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29 December 2018 Venue Banks's Stadium Attendance

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Match Previews

MATCH PREVIEW | WALSALL v LUTON TOWN

The Hatters head to the Banks's Stadium tomorrow for a 3pm kick-off

28 December 2018

The Hatters head to Walsall tomorrow for the final away game of 2018, knowing that an eighth successive league victory coupled with anything less than three points for Portsmouth at Fleetwood will see them go into the new year as leaders of Sky Bet League One.

Nathan Jones’ side currently sit second, one point behind table-topping Pompey and four above third-placed Sunderland, so they are guaranteed to occupy an automatic promotion place when they return to Kenilworth Road to host Barnsley on New Year’s Day.

But the Hatters couldn’t be in any better form at present; 10 wins and a draw from their last 11 league matches make them the joint most in-form professional team in Europe, alongside Liverpool.

Walsall had spent most of the early part of the season in the play-off places before their October visit to Bedfordshire, when goals from Glen Rea and Jorge Grant sealed a 2-0 win that triggered this unbeaten run that currently stands at 13 matches, including FA Cup.

With the away form now also rectified, the Hatters head to the West Midlands in search of a fifth successive win on the road (three league, one FA Cup) to reward the away following of around 1,900 that will greet them at the Banks’s Stadium.

 

THE GAFFER SAYS:

On the four games in 11 days schedule: “It’s another tough game. Two in quick succession away from home. Scunthorpe and Walsall are both tough places to go. We’ve prepared them as well as we can, we’re looking forward to the game because we’re in decent form and we’re looking to finish the year off in good form. The players are in a good frame of mind, it’s just obviously with the quick succession, it’s a crazy schedule with four games in 11 days, and to keep them at the levels of performance we’ve got to really look after them. But they are in positive frame of mind and you’d think that going into every game they’d be confident, so I hope that’s the case.”

On making changes to the side: “We’d prefer not to, but it’s very difficult to go through the festive period with the crazy schedule and not make changes, so if we have to, we have the squad that can match that, and as I’ve said all the time, we are only as strong as our weakest link, so we’ve got to make sure that everyone’s ready. And people have. They’ve trained, they’ve come in on their days off and done extra so that they are ready, and we’ve got a good group like that.”

On a tough challenge from the 14th-placed Saddlers: “Every game is hard anyway, and unless you do the right things and treat it right, every game is a potential banana skin. There are no easy games where you can go in half-heartedly and think ‘We are going to win this’. It’s not that type of league, so we know we are going to be in for a real tough time. They’ve raised their game and got a draw against Peterborough, should have won the game. They had chances and missed a penalty almost in injury time. I watched them against Sunderland where they drew at home and won away, so they are not in really bad form. They’ve got good players and it’s a very difficult place to go, as I know from being a player. But we are in good form so we have to make sure that providing we are at it, then that’s all we can affect, and if we can do that then that hopefully will be enough for a successful result.”

On around 1,900 Hatters making the trip: “It’s phenomenal. This is slightly more geographically kind than Scunthorpe, but the ones that travelled there, it was fantastic support and I’m pleased we could reward them for that. On Saturday they are going to be vital again. To take nearly 2,000 to Walsall is going to be a phenomenal atmosphere. It’s a good ground for atmosphere because it’s very enclosed and to have them right behind that goal…look, we’ll do everything we can to send them home happy.”

 

WHO?

The Saddlers are managed by their former captain Dean Keates, who left Wrexham to take over in the second half of last season. They are currently 14th in League One, without a win in their last three having suffered a 4-0 defeat at Bradford and a 3-1 Boxing Day reversal at home to Bristol Rovers, with a 1-1 draw at Peterborough sandwiched in between. Walsall are the club that has currently been in League One for the longest period of time, this season being their 12th since winning promotion as League Two champions in 2007.

 

WHEN AND WHERE?

Kick-off is at 3pm on Saturday 29th December at the Banks’s Stadium, traditional known as the Bescot Stadium.

 

TICKET INFORMATION

The initial allocation of 1,600 tickets for Hatters fans sold out on Thursday.

Another 300 went on sale direct from Walsall that day, and at close of business on Friday just 20 remained.

Any Hatters wanting to obtain one of these should call Walsall’s ticket office on 01922 651416 from 10am on Saturday morning.

Prices:

Adult: £20.50

Over-60s: £15.50

Under-18s: £15.50

Family Ticket: £22.50 (One Adult , One Junior Under 18)

Extra Family Junior ticket £11.00 (one permitted per Family. Any additional Juniors at Junior price.

Family tickets are only open to Family groups (i.e. Parent / Grandparent. Not siblings or friends etc).

 

MAN IN THE MIDDLE?

Ollie Yates will be the man in the middle tomorrow. He last took charge of a Town match at Rochdale last month, when he sent Danny Hylton off. That is one of three red cards he has shown this season in 21 matches, alongside 65 yellows.

PLAYED BEFORE?

The Hatters edge the 44 previous meetings with Walsall, with that win at Kenilworth Road earlier this season giving the Town 21 victories to the Saddlers’ 18. Five matches have ended all-square.

FOLLOW THE ACTION

The main blow-by-blow account of the action from the Banks's Stadium will be provided via the Match Centre on the club website, which you can access by clicking here. (*Please note that the club's Live Text will appear only by accessing through an internet browser, users of the Luton Town FC app will receive updates from Opta)

The main moments from the game will appear on the Hatters' social media feeds:

Twitter – @LutonTown
Facebook – www.facebook.com/LutonTown/
Instagram – www.instagram.com/ltfc_official/

And of course Simon Pitts will be on hand to provide commentary for iFollow Hatters which you can subscribe to by clicking here. Overseas subscribers will be able to watch a live stream of the game, but it will not be available domestically.

