PREVIEW: Luton Town v Crawley Town
Times they are a changing for Crawley Town off the field as they finally announced a new owner for the club, with Turkish businessman Ziya Eren completing his takeover this week.
Eren had been in negotiations to buy the Reds, who were first put up for sale in March 2013, since October and finally got his wish on Tuesday when the Football League approved the deal and he passed their Owners and Directors Test.
Chairman Dave Pottinger, chief executive Michael Dunford, Ian Carter and Matt Turner have all resigned from Crawley’s board of directors, with Eren setting his sights on a period of success for the Red Devils, targeting not just one, but two promotions.
In a statement on the club’s official website, he said: “We would love to take Crawley into the Championship within the next 8-10 years.
“It will take a lot of dedication and we will need a foster a real togetherness between the club, the players and, just as importantly, the fans but it is possible and we have to be ambitious, to dream.”
The new owner was quick to help manager Mark Yates bolster his squad too, agreeing to the loan addition of Wolves striker Liam McAlinden until the end of the season.
The 22-year-old 6ft 1in forward has played 19 times for the Molineux club with loan spells at Fleetwood Town and Shrewsbury Town during his career so far.
On his new capture, Yates said: “Liam is a player I have admired for a long time. He’s big and powerful but mobile and he can score goals.
“I’d like to thank our new owners who have sanctioned the move.
“Since Rhys Murphy went back to Oldham we have been a bit short up front and the new owners have recognised this and acted straight away.”
On their way out of the club though this week ex-Town winger Luke Rooney, who has headed to America to play for Arizona United.
Yates had been busy in the loan market prior to the takeover too, with Blackpool defender Charles Dunne joining for a month, Pompey keeper Paul Jones extending his temporary stay, while recently ex-Fleetwood Town player Lyle Della-Verde penned a one-month contract, with midfielder Frankie Sutherland joining on a month’s loan from Queens Park Rangers.
Crawley also added midfielder Andy Bond and brought in Brighton & Hove Albion defender Tom Dallison on a 30-day loan deal, with midfielder Ross Jenkins having his contract terminated to join Romanian top-flight club ACS Poli Timisoara.
To achieve the new owner’s dream of Championship football, the Red Devils will have to improve dramatically on a first season back in League Two after relegation from League One last term.
Barring a decent run of results back in October, where Crawley won four out of five, including beating Luton 2-1 at the Checkatrade.com Stadium, they have struggled badly for consistency this term.
A poor recent run has seen them slip down to 17th in the table too as after beating Dagenham 3-2 on December 12, they have lost eight from 14 games, picking up just four wins in the process.
It’s away from home that Town have really found things difficult, with 11 defeats on their travels, the second worst record in the divison behind York City.
In fact, the south coast side have managed a mere 14 points from 51 away this term, scoring 20 and shipping 37, winning just once since October 24, that at Stevenage as their last nine games have heralded the one victory, one draw and seven defeats.
Team news: Jake Howells will be missing for Luton after he requires a minor knee operation, but Dan Potts has recovered from the cramp that forced him off late on at Orient.
Nathan Doyle (knee) and Josh McQuoid (knee) are the only other absentees for the Hatters.
Crawley will be without Joe McNerney (knee), Tom Dallison (broken toe) and Jimmy Smith (foot).
Top scorers: Hatters: Jack Marriott, Cameron McGeehan (12). Red Devils: Rhys Murphy (9).
Man in the middle: Michael Bull - Official has taken 16 games so far this season, showing 47 yellows and six reds, with four of those dismissals coming in his last seven matches.
Was in charge of Luton’s 2-1 defeat at Gillingham in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy back in October, while last year, officiated 32 games from the Championship to League Two, with 89 yellows and eight reds.
Refereed Luton plenty of times in the Conference, having the whistle for 3-1 win at Ebbsfleet in the 2012-13 season, plus the 2-0 win over Nuneaton.
Also took the 2-0 defeat at Braintree, controversially sending off Wayne Thomas on 34 minutes, after he had reduced the home side to 10 men too, plus the 2-2 draw with Newport.
The season before, Bull was in charge for the 0-0 draw with Mansfield and 4-2 home win over Hayes & Yeading.
Assistant referees are Thomas Ramsey and Barry Holderness, with Josh Smith the fourth official.
In charge: Mark Yates - 46-year-old who had a lengthy playing career with the likes of Birmingham City, Burnley, Lincoln City, Doncaster Rovers, Kidderminster and Cheltenham Town, racking up close to 600 appearances in total.
Retired at the end of the 2004-05 season and became first team coach at Burnley, before being appointed manager of Kidderminster in January 2006, leading Harriers to an FA Trophy final.
Was named Cheltenham boss in December 2009 and guided them to the League Two play-offs twice before he was sacked in November 2014 after almost five years in charge.
Had six months out of the game, before being appointed Crawley boss on May 19 following the club’s relegation to League Two.
View from the opposition: Mark Yates speaking to the club’s official website: “There probably aren’t too many tougher games in the league at the moment than Luton, who have run into some good form.
“But we’ve given them two very hard games this season and I think our squad is as strong as it’s been going into the last quarter of the season, so it’s a game we are looking forward to.”
One to watch: Matt Harrold - experienced 31-year-old striker has netted seven goals this season in all competitions, with two of those coming against the Hatters in the league and FA Cup meetings.
Has scored three in his last nine games now and was on target in the 1-1 draw with Morecambe on Saturday.
Joined Crawley in June 2014 after leaving Bristol Rovers where he had impressed, scoring 27 times in 87 games, and has had stints at Cambridge, Shrewsbury, Wycombe, Southend and Yeovil to name a few in his 13-year career to date.
Friendly faces: Hatters centre back Magnus Okuonghae was with Crawley for six months in the 2006-07, making 21 appearances, scoring twice, season before being snapped up by Dagenham & Redbridge.
Winger Ryan Hall also had a month at the Red Devils in the 2007-08 season, scoring two goals in seven games, while full back Scott Griffiths spent two months on loan at Crawley during the 2010-11 season, playing six times.
Played for both: Dean Morgan - 32-year-old attacker who joined Luton from Reading in July 2005, spending four years at Kenilworth Road where he made 101 appearances, scoring 12 times.
Had loan spells at Southend, Crewe and Grays, before a permanent move to MK Dons in September 2009.
After stints with Aldershot, Chesterfield, Oxford, Wycombe and Woking, Morgan, had a brief loan spell with Crawley last season, making 14 appearances for the club.
Joined Newport on a free in February and has played five times for the Exiles so far.
We’ve got form: Hatters have played Crawley three times at home in their history, winning once and losing twice.
They triumphed 3-0 back in 2009 when George Pilkington scored twice with Tom Craddock on target to settle the Conference clash.
The following season saw The Red Devils win 2-1 as Andy Drury put Luton ahead before Richard Brodie and Craig McAllister stole victory in the last 10 minutes.
Last time out: Luton were beaten 1-0 by Crawley in their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy meeting at Kenilworth Road last season, as Gwion Edwards netted the only goal of the game on 51 minutes.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Alex Lacey, Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkinson, Scott Griffiths (Alex Lawless 45), Jake Howells, Jonathan Smith (Matt Robinson 45), Luke Guttridge, Nathan Doyle, Paul Benson, Alex Wall (Charlie Walker 60).
Subs not used: Mark Tyler, Jim Stevenson.
Referee: Andy Woolmer.