PREVIEW: Barnet v Luton Town
Any realistic hopes that Barnet had of making the league Two play-offs this term appear to have gone up in smoke after a desperately poor run of results recently.
Back in January, a 3-1 win at Leyton Orient saw the Bees sitting seventh place in the table, one above Luton, and looking like they could go on to enjoy a fine second half to the season, with a place in League One not completely out of the question.
However, since then, Barnet have endured a pretty terrible time, with just two wins from 15 games, including six draws and seven defeats, earning them a meagre haul of just 12 points from a possible 45.
All in all, it means they languish in 15th, some 11 points adrift of the top seven with only six games to go now.
They weren’t helped by manager Martin Allen leaving in December, as he was swayed by the lucrative offer from non-league Eastleigh, leaving Rossie Eames and Henry Newman in joint charge.
The pair won four of their 11 games in joint charge before Eames led the team to a 1-0 win over Morecambe, to complete a highly respectable caretaker stint, as former Luton first team coach Kevin Nugent then took the helm.
He has had a tough start to his first managerial job though, as he it took eight games to celebrate a first victory, that a 3-1 triumph over Cheltenham, as after losing at Stevenage last week, it took his record so far to one win, four draws and four defeats.
Speaking to the Barnet & Whetstone Press, Nugent knows he is already under a bit of pressure despite being in the early days of his reign, saying: “It was a relief to get my first win. I’m really enjoying it here. I’ve been getting a bit of stick on the sidelines, but I believe in what I’m doing.
“There have been patches of games that weren’t good enough, I get that. But games like Portsmouth and Cambridge, we should have been picking up points.”
Team news: Luton have a doubt over Johnny Mullins, but Jordan Cook, Jack Senior and Dan Potts are all closer this week, leaving just Cameron McGeehan and Danny Green missing.
Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (24). Barnet: John Akinde (23).
Man in the middle: Darren England - official has taken 37 games this season showing 105 yellows and nine reds, including two in his last match, Newport’s 1-0 win over Crawley Town.
Only refereed Hatters once before, coincidentally against the Bees at Kenilworth Road last season with Luton winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Danny Green and Cameron McGeehan.
Referees assistants are Robert Massey-Ellis and Stephen Finch, with Steven Plane the fourth official.
In charge: Kevin Nugent, 47-year-old former striker who began his career at Leyton Orient in the 1980s, making 100 appearances for the O’s.
Joined Plymouth for £200,000 in 1992 and then went to Bristol City for £75,000 in 1995 as Cardiff shelled out £65,000 for his services in 1997.
Went to Swansea in 2003 as assistant boss at what was then Vetch Field in June 2004, promoted to caretaker in February 2007.
Headed back to Orient as youth team manager in June 2007 and took over as temporary boss on two occasions, before returning to an assistant role when Russell Slade became manager in September 2014.
Had another spell as interim manager, and then returned to coaching with the O’s, before leaving in January 2016, appointed as Luton first team coach later that month.
After six months with Luton, Nugent linked up with Slade once more at Charlton in July and was named in caretaker charge once more when Slade left, winning two games and drawing one.
However, took his first step as a manager this year, named head coach at Barnet on February 15.
From the opposition: Boss Kevin Nugent talking to the club’s official website: “They’re one of my old clubs Luton.
“It’ll be a good game, they’re a very good side.
“Stevenage, Luton and Exeter are three sides that are all up there, so it will be a tough few weeks.”
Friendly faces: Luke Gambin, winger was a popular member of the Barnet squad having joined in April 2012 from AFC Wimbledon’s youth set-up, playing over 100 times for the Bees, scoring 15 goals, before his move to Luton in January.
Olly Lee was signed by Barnet in July 2012 too, making 13 appearances in total before leaving for Birmingham City at the end of the season.
Hatters goalkeeper coach Kevin Dearden played once for Barnet after a loan spell from Brentford in February 1999, that a 5-2 defeat at Peterborough in the old Division Two, beaten four times by ex-Hatter Wayne Andrews.
Barnet boss Kevin Nugent spent six months at Luton when Nathan Jones took over last year as first team coach, until heading to Charlton Athletic.
Played for both: Paul Furlong. Striker who began his career in non-league, before spells at Coventry, Watford, Chelsea and Birmingham, commanding fees of over £4m in that time.
Went to QPR and Sheffield United, and then Luton on a free where he scored 12 goals in 39 games during the 2007-08 season.
After leaving Kenilworth Road, headed to Southend and then Barnet in January 2009, staying 18 months at Underhill, netting 14 times in 63 appearances.
Finished his playing days at the likes of Kettering and St Albans, and is now U18 academy manager at QPR.
One to watch: John Akinde - 27-year-old striker has had another superb season in front of goal, scoring 23 times in League Two.
Has now bagged 79 goals in just 136 matches since arriving at the Bees from Alfreton in July 2014, furthering his hero status with the club’s supporters.
Hadn’t fully settled before his move to the Hive as after joining Bristol City from Eastleigh for £140k in September 2008, was loaned to Wycombe, Brentford, Bristol Rovers and Dagenham, before joining Crawley permanently.
Also had a brief stint at Portsmouth, before dropping down to Alfreton where he flourished, alerting the attention of Barnet, with the move certainly paying dividends ever since.
We’ve got form: Luton have visited Barnet three times in their history, with one win, one draw and one defeat to their name.
They started with a 1-1 draw in League Two back in 2009 as Rossi Jarvis scored, with Kevin Nicholls sent off.
Town then won 2-1 in the Conference back on Boxing Day 2013, as Paul Benson and Alex Lawless were on target in a match that saw Jonathan Smith suffer a sickening double leg break.
Hatters then lost for the first time last year, going down 2-1.
Last time out: Luton fell to a last minute 2-1 defeat at Barnet last season, a result that was a huge blow to any lingering play-off hopes.
Luke Gambin, now of course with Luton, had put the hosts in front on 49 minutes before Hatters finally levelled with five to go through Cameron McGeehan’s close range strike.
However, Scott Cuthbert handballed late on and John Akinde stroked him the resulting penalty to condemn Hatters to defeat.
Hatters: Jonathan Mitchell, Stephen O’Donnell, Glen Rea (Danny Green 80), Scott Cuthbert, Magnus Okuonghae, Alan Sheehan, Jonathan Smith (Paddy McCourt 63), Cameron McGeehan, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Paul Benson (Joe Pigott 73), Jack Marriott.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Lawless, Olly Lee, Josh McQuoid.
Referee: Graham Salisbury.