FA TROPHY PREVIEW: Cambridge United v Luton Town

The FA Trophy hasn’t been a competition that has brought a great amount of success for Cambridge United since they dropped out of the league, with the club never getting beyond the fourth round, writes Mike Simmonds.

This season, the U’s have seen off lower league St Albans City and Salisbury, both away from home, to set up the tie against Luton.

Last year, United were knocked out at the second round stage, losing to Gateshead 1-0 at home, while the campaign before was their best run, reaching the fourth round before surprisingly going down 2-1 on home soil to Wealdstone.

In their rather chequered history in the Trophy, they have also seen their progress ended by Alfreton, Salisbury, Crawley, Torquay, Histon and Dorchester.

Luton, on the other hand, have made the semi-finals twice in the last three years, once when now Cambridge manager Richard Money was in charge.

He saw them beaten after extra time by Mansfield, before Gary Brabin led his team to the last four, where York City prevailed.

Cambridge have been leading calls to make the competition moved to a midweek format to mirror the Capital One Cup as director of football Jez George told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire: “The way it’s organised does every thing possible to deter the bigger clubs from taking it seriously

“[In the league] big clubs treat the Capital One Cup much more seriously because it’s a midweek competition and there are no replays, so you can plan and use your resources knowing it will not interfere too much with your league programme.

“As a football club we represented those who articulated that point of view and we were told it was something that could not be considered, which I think is short-sighted.

“The problem with the FA Trophy is not so much which team to pick and having enough players, it’s that every time you progress the next round is going to be on a Saturday and you’re going to lose a league game, and we already play 46 league games.

“We know that if certain league games are rearranged in February and March on a Tuesday night which clashes with Champions League fixtures it hinders your league crowd so it’s a double-whammy where you lose a good crowd on a Saturday for a lower crowd on a Tuesday.

“The FA Trophy needs looking at because now the rules and the way it’s organised does everything possible to deter the bigger clubs from taking it seriously.”

Team news: Cambridge have certainly been strengthening their squad in the last few days, bringing in York City winger Ashley Chambers, who scored against Luton in the play-off final two years ago.

They have also signed a player well know to Town fans, in striker Matthew Barnes-Homer on a free transfer from Forest Green, although he is cup-tied, plus captured Portsmouth keeper John Sullivan on loan until the end of the season, as Chris Maxwell has returned to Fleetwood.

Former Wales keeper Jason Brown has left the Abbey Stadium after his short term deal expired, while Josh Gillies has gone back to Carlisle for treatment.

Cambridge have also been busy loaning their players out too with Rory McAuley and Andy Pugh heading to Dartford for a month, while Delano Sam-Yorke and Mitch Austin haved joined Lincoln City.

United were dealt a blow though with news that striker Adam Cunnington is out for two months after injuring his groin.

Hatters are without Jonathan Smith and Danny Fitzsimons for the foreseeable future, while boss John Still has ruled out both Andy Parry and Alex Lacey.

The manager has confirmed he will select from the squad that played against Reading in a development 4-1 win, with Jake Howells possibly added and new loan signing Ryan Inniss expected to start.

Man in the middle: Simon Bennett - Luton and Cambridge both have a perfect record with Bennett in charge this season, as Hatters won 5-0 at Alfreton, while Cambridge defeated Macclesfield 3-0 at home.

The official has largely kept his cards away this term too, showing 13 yellows and one red in his seven games so far.

In charge: Richard Money - 58-year-old who began his playing days at Scunthorpe as a defender, before spells at Liverpool, Luton, Portsmouth and Fulham among others during the 1970s and 80s.

At Liverpool he was an unused substitute in the 1981 European Cup Final, having played in the semi-final.

Became caretaker player/manager of Scunthorpe at the end of his playing career, before being appointed youth team coach at Aston Villa and then coach first Nottingham Forest and then Manchester City.

Was academy director and first team coach at Coventry City, before moving to Sweden where he had spells at AIK, then at Västerås SK, also coaching in Australia with Newcastle United Jets.

