This Saturday Mansfield Town will go into a match against old enemy Luton Town as favourites for probably the first time, the Hatters with just one win in their last nine League games and no goals in 360 minutes of play.
The sides have enjoyed some great rivalry down the years, especially in the Conference years, while the Hatters will never forgive Mansfield for putting them out of the FA Trophy in the semi-finals on their own ground.
The game represents the last of the three ‘Kids for a Quid’ deals offered by the club with youngsters aged 17 and under admitted for £1, though U7s go in for free anyway when accompanied by a paying adult.
‘Kids for a Quid’ tickets must be purchased from the ticket office on Quarry Lane, either prior to matchday or on the day of the game.
STAGS TEAM NEWS
With loanee Blair Adams now back at parent club Notts County, Stags boss Adam Murray is considering his options at left back.
Since regular left back Mal Benning injured his knee in mid-October, Adams had provided sterling cover.
Now, with Benning still two or three weeks away from full fitness, Murray has to decide whether to bring in another loanee or to put a square peg in a round hole from his squad.
Otherwise, Mansfield’s only absentee is striker Adi Yussuf, who is recovering well from a groin injury.
LUTON TEAM NEWS
Danny Green (ankle), Mark Tyler (back) and Ryan Hall (leg) are all major doubts for the game after coming off injured against Cambridge last week.
Winger Green faces a spell on the sidelines after being stretchered off after 20 minutes with his leg in a brace.
Matt Robinson has returned to Woking until the end of the season, Andy Parry has joined Barrow for a month’s loan and Luke Guttridge has left the club after his contract was cancelled by mutual consent.
POSSIBLE LUTON STARTING XI
Luton: Elliot Justham, Stephen O’Donnell, Jake Howells, Scott Cuthbert, Magnus Okuonghae, Josh McQuoid, Alex Lawless, Jonathan Smith, Paddy McCourt, Paul Benson, Jack Marriott
KEY BATTLE: RYAN TAFAZOLLI v JACK MARRIOTT
Tafazolli will need to keep the shackles on young striker Jack Marriottr, who joined from Ipswich in the summer and has impressed with his natural finishing ability.
Netting eight goals so far, he looks a real find and there’s every chance he can go on to finish as Town’s leading scorer this term.
LUTON ONE TO WATCH
Paddy McCourt – A mercurial talent who has the ability to dribble around players at will and also pick a pass. The Northern Ireland international has been reduced to cameo roles recently, but is a real joy to watch at times.
OPPOSITION MANAGER: NATHAN JONES
Nathan Jones was appointed as the new Luton boss earlier this month after John Still had been dismissed before Christmas.
The former Brighton & Hove Albion first team coach has taken his first managerial post in the game now and it’s hoped he will help deliver the entertainment, that has been sorely missing, back to the Luton fans.
The 42-year-old Welshman has signed a two-and-a-half year contract and has a fine reputation as a coach and assistant manager.
He holds a UEFA Pro Licence and last summer helped England U21 boss Gareth Southgate prepare the Young Lions for their UEFA U21 championship campaign in the Czech Republic.
A defender as a player, Jones began his career at Kenilworth Road 20 years ago, when David Pleat signed him for £10,000 from Merthyr Tydfil in 1995.
After a year at Kenilworth Road Jones left for a 12-month spell in Spain, playing for Numancia and Badajoz, before success at Southend, Brighton and Yeovil, making over 500 appearances and winning promotion three times.
At his final club as a player, Yeovil, Jones began his coaching badges, and in 2009 he became the Glovers’ assistant manager.
During his time at Huish Park, Jones helped nurture future England internationals Andros Townsend, Steven Caulker and Ryan Mason, all of whom had joined Yeovil on-loan from Tottenham.
After a brief spell as U21s manager at Charlton, Jones was appointed assistant head coach to Oscar Garcia at Brighton in 2013.
In his first season at the Amex the Seagulls reached the Championship Play-Off final.
Following Garcia’s departure, Jones was then named as new boss Sami Hyppia’s first team coach but after the Finn’s exit in December last season, Jones took over as interim manager and helped the struggling Seagulls to four points from two games in the Championship.
Despite another change in manager at the Amex, Jones became Chris Hughton’s first team coach – a position he held until his move to Kenilworth Road.
Previous boss Still was sacked on December 17, though is back in work at former club Dagenhgam & Redbridge.
The 65-year-old had taken charge in February 2013 with the Hatters in the Conference Premier and led them to promotion back to the Football League a year later and an eighth-place finish last season, just one place outside the play-offs.
Still made 12 new signings pre-season and, after a poor start was even nominated for the League Two manager of the month award with five wins out of their six matches during September - four in the league, while also knocking Leyton Orient out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – before form dropped off again.
LUTON SEASON SO FAR
The season so far has been pretty disastrous for the Hatters as they were heavily tipped for not only promotion, but winning the title this term.
Going into the game with Mansfield, they are currently way down in 18th, and not only has automatic already gone, but even hopes of a play-off place are starting to fade too unless the side can string some results together under new boss Nathan Jones.
Off the field, Luton Town have identified the Power Court site, near the town’s railway station, as their ideal location for a new 17,500-seater stadium.
The Hatters want to move into the new ground by 2020 and will submit a planning application in the summer.
The club hope to develop land they own near junction 10 of the M1 with retail, leisure and office facilities to help fund the cost of the Power Court site.
Luton have been at their current stadium, Kenilworth Road, since 1905.
Saturday, 19th September 2015: Luton Town 1, Mansfield Town 0
Luton Town keeper Mark Tyler won man of the match as he defied a superb Mansfield Town to help the Hatters win a thrilling game 1-0 at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.
Stags deserved at least a point from this clash away to a very talented Luton side, but Tyler made crucial saves to deny Matt Green, Nathan Thomas and Jack Thomas while Adi Yussuf also let a great opportunity roll away from him.
The winning goal, which gave Luton only their second win of the campaign, was a 59th minute penalty from former Scottish international Craig Mackail-Smith after he had been brought down by Ryan Tafazolli.
Mackail-Smith was a handful all afternoon and had a spectacular scissor kick finish ruled out for offside just before the break.
Luke Wilkinson and Cameron McGeehan also missed the target from good positions for the Hatters.
But Mansfield, who had only lost once all season before this setback, were magnificent all afternoon, never throwing in the towel right to the end.
The Stags defended superbly under some intense pressure earlier in the encounter.
But for much of the second half, it was Mansfield who had Luton on the back foot and home fans desperate for the whistle, Stags’ approach play deserving so much more.