The Hatters head into 2018 safe in the knowledge they’ll be top of the table before hosting Lincoln City on New Year’s Day, but will look to add to their points tally with a win at Port Vale on Saturday afternoon.
Having only suffered one defeat in their last 23 games in all competitions, the Hatters are in fantastic form – which carried on when they headed to Swindon on Tuesday, defeating the Robins 5-0 courtesy of a second half rout.
All four of Town’s strikers – Danny Hylton, James Collins, Harry Cornick and Elliot Lee – scored in the win, meaning they have now been involved in 51 goals so far this season (36 goals, 15 assists).
Since the appointment of Vale legend Neil Aspin, the Valiants have been on the rise – so much so the 52-year-old has signed a new two-and-a-half year deal just over two months since he first arrived at the club as manager.
After joining the club at the beginning of October, when Vale were only out of the relegation zone on goal difference and five points behind 21st place, they’ve shot up the table into 17th, now eight points clear of the bottom two – picking up 17 points in their last ten games.
The Hatters are unbeaten in eight league matches and have won three on the bounce – the fourth time they have achieved that this season.
In all competitions, the unbeaten run stands at 12 games, with the Town looking to extend club record sequences on the road which currently stand at 11 unbeaten away EFL matches since losing 1-0 at Barnet in August, and 13 without defeat away from home in all competitions.
They will also want to add to the club record 126 goals in a calendar year in the final game of 2017, while maintaining a watertight defence that has conceded just once in six matches in December – with goalkeeper Marek Stech having not been beaten in 299 regulation minutes since Shola Ameobi scored Notts County’s equaliser at Kenilworth Road on December 9th.
THE GAFFER SAYS:
On Saturday’s opponents and the current form: “We’ve got Port Vale next, which is a massive, massive game. We have had a good Christmas period so far, but we want to make sure we finish the year in good form, we know whatever happens we will finish 2017 top of the league.
“But we would like to extend that, not just a point ahead, we want to finish ahead. But we know Port Vale is going to be a very, very difficult game up there, it really is. We’re looking forward to it though as we couldn’t be in any better form.
“They have picked up under Neil Aspin. They’re a good side and it’s always a difficult place to go, I have been there as a player and it was difficult. It’ll be difficult on Saturday but I am sure they will look at us and think it’s going to be a difficult encounter as well, because we are in decent form.”
Speaking after the game against Swindon, Town striker James Collins said: “The Christmas period and New Year is big for any club, but we’ve won two out of two now and we go into the game on Saturday full of confidence. We will rest up this week and whatever side plays we will try and put on a display.”
The Valiants finished 21st in Sky Bet League One on 49 points, seeing them relegated back to the fourth tier – where they last played in 2012. Former Leeds United midfielder Michael Brown was in charge, but after a slow start he departed and has been replaced by ex-Vale defender Aspin, who spent ten years at Vale Park as a player, making over 400 appearances. Now in decent form, they will be looking to climb back up the table and challenge for a place in the top seven to return to the third tier.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Kick-of is at 3pm on Saturday 30th December at Vale Park.
Hatters fans will be able to purchase tickets on the day from the away sales kiosk next to the Hamil Road Stand at Vale Park, cash only between 1pm and 3pm.
Prices on the day are:
Adult (22-61): £22
Seniors (62+): £17
Young Adults (18-21): £17
Juniors (12-17): £10
Under-12 (0-11): FREE
LAST TIME WE PLAYED?
Saturday's game will mark the 37th time the Hatters have played the Valiants, with the Hatters triumphant in 17 of those games. Vale have won 11 and the other eight have ended in draws. In the reverse fixture, the Hatters welcomed Vale to Kenilworth Road back in September and ran out 2-0 winners, with Jack Stacey netting his first goal for the club with a rocket of an effort after an own goal from Ben Whitfield had put the Town in front before half-time.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
You can follow the Hatters’ Twitter feed on @LutonTown, or stay up to date on the LTFC website in the match centre. iFollow Hatters subscribers can tune in for Simon Pitts’ match commentary, whilst international subscribers can watch the game live.
To take out a domestic subscription for audio commentary at £4.49 a month, or a £5 match pass to watch the live stream if you're overseas, click here