PREVIEW: Preston North End v Luton Town

Hatters head to Deepdale this weekend

By Mike Simmonds
Friday, 29th October 2021, 12:44 pm
Updated Friday, 29th October 2021, 12:46 pm
Luton celebrate their winner at Preston last season
Luton celebrate their winner at Preston last season

Although a quick glance at the table makes it look like Preston are struggling this season, sitting in 19th place and just six points clear of the relegation zone, a longer look and the Lilywhites position can be a bit misleading.

A poor start to the Championship campaign saw the Lilywhites lose their first three games, including a disappointing 4-1 reverse on home soil to Hull on the opening day, before they got three points on the board by beating Peterborough at Deepdale.

That has led to a far more resilient Preston side in operation, as they put a seven game unbeaten league run together, although five of them were draws, some not the worst outcomes, holding both former Premier League clubs Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion.

They then suffered defeat at QPR, with another draw against Derby, before beating Coventry 2-1, only to then go down 2-0 at Blackpool on Saturday, leaving them teetering above the drop zone, but only six points adrift of the Hatters in fifth, further exemplifying just how tight the second tier is this term.

Preston's home record is good though, just that one early reverse, while the club have enjoyed a fine Carabao Cup run this term too.

Seeing off Mansfield, Morecambe and Cheltenham, they then drew the big guns of Liverpool as over 22,000 came to Deepdale on Wednesday to see the Reds run out 2-0 winners , although had North End taken some of their chances, it could have been a different outcome.

Preston went into the season with Frankie McAvoy at the helm, the board making the decision in the summer to appoint the interim boss as their permanent head coach after he won five out of his eight matches in temporary charge following the sacking of Alex Neil following Luton's 1-0 won the road in March.

The former Norwich coach allowed experienced strikers Louis Moult and David Nugent to leave, while swooped to bring back two players who served the club on loan last term, Liverpool defender Sepp van den Berg and Leicester keeper Daniel Iversen.

He also brought in former Rotherham defender Matthew Olosunde, before adding striker Josh Murphy on a season-long loan from Cardiff, the 26-year-old costing the Bluebirds £11m back in 2018.

McAvoy opened up the purse strings to sign St Johnstone midfielder Ali McCann, the Northern Ireland international arriving for a fee tipped to be in the region of seven figures.

He also added Izzy Brown from Chelsea, the midfielder unfortunately suffering a serious Achilles injury before a ball had been kicked, and striker Connor Wickham on a short term deal, the attacker also out for some time with a hamstring injury, with his place in the squad going to Joe Rafferty.

McAvoy knows the form has not been good enough yet though, telling the club's official website: "We need to really focus on trying to win as many games as we can in the Championship and move ourselves up the league.

"We have three wins out of 14 and we know that’s not good enough and we need to do better, I know that, and the coaching staff and players know that.

“We’ve got an opportunity and chance on Saturday to try and remedy that, get us another three points on the board and try and push as high up that league because that’s what our task is.

“We are going to play Luton who are in fine fettle, we know it’s going to be another tough task but we are ready.

"It’s okay talking about it but we need to go out and do it, be clinical and go and get those three points.”

Off the field, the club announced the sad news recently that owner Trevor Hemmings had died at the age of 86.

He bought a controlling interest in Preston in June 2010 after the Lancashire club had received a winding-up petition, with McAvoy saying: “It was a shock for everybody, he was a wonderful man, and in my book I class him as a Preston legend.

"Everyone involved with the club owes a lot to him, he has been incredible for this club.”

Team news: Luton will have defender Kal Naismith back from suspension after he missed Saturday's 1-0 win over Hull City, but midfielder Luke Berry will miss out due to his knee injury.

Striker Elijah Adebayo and midfielder Henri Lansbury are expected to be fit though.

For Preston, Matthew Olosunde is still out with a tight hamstring, yet to make his Preston debut, while striker Ched Evans is also out with a foot injury, Josh Murphy absent with an ankle injury.

Long-term absentees Izzy Brown (Achilles) and Connor Wickham (hamstring) remain out, while Alan Browne is available following his suspension.

Top scorers - Hatters: Elijah Adebayo (7). Lilywhites: Emil Ris Jakobsen (9).

Milestones: Danny Hylton – the striker remains one game away from making it 150 appearances in a Luton shirt.

Man in the middle: Dean Whitestone - has taken 11 games so far this season, showing 34 yellow cards and one red.

First Town match since the 0-0 draw against Rotherham at Kenilworth Road last term, while he also had the home stalemate against Bournemouth and 2-1 win over Derby.

Refereed Luton three times in their first campaign back at Championship level, the 2-1 defeat at Birmingham, 3-3 draw with Fulham and 1-1 draw with Barnsley.

Prior to that, he has had Town a further eight times, with the Hatters winning three, drawing two and losing three, sending off Kevin Nicholls in the 1-1 draw with Barnet in 2009 and Paul Furlong in the 2-0 defeat at Huddersfield in 2007.

