PREVIEW: Luton Town v Carlisle United
It's been a stunning season for Carlisle so far as they have showcased their clear promotion credentials from the word go.
Drawing 1-1 at Portsmouth on the opening day, the Cumbrians then defeated Plymouth before setting off on a truly magnificent unbeaten run.
In total, Carlisle won eight and drew seven, going three months without a league defeat, eventually beaten in their 16th clash of the campaign at Newport County.
That loss ended a personal milestone of 33 games without tasting defeat for winger Nicky Adams too, who had joined from champions Northampton Town in the summer, the last time he had enduring the losing feeling against Portsmouth on December 19 last year, some 11 months ago.
Rather then let that affect them, Keith Curle’s side bounced back with a win over Exeter, drew 2-2 at Grimsby and then hammered Mansfield 5-2 to climb above Plymouth Argyle to the summit for a brief time, leapfrogged by Doncaster last weekend.
Rare back-to-back defeats have followed this week though, as Carlisle went out of the FA Cup at home to League One Rochdale, before exiting the Checkatrade Trophy too, 3-2 at home to Mansfield Town.
The Cumbrians have strengthened recently though, bringing in former Chelsea defender Kevin Wright on a short-term deal that expires in January 2017.
Wright joins ex-Spurs defender Alexander McQueen who has also agreed a one month contract, returning to the club for whom he made 26 appearances while on loan from White Hart Lane last season.
Team news: Luton have no injury doubts for the clash against Carlisle, with just Danny Green and Nathan Doyle out.
Carlisle are likely to recall the senior players rested on Tuesday night, including Mark Gillespie, Nicky Adams, Mike Jones, Michael Raynes and Jason Kennedy, leaving Jabo Ibehre and Joe McKee as the only fitness doubts.
Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (13). Cumbrians: Charlie Wyke (13).
Milestones: Defender Stephen O’Donnell finally made his 50th appearance for the club against Solihull in the FA Cup last weekend, scoring twice when entering the fray as a second half substitute.
Man in the middle: Mark Heywood - Official has taken 18 games so far this season, showing a hefty 83 yellows in that time, with just the one sending off to date.
Dished out a red on seven occasions last season in 27 matches, with 91 cautions too.
Assistant referees are David Plowright and Nicholas Cooper, with fourth official Garry Maskell.
In charge: Keith Curle - 53-year-old, who won three England caps in a career spanning 24 years, with spells at Manchester City, Bristol Rovers, Torquay United, Bristol City, Reading, Wimbledon, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United, Barnsley and Mansfield.
Was once Man City’s club record fee of £2.5million in 1991 too, as he was transfered for sums over £3.5million during his career.
Became player coach at Sheffield United in 2000 and then player boss with Mansfield Town in December 2002.
Was controversially sacked in December 2004, but won case for wrongful dismissal almost two years later, when by that time he had been appointed Chester City boss.
Lost his job in February 2006, but a year later was head coach at Torquay United, although his contract wasn’t renewed in the summer.
Joined up with Neil Warnock again as a member of his coaching staff at Crystal Palace in October 2007, following the manager to QPR in March 2010, before leaving in January 2012.
Named Notts County boss in February 2012 and equalled a 41-year record by going unbeaten away from home in the league in 10 consecutive games.
Dismissed by the Magpies in February 2013 and was appointed Carlisle boss in September 2014, leading the Cumbrians to 10th in the table last season and is currently the 19th longest managing in the Football League.
View from the opposition: Manager Keith Curle talking to the club’s official website: “Luton are also in a good position in the table and they’ll want to keep that going
“We’ve had them watched and we think we know how they will try to cause us problems. The pleasing thing is we know we have players who can deal with that and who have the attributes to turn the game in our favour.
“Looking back to last season, it was an unbelievable game. It was an example of two good teams who had a real desire to win. I have no doubt it will be the same again.”
Friendly faces: Alex Gilliead, spent last season on loan at Carlisle, making 41 appearances for the Cumbrians, with five goals, including in the 4-3 win at Kenilworth Road.
Jordan Cook also spent a brief loan spell at Brunton Park in the 2011-12 season from Sunderland, as he played 14 times, scoring four times.
Jack Marriot had a month with Carlisle from August 2014 to September 2014, playing five games, but failing to score.
Played for both: Harry Worley - was at Chelsea as a youngster, joining Carlisle on loan, playing just once, that a 1-0 home win over Cheltenham in September 2007.
Went to Leicester, before heading to Luton for a loan spell in 2008, featuring eight times in League Two for the Hatters.
After leaving the Foxes, went to Oxford, Newport, Stevenage, Hartlepool and was last at Salford City, who he left recently.
One to watch: Charlie Wyke - 24-year-old striker who began the season in fine form with with five goals in his first 10 games, before a slight slump saw himgo eight games without netting.
Back with a bang though as after scoring in the 4-2 win over Fleetwood in The Checkatrade Trophy, went on to net a brace against Exeter and then a hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Mansfield to make it eight in his last seven games and 13 in all competitions this term.
Began life at Middlesbrough but left the Riverside without featuring for Boro and loans at Kettering, Hartlepool, AFC Wimbledon and Pools again before a permanent move to Carlisle in January 2015.
Scored against Luton in his last trip to Kenilworth Road, the 4-3 win last term and just missed out on the League Two player of the month award for November to Grimsby hotshot Omar Bogle.
We’ve got form: Until defeated last season, Luton had been unbeaten against the Cumbrians for over 40 years on home soil,
Hatters still have a good record, winning six, drawing four and losing three of the previous 13 meetings.
Town have netted 29 goals, conceding 16, with two huge wins in the 1970s, racking up a 6-1 success in 1973, before following that up with a 5-0 triump in 1977.
Last time out: Luton let a 3-1 lead slip to lose 4-3 against Carlisle United last season in a game that was one of John Still’s final matches in charge.
Jack Marriott had given the hosts the lead after just four minutes, while Charlie Wyke levelled on the stroke of half time.
Josh McQuoid (46) and Danny Green (57) put Town back ahead, before now Luton loanee Alex Gilliead (66) pulled one back, Jabo Ibehre (79) levelled and then Derek Asamoah won it 60 seconds later.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Scott Cuthbert, Scott Griffiths, Mark O’Brien, Alex Lawless, Jonathan Smith, Cameron McGeehan (Paddy McCourt 82), Danny Green, Olly Lee, Jack Marriott (Craig Mackail-Smith 70), Josh McQuoid.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Sean Long, Curtley Williams, Ryan Hall, Nathan Doyle.