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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.