PREVIEW: Luton Town v Hereford United
Despite Hereford’s upturn in form in the Blue Square Bet Premier, everything remains far from rosy off the pitch for the Bulls, writes Mike Simmonds.
Just last month they announced losses of £422,472 for the 2011-12 season which saw them relegated from the Football League.
Chairman David Keyte blamed a fall in FA Cup-generated prize money for the drop in income, while season ticket sales were down 8.2% due to the club being in the Conference.
On previous years the club had seen their finances boosted by transfer sales too, with the departures of Mathieu Manset and Marc Pugh bringing in almost £300,000 while this was dramatically reduced despite Stuart Fleetwood’s move to Luton.
On the pitch, the Bulls are becoming one of the division’s more difficult sides to beat since the turn of the year.
A 1-0 win at Kidderminster on New Year’s Day was followed by four successive draws, three of them at home.
They then won four, drew one and lost three of their next eight games, in a burst that saw them leapfrog Luton until Tuesday night’s last-gasp defeat to Newport County.
With such a small squad in place though, boss Martin Foyle is worried how they are going to cope with the fixture congestion ahead.
He told the Hereford Times: “We’re playing catch-up on what is probably a ridiculous amount of fixtures for the size of the squad.
“We can’t chop and change, and we’re finding it hard at the moment.
“We got straight off the coach and played a football match, which isn’t really the right preparation, but I’m not using that as an excuse.”
Team news: For Town, Janos Kovacs remains injured, while Jon Shaw has missed the last three games.
Wayne Thomas sits out the last game of his suspension, but James Dance is back from his loan spell at Nuneaton, while Jake Goodman and Alex Wall are in line for their home debuts. Solomon Taiwo has also joined but needs to get match fit.
There are still no comeback dates for either Danny Spiller or Garry Richards though.
Bulls will not have midfielder Simon Clist and defender Michael Townsend available as both remain injured.
Marley Watkins was substituted during the Newport match on Tuesday with a groin strain and will need to be assessed before the trip as will leading scorer Ryan Bowman who called in sick ahead of the Newport game.
Man in the middle: Justin Aimey - official has taken 10 games this season, showing 30 yellows and just one red.
Was in charge of Hereford’s 3-3 home draw with Alfreton and has only officiated Luton once, that being the 3-1 defeat at Braintree last season.
Top BSBP scorer: Hatters – Andre Gray (11). Bulls – Ryan Bowman (14).
In charge: Martin Foyle - enjoyed a 20-year playing career, making 533 League appearances and scoring 155 goals for the likes of Aldershot, Oxford United and Port Vale. Was Vale’s then record signing in 1991 when he joined for £375,000, scoring 107 goals to become the club’s top post-war goalscorer.
After retiring, he was Vale manager, caretaker boss at Wrexham and York City chief, winning the FA Trophy and reaching the Conference play-off final, beating Luton over two legs along the way.
Resigned from the Minstermen in September 2010, and was first team coach at Bristol Rovers, then took charge of Northwich Victoria for three months before appointed Bulls boss on May 30, 2012.
One to watch: Ryan Bowman – striker has led from the front this season, netting 14 league goals so far this term.
Went four matches without a goal recently, but three in his last three has seen him out of the dry spell and he is easily the Bulls’ biggest threat for Town, although faces a late fitness test this afternoon.
The 21-year-old joined from Darlington in the summer, where he scored 10 league goals for the Quakers, including against Luton in a 1-1 home draw.
In a frantic finale, he beat Mark Tyler from the spot with four minutes left, before seeing an injury time penalty saved by the keeper.
Friendly faces: Town striker Stuart Fleetwood had two spells with the Bulls, the first when he moved on a free from Cardiff back in January 2006, scoring 11 goals in 52 games.
He then rejoined the club in July 2010, spending a season and a bit at Edgar Street, netting 18 times in 59 games, before joining Hatters in August 2011.
Fleetwood will be quick to celebrate if on target though, telling the Hereford Times: “Of course I will celebrate if I score. I am striker and that’s my job.
“I admit it would mean something a bit extra as it’s against my old club.
“I will always celebrate a goal regardless of the opposition.”
Defender Janos Kovacs had one spell at Edgar Street, leaving Kenilworth Road to join the Bulls in August 2010, playing 29 times, scoring three goals, before being dropped from the side completely and eventually returning to Luton the following September on loan and then permanently.
For the Bulls, defender Luke Graham joined the club in the summer from Forest Green and has made 30 League appearances so far. The 26-year-old played 14 times for Hatters while on loan from York in the 2010-11 season, scoring once, the winner in a 1-0 FA Trophy victory over Gloucester City.
We’ve got form: Luton have only hosted Hereford United once at Kenilworth Road and that was back in the old Division Two in 1976 when Town were 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Jimmy Husband and Paul Futcher.
Hatters: Keith Barber, Paul Price, Steve Buckley, John Ryan, John Faulkner, Paul Futcher, Jimmy Husband, Alan West, Ron Futcher, Lil Fuccillo, Brian Chambers.
For all the latest Luton Town FC news, reports, stats, player profiles, live match updates, MOM poll, prediction table and a complete fixture list, visit our Hatters Microsite.
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