The Hatters head to Hillsborough this weekend for an Emirates FA Cup third round tie against Sky Bet Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, the only club in the top two divisions that the Town have never previously met in the competition.
Town reached this stage of the competition by defeating Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 at home in the first round, with Andrew Shinnie and James Collins grabbing the goals, and knocking out League Two Bury on their own Gigg Lane pitch a month ago thanks to Harry Cornick’s solitary strike.
The seven-goal forward is an injury doubt, along with goalkeeper Marek Stech and left-back Dan Potts, after limping out of New Year’s Day’s draw with Barnsley after picking up a knock to his ankle within a minute of appearing as a substitute. Midfielder Glen Rea is unlikely to play again this season after undergoing surgery on a knee ligament injury this week.
Hatters are currently second in League One and unbeaten in 15 league and FA Cup matches ahead of the third successive third round appearance under manager Nathan Jones, whose third anniversary in charge of the club comes the day after this tie.
The Owls currently sit ten places above the Town, 16th in the second tier and buoyed by a four-match unbeaten run over the festive period since parting company with manager Jos Luhukay on the Friday before Christmas.
Until that point the south Yorkshire outfit had won just once in ten matches, losing seven of them, to plummet towards the relegation zone. Successive 1-0 wins over Preston and Middlesbrough, followed by 1-1 draws against the latter’s fellow promotion contenders West Brom and Birmingham, meant caretaker-manager Lee Bullen more than steadied the ship ahead of Steve Bruce’s appointment as manager on Wednesday.
The former Aston Villa boss won’t take charge officially until February 1st, however, with his long-time coaches Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence overseeing first-team affairs until that point. Bullen will remain part of the senior coaching set-up.
THE GAFFER SAYS:
On Hillsborough and Sheffield Wednesday: “It’s a wonderful place, with the history of it and the club they are. They’ve just changed manager. Everything about it is a great tie. It’s a real test for us as a group, and as a club, but a wonderful game and we won’t be going there to take pictures. It’s not that type of ground. It’s not the Nou Camp, but it’s a great historical English ground. It’s well renowned for the tragedy, and we’ll respect that, but I remember watching the FA Cup and it was a semi-final venue, and it’s been a European Championship venue. I remember Hillsborough and I remember things like Chris Waddle playing, Des Walker played for them. It’s a real historic club and a real good club. I’m close to Paul Hart and he tells me stories about it, so we know it’s a real good cup tie.”
On his team selection: “We’ve got to give the tie the maximum respect. We can’t go there and take it lightly, because Sheffield Wednesday are a perennial Championship side and have been a Premier League club. I played against them when they were in League One, but they are predominantly a top end side and they’ve just had a bit of a resurgence. Lee Bullen’s done a great little caretaker job there, and now they’ve got a new manager, which will again give them that little spark, so it’s going to be a massive game.”
On gauging his side against Championship opposition with a view to winning promotion this season: “Exactly, and that’s how we’ll treat it. It’s a chance to test ourselves, but also a chance to win a game because we are not going there to take photographs and buy a scarf. We want to go there and really put in a good show because we believe that we do good work. We believe that we do Championship quality work here. We believe that we’ve got a real good chance of getting to the Championship in the very near future, so it’s a good test. As a League Two side we played against Aston Villa, we played against Leeds United, we played against Ipswich Town, we’ve played against Newcastle United. We’ve played West Brom, and made eight changes against a top side, so we know what the Championship holds. We know that the gulf is big, it’s a big gap. But we know that we are well on the way to bridging that gap because to be where we are – to have the points that we have – then we know that we are reasonably competitive at that level if we were to get there. There is no fear with going there. Maximum respect, but no fear.”
YOU CAN NOW WATCH NATHAN JONES' PRE-MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE ON IFOLLOW HATTERS FREEVIEW BY CLICKING HERE
A club with such a rich history, Wednesday nearly made a Premier League return both in the 2015/16 campaign and the following year, missing out both times as they were defeated in the play-offs. They spent nine consecutive seasons in the top tier, before suffering relegation in 2000. Their slump continued and they have had spells in League One, but have now been in the second tier for seven seasons. The Owls have won the FA Cup on three occasions, the most recent of those was in 1935, whilst they were runners-up in 1993 – the year in which they lost both FA and League Cup finals 2-1 to Arsenal.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Kick-off is at 12.30pm at Hillsborough on Saturday 5th January. An old ground with plenty of character, Hillsborough can host up to nearly 40,000 supporters. Their record attendance came when they played Manchester United in 2000, when 39,640 fans filled the ground. Even when they were in the lower reaches of the EFL, they still averaged crowds of over 23,000 during their League One campaign in 2004/05. Built in 1899, it was originally known as the Owlerton Stadium, before it was renamed after ground improvements.
Click here to find an away fan's guide to Hillsborough from www.awaygames.co.uk
The Hatters have sold 4,219 tickets for the game at Hillsborough, with the match now off-sale. Thank you to everyone for such wonderful backing!
MAN IN THE MIDDLE?
Robert Jones will be taking charge of Saturday’s game. Jones is a Select Group 2/Championship official, who so far this season has shown 77 yellow and just the one red card in 23 matches. The only one of those matches in which he hasn't shown a card was his last in charge of the Hatters - in the Carabao Cup at West Brom in August.
Town have taken on Wednesday on 57 occasions, but never in the FA Cup. Our last encounter was a 3-2 win against them in 2007, when Bjorn Runstrom and Drew Talbot got on the scoresheet, as well as a Tommy Spurr own goal. Of those 57 games, the Hatters have won 16 times, drawn 20 and lost on 21 occasions.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
The main blow-by-blow account of the action from Hillsborough 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 EFL Digital team assure us they are working on a fix to get club updates onto the app)
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. Please be aware that because it is an FA Cup game, there will be NO live video stream for overseas subscribers.
If you are a Hatters fan based in one of the countries or regions listed below, however, you will be able to watch the match live as it was selected for international broadcast on the following channels:
Balkans – Sport Klub
China – PPTV
India – Sony
Myanmar – Eleven
Singapore – Singtel
USA – ESPN/ESPN+
Cyprus – TAF Sports
Malta – Go
Scandinavia – NENT