PREVIEW: Luton Town v Accrington Stanley
Accrington appear to have shaken off the disappointment of failing to win promotion last season with another impressive start to life in League Two.
Going into the final day of the 2015-16 campaign, Stanley just needed to beat Stevenage on home soil, but were held to a 0-0 draw and ended up being pipped by Bristol Rovers on goal difference.
John Coleman’s side then missed out in the play-offs, losing 3-2 on aggregate to AFC Wimbledon, who they had finished 10 points clear of during the regular campaign.
It looked like Accrington were still suffering a hangover from their disappointment as despite beating Doncaster 3-2 on the opening day, they then went eight games without a win in all competitions, losing home games to both Exeter and Morecambe.
However, a fine 1-1 draw at Carlisle on September 3 gave them cause for optimism and they followed that up by winning their next three league games, with victories at Notts County and at home to Portsmouth, before the narrowest of losses at West Ham in the EFL Cup was quickly forgotten with a 2-1 triumph at Colchester.
A draw with Mansfield saw Stanley collect 11 points from a possible 15, although that run came to a half at Cambridge, with the visitors missing two injury time penalties in a 2-1 reverse.
Coleman’s men quickly bounced back though, hammering Chesterfield 4-1 in the Checkatrade Trophy and went three unbeaten in the league, defeating Blackpool at home, before a home loss to a Graham Westley-inspired Newport County.
Once again, they didn’t let a defeat unduly affect them, with a shock 2-1 win in the FA Cup at Bradford City, although they were hammered 4-0 in the Checkatrade Trophy by Wolves U23s on Tuesday night.
However, with 15 games gone, Accrington can reflect on a decent start to the season, sitting in ninth place, just two points from the play-offs and four behind Luton.
Stanley’s Sean McConville is targeting some consistency though, starting at Kenilworth Road this weekend, telling the club’s official website: “We have been a bit of a yo-yo team so far this season, we have been poor one week and good the next week.
“When we won at Luton last year, we had kept the crowd quiet for 20 minutes, which is always the aim, and then played our game and got three points – and hopefully we can do the same on Saturday.
“Luton are a good team, with top players and one of the biggest budgets in the league but they have nothing we will be scared off. In fact we have got to go and embrace that and it does tend to be Accrington’s way – we do play better against the ‘bigger’ teams.”
The Reds recently added former Premier League forward Gary Taylor-Fletcher to the squad after he signed a deal until January.
The 35-year-old former Blackpool and Huddersfield striker netted on his debut at Chesterfield in the Trophy and has made four appearances so far.
Stanley have also confirmed striker Max Hazeldine, 19, has left the club recently too.
Team news: Luton striker Jack Marriott and defender Johnny Mullins are expected to be fit for the clash after returning to training this week.
Midfielder Pelly-Ruddock is suspended for his sending off at Exeter last weekend, while duo Danny Green and Nathan Doyle are no closer to returning.
Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (10). Stanley: Romuald Boco (6).
Milestones: Defender Stephen O’Donnell will make his 50th appearance for the club if he features against Stanley.
The Scottish defender, who joined last summer from Partick Thistle on a free has scored two goals in his Luton career so far.
Man in the middle: Brett Huxtable - has taken 15 games so far this season, showing 46 yellows and no reds yet, his last match the 1-1 draw between Exeter and Swindon in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night.
Promoted from the National League in the summer after spending the last four seasons there, Huxtable had 20 games last term, showing 37 yellows and one red.
Officiated Luton three times during the 2013-14 Conference campaign, including two 0-0 draws at Forest Green and Hereford, with a 2-1 home win over Welling as well, sending off Fraser Franks, then playing for the Wings, in the final minute.
Also took Town the season before, with Luton beating Southport 3-1 at home thanks to goals from Scott Rendell (2) and Stuart Fleetwood.
Assistant referees are Ian Rathbone and Marc Wilson, with the fourth official Thomas Ramsey.
In charge: John Coleman - 54-year-old who had a lengthy playing career, mainly in non-league football for Kirkby Town, Burscough, Marine, Southport, Runcorn FC Halton, Macclesfield Town, Morecambe, Lancaster City and Ashton United, plus a spell in Wales.
One of the most prolific non-league goalscorers in history, with over 500 goals to his name over two decades, he became Ashton United player boss in 1997, before a move to Accrington two years later.
Spent over 12 years in charge at Stanley, leading them to three promotions, including to the Football League in 2006 and was the third longest serving manager at the time, before leaving to join Rochdale in January 2012.
Had his contract terminated just before completing a year in charge at Spotland, and returned to management with Southport boss in December 2013, but left in April and then was appointed in charge at Sligo Rovers for a short period in June 2014.
However, when ex-Southampton striker James Beattie left Accrington in September 2014, Coleman was confirmed as manager in his second spell, leading the club to 17th, while coming within a whisker of winning promotion last season.
View from the dug out: John Coleman, speaking to the club’s official website: “I like going to Luton. Obviously they’ve hit a bit of form at the moment and that’ll make it tough. They were good last year, though that wasn’t reflected in their league position.
“They’re on a great run and I know what that’s like. Once they’re on it the players want to stay on it. It’s our job to try to break that run now, they all get broken so why can’t it be broken by us?”
One to watch: Terry Gornell, 26-year-old striker who is in his third spell at the club.
Joined on loan in September 2008 from Tranmere, and was back in August 2010 to make the move permanent.
Had spells at Shrewsbury, Rochdale and Cheltenham before he was re-signed by Stanley in February 2015.
Scored 12 times in 53 games since with four coming this season, but knows where the goal is at Kenilworth Road, netting twice in his last three visits.
We’ve got form: Luton haven’t the best of records in their short history against Accrington Stanley at Kenilworth Road.
They lost their first ever meeting 2-1 back in October 2008, with the visitors ahead through Paul Mullin’s 16th minute strike, before Asa Hall levelled for Town, only for Terry Gornell to seal victory.
Luton did win 2-0 in the 2014-15 season with goals from Jayden Stockley and Luke Guttridge, before another loss, 2-0, last season.
Last time out: Luton were beaten 2-0 at Kenilworth Road by Accrington last season.
The visitors took the lead on 47 minutes through Scott Brown’s strike, with Terry Gornell adding a second with six minutes to go.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Stephen O’Donnell, Dan Potts (Frankie Musonda 85), Glen Rea, Alan Sheehan, Jonathan Smith (Zane Banton 73), Cameron McGeehan, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Olly Lee, Jack Marriott (Paul Benson 61), Josh McQuoid.
Subs not used: Craig King, Alex Lawless, James Justin, Joe Pigott.
Referee: Peter Bankes.