Hatters head to Accrington for the second time this term
Nathan Jones and his Luton Town squad travelled north to Accrington this lunchtime ready for the 45th game of a Sky Bet League Two season that seems certain to be extended by a play-off campaign.
The Town need one point to be absolutely certain of a top-seven finish, but following last week's 2-1 win over Notts County, they hold the upper hand over the play-off chasing pack headed by Mansfield Town in eighth place, sitting six points above the Stags with a huge goal difference advantage.
That means the Hatters would have to lose heavily at both the Wham Stadium and at home to Morecambe next week, with Steve Evans’ side needing to win both their games emphatically to make up the ground on Jones’ team.
(PICTURE: Jake Gray, who was on target in the FA Cup defeat at Accrington earlier this season, in action against Notts County last week)
Wycombe and Carlisle, who sit directly below the north Nottinghamshire side but on the same number of points, would need to make up 18 and 23-goal swings respectively to oust the Hatters from the play-off places.
Tomorrow’s opponents know all about play-off shoot-outs themselves having finished fourth last term, only to lose 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals to eventual winners AFC Wimbledon.
John Coleman’s men can still make the top seven themselves, currently four points adrift of Stevenage, but they are outsiders in 13th-place having seen their impressive 15-match unbeaten run ended by a 1-0 defeat at relegation-battling Newport County last Saturday.
Coleman believes a run of seven defeats and two draws from nine matches in November and December cost them a chance of automatic promotion, and that his target is simply a top-half finish to provide a platform for next season.
But having watched many of Stanley’s recent matches – they had won nine of those 15 without defeat – as part of his preparation, and having seen his Town side beaten at the Wham Stadium in the FA Cup third round in thick January fog, Jones knows to be wary of the Lancashire side.
“If I’m honest, I don’t think it makes any difference to the Accrington game whether they can go up automatically or whether they can make the play-offs or not,” said the Welshman (pictured above celebrating last week's 2-1 victory with the Kenilworth Road faithful).
“They are a dangerous side whatever, and if they really, really want something, sometimes they can have a freedom about their play. They look to get on the ball and they are a really dangerous side. We know, regardless of their situation, that this is going to be a really difficult game.
“We went up there in January in the FA Cup and we didn’t acquit ourselves very well on the day. They won the game, and rightly so, even though we missed a lot of chances second half.
“So we’ll be looking to right a few wrongs in our own performance and then hopefully get a better result.”
Unbeaten in five matches and hoping to cement fourth position in the table, the Hatters are looking to balance the record books in clashes with Accrington, having won two, drawn three and lost three of the eight matches between the two sides since they first met in 2008.
Jones men go in search of a league double this season having beaten Stanley 1-0 at Kenilworth Road back in November, when Cameron McGeehan (pictured below) netted the only goal of the game, but went down 2-1 in the FA Cup on 7th January when Jake Gray was on target.
They will be without striker Danny Hylton, who is suspended for the next two matches following his red card for two bookings against Notts County last week, but Zane Banton is back in the travelling squad after being recalled from his loan at St Albans City.
Banton was on target in the midweek reserve game win over Derby, a report of which you can read here
, written by 14-year-old Hatters fan Callum McIntyre, a pupil at Lea Manor High School who has been on work experience with the club’s marketing and communications team this week.
Tomorrow’s match will be refereed by Chris Sarginson, who last refereed the Hatters at home to Crawley in February, and also against Solihull Moors in the FA Cup second round. The Staffordshire-based official has shown 118 yellows and seven red cards in his 39 games this season, including the Checkatrade Trophy final between Coventry and Oxford at Wembley earlier this month.
Any Hatters fans thinking of heading north to join the 500 who have pre-purchased tickets can do so safe in the knowledge that they can pay for both seats and terrace access on the day, with admission prices of:
- Adults: £20
- Seniors: (64 and over) £15
- Students (with ID): £15
- Under 18s: £15
- Under 12s: £10
Hatters Player subscribers can tune in for full match commentary from Simon Pitts from just before kick-off at 3pm, whilst all supporters can stay updated with all the goings on at the Wham Stadium by following the live wall or our Twitter feed @LutonTown
– which tomorrow will be operated by Luton Town Supporters’ Trust Press Officer Kevin Harper, standing in for Charlie Hanson who will be cycling through northern France as part of club charity of the year Level Trust’s Luton to Paris bike ride.
Press & marketing executive Charlie is tackling the journey of over 200 miles with club secretary Chris Clark, which you can read about here
and if you feel able, you can donate to a wonderful local charity – which aims to provide clothing and equipment needed for education to the 14,000 children living below the poverty line in Luton – via their Just Giving pages highlighted below.