 

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Match Reports

REPORT & GALLERY | WALSALL 2 LUTON TOWN 2

LuaLua's last-gasp leveller extends the Hatters' unbeaten run to 14 matches

29 December 2018

Kazenga LuaLua came up with a 94th-minute equaliser as the Town bounced back from two goals down to take a point from their trip to the Banks's Stadium this afternoon.

The former Brighton man, on as a substitute, stabbed home amid a goalmouth scramble deep into five minutes of stoppage time to send 1,957 travelling Town fans wild as the unbeaten run was extended to 12 league matches.

Including FA Cup, that sequence is 14 games, with James Collins having moved into double figures for the season with a 72nd-minute goal, after a first-half penalty from Morgan Ferrier and a second-half strike from Andy Cook had seemingly put the Saddlers in control.

But with Danny Hylton introduced as a substitute for the injured Harry Cornick before half-time, then LuaLua and captain Alan Sheehan - who last combined as game changers to produce a win at Oxford a couple of months ago - in the closing stages, the depth of the Town squad was there for all to see.

Manager Nathan Jones made one change to his starting line-up, with Alan McCormack, who appeared as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 Boxing Day win at Scunthorpe, coming into the side in place of Jorge Grant. The Irishman would play a crucial part too, lasting the full 90-plus minutes and producing two assists in the comeback.

Jones started with James Shea in goal, Jack Stacey, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley and James Justin at the back, with McCormack, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Andrew Shinnie and Elliot Lee in midfield, behind Collins and Cornick up front.

The second-placed Hatters were chasing an eighth successive victory in the league - ten including FA Cup - against a Walsall side who sat 14th at kick-off.

The Hatters enjoyed the majority of the early possession without making too many inroads into the Saddlers' defence, until the 18th minute when Shinnie and Cornick combined with Lee to set the top scorer up for an 18-yard blast that Liam Roberts did well to tip over the bar.

Walsall responded with Cook sending a tame header straight at Shea, before the Town came within a lick of paint of taking the lead, as Mpanzu curled a beauty around Roberts, but it hit the top of the post and bounced away to safety.

The hosts made the breakthrough in the 26th minute when Stacey brought George Dobson down as the Walsall captain headed towards the left byline, and Ferrier did the rest from 12 yards.

The Hatters forwards had taken a bit of a battering early on, especially Lee who had been injured when striking at goal. Cornick was next to pick up a knock, to his thigh, and Jones took the precaution of substituting the forward to bring on Hylton in the 35th minute.

There was no way through ther home defence in the remaining ten minutes of the half, so Jones' side were in the unusual position of going in at the break without a lead for the first time in ten matches.

They came out of the traps quickly in the second period, winning a couple of early corners and dominating possession once again, without creating any clear-cut chances.

McCormack became the first Town player to go into referee Ollie Yates' notepad on the hour for a foul on Gordon, who had just been booked for a foul on Mpanzu, then Hylton joined them within seconds for a foul on Nicky Devlin as he challenged for a high ball.

Jones made his second sub of the afternoon on 63 minutes, bringing on Kazenga LuaLua for Lee, but Walsall doubled their advantage in the 68th minute when Shea could only palm a Luke Leahy cross towards Cook, who volleyed it straight back past the Town keeper from beyond the far post.

Four minutes later the Hatters were back in business. McCormack picked the ball up in his own half and made his way forward, trading passes with Hylton and driving towards the edge of the box. The Irishman let fly and the ball landed at Collins' feet, with the striker spinning and firing past Roberts from 15 yards.

Jones immediately introduced Sheehan for Shinnie, with Justin moving into midfield, and two minutes later the ball was in the back of the net again as Hylton turned Mpanzu's 20-yard volley into the far corner, but a linesman's flag was raised for the striker standing in an offside position - though replays showed he was well onside.

The Town had set up camp in the Walsall half by this stage, and LuaLua was the next to have a go, drifting in from the left flank to unleash a right-footed shot that flew wide of Roberts' left-hand post.

The next opportunity fell to Justin 20 yards out, after Sheehan's left-wing cross had been headed half-clear, but the 20-year-old's shot was dragged well wide.

Town have that belief that they are never beaten, however, and four minutes into injury-time the equaliser finally came. With Bradley playing as an auxiliary striker, balls were thrown into the box and after a Sheehan free-kick was headed behind for a corner, they made the breakthrough.

Sheehan went over to take the left-wing corner, and after Hylton and McCormack had challenged in the air, the ball dropped amid a six-yard box scramble and LuaLua hooked it in from close range.

The players disappeared into the travelling Hatters over on the far side, and wild celebrations ensued. Now it's back to Kenilworth Road for a full house on New Year's Day against Barnsley, the last side to beat the Town back in mid-October.

Have a happy new year, Hatters!

 

TOWN: Shea, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley (c), Justin, McCormack, Shinnie (Sheehan 72), Mpanzu, Lee (LuaLua 63), Collins, Cornick (Hylton 35). Subs: Berry, Grant, Jones, Isted.

Yellows: McCormack, Hylton, Collins

Goals: Collins 72, LuaLua 90+4

WALSALL: Roberts, Edwards, Leahy, Dobson (c), Guthrie, Devlin, Cook, Kinsella, Ferrier, Fitzwater, Gordon (Wilson 80). Subs: Dunn (GK), Morris, Ismail, Johnson, Ronan, Bates.

Goals: Ferrier (pen) 26

Yellows: Gordon, Guthrie

REFEREE: Ollie Yates

ATT: 5,739 (1,957 Hatters)

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