The referee's assistants are Nik Barnard and Geoffrey Liddle, with the fourth official Sebastian Stockbridge.

In charge: Frankie McAvoy – 54-year-old who didn't play football at professional level, joined Dunfermline Athletic as an academy coach in 2003.

He moved to Hamilton Academical in the same role in 2005, later becoming academy director at New Douglas Park.

In 2013, McAvoy became became first team coach at Hamilton Academical with Alex Neil as manager, the pair moving to Norwich in 2015, McAvoy remaining in the same role.

Headed to Preston in July 2017, and following the dismissal of Neil in March of this year, was named interim head coach, taking the job permanently after five wins from eight.

View from the opposition: Manager Frankie McAvoy talking to the club's official website: “Nathan Jones has done a fantastic job going back the second time to Luton and I think they’re unbeaten in seven games so it will be a tough game.

“But we’re at home and in the main we’ve done particularly well at home after losing the first game of the season.

“I’ve asked the players and I’ve asked the supporters to make Deepdale a difficult place for anybody to come and that’s what we need to try and do on Saturday, make it really tough for Luton and hopefully go and try and get the three points.”

Manager record: Nathan Jones has never faced Frankie McAvoy as a manager, with the Preston chief yet to lead a team into action against Luton.

Jones has taken on the Lilywhites five times before though, never losing as Luton boss, with two wins and a draw.

He was beaten twice as Stoke chief though, 3-1 away and 2-0 at home.

One to watch: Emil Ris Jakobsen – 23-year-old Danish forward was with the academy at Randers in his homeland, moving to Derby County in July 2015 as he played for the Rams U18s and U23s side.

Loaned to Dutch side VVV Venlo in July 2018, making two Eredivise appearances, as he returned to Randers permanently in 2018.

Made over 50 appearances in the Danish Superliga, before a move to Preston for a fee of around £1m in October 2020.

Struggled last term, netting just twice in 39 matches, but it's been a different story this campaign, starting with a goal in the 4-1 defeat at home to Hull, another following at Mansfield in the Carabao Cup.

Grabbed two more in the cup win at Morecambe, as he has nine for the season already, five in the Championship, and four in Preston's cup run to the last 16 which was ended by Liverpool in midweek.

Friendly faces: Midfielder Izzy Brown finally left Chelsea after spending eight years at Stamford Bridge, joined Preston North End on a free transfer in the summer.

However, before the campaign started, he ruptured his Achilles in training which has kept him out since.

The former England youth international had been borrowed from the Blues by Luton in August 2019, scoring once in 24 games for the Hatters.

He spent last season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, playing 21 times for the Owls.

Played for both: Striker Kurt Nogan began his career at Luton, playing when the Hatters were in the top flight, as he scored four goals in 39 appearances, including once at Anfield during a 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

He won two U21 caps for Wales during his time at Luton, before a move to Peterborough United in September 1992 and then Brighton & Hove Albion.

Starred during his time on the south coast with the Seagulls, netting over 50 goals in three years, as he went to Burnley for £250,000 in 1995.

On target 42 times in over 100 appearances for the Clarets, Preston shelling out £150,000 for his services in 1997.

Spent three years with the Lilywhite, netting 31 goals in 117 outings, joining hometown club Cardiff in 2000, managing to find the net just once.

Finished his career in non-league, turning out for Tiverton Town, while also had a brief spell at Welsh Football League side ENTO Aberaman Athletic.

We've got form: Luton's record at Deepdale has been fairly horrendous over the years after what had been a good start, Willy Shanks scoring the only goal to seal a Division Two triumph in January 1950.

The Hatters then went on an nine game winless run though, losing eight, until Alan Slough was on target in a 1-0 Division Two success in January 1972.

After that, Luton didn't win any of their next 11 games, picking up just three draws, and losing seven in a row until they finally emerged with a victory last season.

Overall, Town's record still makes for pretty miserable reading, with just three victories from 23, drawing four and losing 18, as they have failed to find the net on 11 occasions, scoring 15 and conceding 38..

Last time out: Luton picked up their first win at Deepdale for almost 50 years when they ran out 1-0 winners last season.

After a close game, the Hatters bagged the only goal with seven minutes remaining, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu's cross met by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, as although keeper Daniel Iversen made a fine save, he unluckily turned James Collins' follow up into his own net.

Hatters: Simon Sluga, James Bree, Matty Pearson, Glen Rea, Kal Naismith, Jordan Clark, Ryan Tunnicliffe (Tom Ince 71), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Harry Cornick (James Collins 76), Elijah Adebayo (Sam Nombe 76).

Subs not used: James Shea, Martin Cranie, Tom Lockyer, Luke Berry, Kazenga LuaLua, Joe Morrell.

Referee: Thomas Bramall.

Attendance: None.