blues this summer, moving to Scottish Premier League side Dundee United, where he has played nine games so far.

We've got form: The visitors have been tough opponents during their trips to Kenilworth Road over the years until Luton finally started to get the upper hand recently.

The first two meetings in Division Two ended goalless, before Town picked up a 3-1 win to get the ball rolling in January 1999.

The spoils were shared again a year later, although Hatters lost 2-1 in January 2001, responding with back-to-back triumphs afterwards,

A poor run of form saw the Chairboys getting on top, with four wins from five, a Danny Hylton treble during a 4-1 win Town's only moment of joy.

Since then, Town have restored the balance of power through, winning the last two games, to make it six wins, three draws and five defeats in total, scoring 22 goals and conceding 15.

Last time out: Luton emerged as comprehensive 3-0 winners over Wycombe in their last meeting at Kenilworth Road, a League One clash in February 2019.

James Collins put Town in front on 33 minutes, heading Jack Stacey's cross in at the near post.

Late in the game, substitute George Moncur sealed the win, as after replacing Alan McCormack, he took the rebound from Jason Cummings' shot to score with five minutes to go and was then set up by attacker for a third just a few moments later.

Hatters: James Shea, Jack Stacey, James Justin, Sonny Bradley, Matty Pearson, Alan McCormack (George Moncur 73), Luke Berry, Andrew Shinnie (Alan Sheehan 89), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Danny Hylton (Jason Cummings 82), James Collins.

Subs not used: Harry Isted, Dan Potts, Alex Baptiste, George Thorne.

Referee: Andy Davies

Attendance: 10,072.