PREVIEW: Blackpool v Luton Town
After a tough start adapting to life in League Two following relegation from League One last term, Blackpool are starting to put together a very decent run of form.
The Tangerines, who finished 22nd in the third tier season, four points adrift of the dotted line, had begun well, beating Exeter 2-0 in their opening game of the campaign.
However, under new management in Gary Bowyer, they struggled for consistency in their next 10 league matches as excellent results in beating Yeovil 3-0 away and Portsmouth 3-1 at home were few and far between, as the Tangerines drew four and lost four.
It didn’t look like getting much better either, with a draw against Cambridge and defeat to Accrington, but a fine display in seeing off Doncaster 4-2 on October 22 saw Blackpool start to revive their fortunes.
Since that victory, the Tangerines have gone on to win five of their latest League Two encounters, losing just the once, that a 1-0 reverse at Mansfield.
Home form has remained good throughout too, with Bloomfield Road attendees only witnessing the one defeat so far, to leaders Plymouth, off their seats 20 times with the hosts the fourth top scorers on their own soil in the league.
There’s been plenty of cup joy as well, with Blackpool through to round three of the FA Cup and a home tie against Barnsley, while also making Checkatrade Trophy progress as well, despite, like Luton receiving a fine for their changes made in the group stages, to the tune of £3,000.
Off the field issues remain with controversial owner Owen Oyston and chairman, son, Karl Oyston, recently dropping a defamation case against a fans website, while they also rejected a £16m bid from the Blackpool Supporters’ Trust to buy the club last year.
Team news: Luton will give a late test to defender Alan Sheehan after he went off injured with a groin problem against Carlisle United last week.
Danny Green and Nathan Doyle still remain out of action until the new year.
Michael Cain is a doubt for Blackpool with illness, while Colin Daniel is back in contention having spent two weeks on the sidelines nursing a hamstring injury.
Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (14). Tangerines: Kyle Vassell (11).
Milestones: Luton midfielder Jordan Cook could make the 150th appearance of his career at Blackpool.
The 26-year-old has scored 15 goals since making his debut for Darlington in a League Two clash with Crewe back in August 2009 when on loan from Sunderland.
Man in the middle: Peter Bankes - card happy official who has dished out 76 yellows and eight reds already this term, including 10 bookings in Newcastle’s 4-3 win over Norwich, and then handed out a further eight in his next two games as well.
Sent off two players in a game twice, while also handed out a red when officiating Sheffield Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Barnsley on Tuesday night.
Refereed Luton twice last term, with the Hatters losing both games at home to Portsmouth and then Accrington.
Also had the 2-0 defeat at Shrewsbury in August 2014, dismissing Matt Robinson with seven minutes to go.
Assistant referees are Paul Hodskinson and Mark Dwyer, with the fourth official Ricky Wootton.
In charge: Gary Bowyer, 45-year-old, who began his playing career in non-league, before joining Hereford in 1989 and then headed to Nottingham Forest.
Didn’t make a first team appearance at the City Ground, moving to Rotherham United, before having to retire through injury.
Began his coaching career working part-time at Ilkeston and managed Carshalton between 1998-2000, until appointed U17s coach at Derby County, spending six years with the Rams before a move to Blackburn Rovers as U18s coach in 2004.
Became reserve team manager at Ewood Park in 2008, and in December 2012 was appointed caretaker manager following the dismissal of Henning Berg, keeping the position until the end of January.
Had another stint as caretaker boss in March 2013, after Michael Appleton was sacked, eventually appointed to the position permanently in May 2013.
Spent two years in charge, his tenure ended in November 2015, while he was back in management when agreeing a rolling one-year contract at Blackpool on June 1 this year.
View from the opposition: Manager Gary Bowyer speaking to the Blackpool Gazette: “It’s just another game of football for us. The fact that they’re in a play-off position suggests they’re doing a lot of things right, but it’s all about us and how we go about it.
“We have performed well here against teams in the play-off positions. Notts County were in the play-offs when they arrived, Doncaster and Portsmouth were the same.”
Friendly faces: Striker Mark Cullen left the Hatters for Blackpool in July 2015 for £180,000 after playing 83 times for Luton, scoring 24 times, with his most important goal, the last-minute equaliser at Cambridge United which virtually sealed the Conference title.
Finished as the Tangerines top scorer in League One last term, with nine goals, and netted in last weekend’s 2-0 win at Stevenage, only his second strike in 15 appearances this term.
Former Luton academy graduate Michael Cain, who was also with AFC Dunstable, joined Blackpool on a season-long loan from Leicester City in the summer, although has played just 11 times this term, scoring once.
Hatters assistant Paul Hart spent five years at Blackpool between 1973 and 1978 as a player, making almost 150 appearances for the club after joining from Stockport County, before being sold to Leeds United for £300,000.
Played for both: Emmerson Boyce - popular defender, now 37, who came through the ranks at Luton, making his debut in January 1999 and going on to play 212 times for the club, scoring nine goals.
Spent five more seasons at Kenilworth Road unil he joined Crystal Palace on a free transfer in July 2004.
Was snapped up by Wigan in August 2006 for £1m, captaining the Latics to an FA Cup final victory over Manchester City in 2013.
Moved to Blackpool in August 2015, making 26 appearances until he was released at the end of last season.
One to watch: Kyle Vassell - 23-year-old striker who is starting to realise the potential that saw him snapped up by Peterborough from Bishop’s Stortford back in 2013.
Spent time as a youngster with Norwich and Brentford, before plying his trade in non-league for the likes of Sutton and Chelmsford to name a few until joining Posh.
Spent three years at London Road, with loan spells at Oxford, Dageham and Shrewsbury, moving to Blackpool on a free in the summer.
Netted on his debut in the 2-0 win over Exeter and has been a regular on the scoresheet ever since, bagging 11 goals in his 21 matches so far, including recent doubles against Cheltenham and Notts County.
We’ve got form: Blackpool hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Luton since their first visit, back in 1898, when they lost a Division Two contest 1-0.
In total, Luton have travelled up 25 times, claiming maximum points on just six occasions, with seven draws and 12 defeats.
They did go over 30 years and 10 matches without a victory from November 1971 to December 2003, until Steve Robinson’s strike settled a Division Two encounter, with Luton now unbeaten in two trips.
Hatters have netted 26 goals in that time, failing to score on 10 occasions, conceding 41 times too, beaten 4-0 back in 1956, plus a 5-2 defeat in August 2002.
Last time out: Luton came away from Bloomfield Road with a 3-1 victory on their last visit, that a League One encounter in August 2004.
The visitors fell behind to Scott Taylor’s fourth minute opener, before a quickfire second half double from Steve Howard (58) and Ahmed Brkovic (59) put them in front, while Brkovic sealed the victory in stoppage time.
Hatters: Marlon Beresford, Sol Davis, Paul Underwood, Curtis Davies, Chris Coyne, Ahmed Brkovic, Keith Keane, Steve Robinson, Kevin Nicolls, Rowan Vine, Steve Howard.
Subs not used: Dino Seremet, Kevin Foley, Lee Mansell, Michael Leary, Enoch Showunmi.
Referee: Alan Kaye.