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Match Previews

Focus On: Luton Town

14 September 2018

By Gerry Prewett.

Having already secured a 3-point haul earlier in the season in Buckinghamshire (at Wycombe), Rovers will be hoping to repeat the performance when they visit Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road on Saturday.

Hotly tipped as one of the promotion contenders after their strong season in Division Two last season, the Hatters have not yet hit their stride and their early season form has been a little patchy.

As Rovers kept their first clean sheet of the campaign in a 0-0 draw with Plymouth, Luton went down to a 2-1 defeat at Doncaster. Goals from Matty Blair and Ben Whiteman helped Doncaster to a first win in seven matches as they overcame Luton.

Much of the pressure came from visitors Luton, who equalised once through Elliot Lee but could not find another.

Matty Blair opened the scoring for Doncaster with a superb individual effort just six minutes in. Starting from halfway, he was allowed to surge forward before slamming a well placed shot into the top left corner from the edge of the box.

Luton responded well and piled on the pressure with Elliot Lee, James Collins and Jorge Grant all going close to drawing them level. They got their reward in first-half stoppage time when Lee headed in from close range from a Dan Potts knock-back.

But just 35 seconds into the second half Doncaster were back in front. A shot from Blair was blocked out only as far as Ben Whiteman, whose low strike from 20 yards was diverted into the corner of the Hatter’s net. Luton again had the more threatening play with chances for Potts and Pelly Ruddock but they could not break Doncaster's resolve.

Boss Nathan Jones was disappointed with the result and the way his team allowed Doncaster an early lead, "We keep saying it. We're controlling games, we were pretty dominant first half. We started the second poorly. We work on starts, we work on what we have got to do, maybe we shouldn't, maybe we should just let them get on with it. 

"After the goal I thought were excellent, chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity. We controlled the game. They are a very good footballing side, all our reports came back and we were watching games, they cause sides real, real problems.”

"We caused all the problems, they changed their shape at half-time, we come in at half-time right after scoring, thinking all the momentum is with us. One ball into the box, it's not even a good ball into the box and our six-foot left-back who is very good in the air doesn't win his header, it drops, we don't get on the second, we don't get on the third. Then you've got another mountain to climb.” 

"We're having to show a lot of character lately, but the reason we're having to show a lot of character is because we are giving goals away and it's poor. Our structure going forward, the way we play and how we cause problems is very good, it's excellent. But at the moment we're not keeping clean sheets and if you don't keep clean sheets then you don't win games."

Rovers have a long history of games against Luton Town going right back to the inaugural Division Three Season. Rovers won both those games, 2-1 (goals by Sid Leigh and an o.g. by Fred Tirrell for Rovers and Allan Matthieson for the home team) at Kenilworth Road on New Years Day 1921 and 5-0 at Eastville on 29 March with Leigh (penalty), Ellis Crompton, Bill Palmer, and Harry Boxley (2) scoring Rovers goals.

In fact, despite meeting every season it wasn’t until 26 September 1925 that the Hatters recorded their first victory over the Pirates, a 1-0 win in Bedfordshire at the 11th attempt.

Without doubt the most notable match between the teams occurred on 13 April 1936 and it was certainly an unlucky day for Rovers. Town’s Joe Payne notched up a record 10 goals that day as his team recorded a 12-0 win over the hapless Rovers. Payne later recalled that one of those goals even went in off his backside! The teams had met 3 days before at Eastville and fought out a 2-2 draw, but there was no Joe Payne in the Hatters line-up. The previous January Rovers had gone down 6-2 at Kenilworth Road.

In the game at Kenilworth Road on 19th February 2000 Phil Gray gave the home team a 1-0 lead on 13 minutes, but goals by Jason Roberts (27 and 90 mins) and Jamie Cureton (38 and 58 mins) secured a memorable 4-1 win.

On 8 September 2007 Rickie Lambert scored a stunning volley at Kenilworth Road as part of a double to give Rovers a 2-1 victory. The Boxing Day fixture at the Mem finished 1-1, with that man Rickie Lambert scoring a penalty and a David Edwards goal for the away team.

The last times the teams met in Bedfordshire there was a dramatic homecoming for Stuart Sinclair. On the Hatters books since a youth player and having been released before making a League appearance he was picked up by Darrell Clarke at Salisbury and had been Rovers talisman. In only his 3rd Football League appearance Sinclair popped up with the only goal of the game in the last minute of the game played on 18 August 2015.

There hasn't been much to separate the teams down the years, but the Hatters do slightly have the upper hand, winning 36 games, losing 31 with the other 24 drawn. Luton have faced Rovers in the Luton 43 times and have an impressive record, winning 28 games, losing 10 and drawing 9.

In a pre-season interview Manager Jones gave to the BBC he spoke of how his Christian beliefs shaped his football thinking, "I have a philosophy of the way I do things that is deep-rooted within me. It stems from my upbringing, my Christian faith, and my beliefs in football - all of those values I put into management."

"I think we're a wonderful side to watch," he adds. "A lot of people say varied things about us, good and bad, but I know what I see. Not many people will remember me as a footballer, but as a manager I believe in what I do and I know I'm a far better coach than I ever was a player.”

"I believe the work I do, tactical awareness I have, the way we train, I don't think there's many doing better work than we do. That's a bold thing to say, arrogant maybe, but we change lives her

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