Returned to England to become manager of Walsall in May 2006 and then took the role of academy director at Newcastle in June 2008.

Became Hatters boss on October 30, 2009, but had a difficult relationship with Luton fans and left on March 28, 2011.

Was announced on October 4, 2012 that he had joined Cambridge United as head coach, with the then current manager, Jez George, returning to his role as director of football.

One to watch: Ashley Chambers - talented winger who began at Leicester City, making his debut at the age of 15.

Had spells at Wycombe, Grimsby and York, before joining the Minstermen permanently and helped fire them to the Football League.

Was the club’s leading scorer with 10 goals last year, but has failed to net in 18 appearances so far this season.

From the dug out: Richard Money, speaking during his press call before the game: “It will be a game between two very strong squads.

“I think this well be a full blooded encounter, no doubt about that, between two teams who both want to go through to the next round.

“For our supporters, they need to understand that they (Luton) will pick a team from their squad as we will pick a team from our squad.

“We won’t be kidded in maybe the same way that Wrexham were when we look at the team sheet, as we recognise that maybe half of the team started the season for them.

“The players that they’ll bring here are fully fledged members of their first team squad. When we took Luton to the semi-final, we gave Cauley Woodrow his debut, we gave Alex Lacey his debut and played him throughout the tournament.

“One was 15, one was 17. They’re development players. People like (Shaun) Whalley and (Jon) Shaw and (Mark) Cullen and (Kane) Ferdinand and (Anthony) Charles and (Solomon) Taiwo, I don’t consider them to be development players and maybe they wouldn’t like to be called it either.

On the importance of the game before a league clash that is yet to be rearranged, Money continued: “I don’t think that this weekend’s game will have any relevance. It will be a one-off cup game, and think it’s one that everyone should and are looking forwad to very much.”

Meanwhile, director of football George added: “I think it is as big a game as possible at this stage of the competition and it will in some way compensate the fact that we’re going to miss a home game in January, that obviously has cash flow implications.

“For many reasons - geographically, proximity in the league and history of different people at both clubs - it a big rivalry.”

Friendly faces: Cambridge have a host of former Town players in their ranks, including Greg Taylor who made 43 appearances scoring once for Town after they snapped him up from Darlington before being released and then joined Cambridge on a free transfer.

Michael Spillane, had a hugely successful loan spell at Town, playing 38 league games, scoring three goals and lifted the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, while Matthew Barnes-Homer, who signed today, netted 21 goals in 83 games for Town.

Alan Neilson has just joined Cambridge as assistant boss, with the 41-year-old playing over 50 times for Luton during 2002-05 and then became part of the management staff, having three spells as caretaker boss during four years, before leaving in the summer.

Town midfielder Luke Guttridge spent five years at Cambridge, making over 150 appearances, scoring 17 league goals, while Town first team coach Hakan Hayrettin enjoyed a season at the Abbey Stadium too, making 17 appearances in the 1994-95 campaign.

Scott Rendell despite not having a squad number spent two spells at Cambridge, scoring 17 in 29 league games in August 2007-May 2008, before heading back on loan from November 2008-May 2009 and notched 15 in 27 times for the U’s.

We’ve got form: Hatters have only ever played Cambridge once in the FA Trophy, that back on December 12, 2009, where the U’s ran out 3-1 winners.

The hosts led 3-0 in the first half through former Town striker Danny Crow on six minutes, while Chris Holroyd scored on 30 and 36.

Town pulled one back in the second half when Wayne Hatswell put through his own goal on 68 minutes, but it was’t enough.

Hatters: Kevin Pilkington; George Pilkington, Alan White, Shane Blackett, Freddie Murray, Adam Newton, Keith Keane, Rossi Jarvis, Claude Gnakpa, Kevin Nicholls, Kevin Gallen.

Substitutes not used: Shane Gore, Tommy Craddock, Matthew Barnes-Homer, Asa Hall, Lewis Emanuel.

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