PREVIEW: Alfreton Town v Luton Town

It’s very much all or nothing with Alfreton Town so far this season, writes Mike Simmonds.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 7th December 2013, 6:21 am
Mark Tyler is beaten from the spot at Alfreton last season
Mark Tyler is beaten from the spot at Alfreton last season

The Reds have already posted 11 wins in the Skrill Premier, the same number as Luton, but have also lost a hefty nine matches from their 21 games, with just the one draw so far.

At home, they are in imperious form though, with one of the best records in the division, taking 25 points out of a possible 30.

To illustrate how commanding they are at the Impact Arena, Alfreton have already defeated Kidderminster, Barnet, Forest Green, Hereford and drawn with leaders Cambridge United.

The only team to have beaten them is Chester, who came away with a 1-0 win, back in October, although the Reds did also taste defeat in front of their home fans last time out, with Nuneaton triumphing 1-0 in the FA Trophy.

If the Reds could add some consistency to their form away from home, where they have lost eight from 11, they could be firmly inside the play-off zone, but instead found themselves leapfrogged by Nuneaton with a 3-0 reverse in their last league fixture.

Before the loan window shut, Alfreton boss Nicky Law moved to sign Northampton striker JJ Hooper on a one-month loan deal.

The 20-year-old joined the Cobblers in the summer from Newcastle United, but has been limited to just four first-team appearances this season.

Hooper was brought in to bolster the Reds front-line, when Jake Speight was recalled by parent club Wrexham after netting five goals in six matches for Alfreton.

The Reds’ fine form this year hasn’t exactly enthused supporters though, as the club average just 719 fans at home, with a top crowd of 904, although that will no doubt be broken by Town’s massive travelling army today.

Team news: Top scorer John Akinde is a doubt for the clash as assistant boss Russ O’Neill told the Derby Telegraph: “John Akinde has been having a problem with the bottom of his back and his stomach.

“It’s improved this week but we’re not sure if he’ll be fit.

“It’s not just his goals that you miss, it’s his all-round play. He’s a big unit and a physical presence up front, who can hold the ball up.

“It’s a big ask for the likes of Paul Clayton and Danny Wishart to come in when they’ve been out for a number of weeks due to injury themselves.”

Alfreton will definitely be without midfielder Josh Law, son of manager Nicky, with a thigh injury as O’Neill continued: “Josh is going to be out for a few weeks, though we’re not 100 per cent sure exactly how long yet.

“He’s done really well this season and been a consistent performer, so it’s a blow to lose him at this stage.”

Central defender Nick Fenton (calf) is likely to miss out again, while Town defender Lathaniel Rowe-Turner is ineligible to face his parent club, so Connor Franklin should continue at left-back and JJ Hooper should be available for his debut.

Meanwhile, the club have extended Jack Andrews’ loan at Evo-Stik League Premier Division club Grantham Town until December 29.

For Hatters, Alex Lacey is out with a knock picked up against Southport, while Jon Shaw, Anthony Charles, David Viana, Solomon Taiwo and Danny Fitzsimons are all missing.

Alex Wall is back fit now, while on-loan Alfie Mawson is finally available for selection after being cup-tied in the FA Trophy.

Man in the middle: Simon Bennett - Has only taken two Skrill Premier matches this season, one of them Alfreton’s 3-0 defeat at Gateshead, where he sent off the Reds’ John McGrath.

Also reffed the Salisbury v Dartford FA Cup match, but yet to take Hatters in a league match during his career so far.

Top Skrill Premier scorer: Reds: John Akinde (7). Hatters: Andre Gray (9).

Average Skrill Premier attendance: Alfreton: 719. Hatters: 6,426.

In charge: Nicky Law - During his playing career, Law was a youth teamer with Arsenal, before spells at Barnsley, Blackpool, Plymouth Argyle, Notts County, Scarborough, Rotherham United, Chesterfield and Hereford United, before retiring in 1997.

Became Chesterfield manager in 2000 and has been in charge of Bradford City, Grimsby Town and Buxton, until he took over as Alfreton boss on May 14, 2007.

It was Law who ended a seven-year stay in the Conference North for the Reds as they won promotion to the Conference after finishing as champions in the 2010-11 season.

View from the opposition: Assistant boss Russ O’Neill speaking to the Derby Telegraph: “It’s always a tough game against Luton.

“They’re a big club at this level and this is a big game. They’re always one of the first teams you look out for when the fixtures come out.

“They’ve had to learn to deal with that but they’ve been on a really good run. They’re a good, strong side and I think this might be their season.

“We’ve got a good home record and we’ll be looking to continue that. We’ll be going out to win, of course, but a point wouldn’t be a bad result.

“We need to turn defeats into draws if we want to keep pushing for the top five.”

One to watch: If fit, John Akinde will be a real handful for Town’s defence this afternoon.

Still only 24, The Reds top scorer has has seven league goals so far, as he started with a bang, netting a hat-trick on his debut in the opening day 3-2 win over Salisbury.

Not been as prolific since then, but the forward is well known to Town boss John Still, who signed him twice on loan while at Dagenham & Redbridge.

Has also played for Portsmouth, Crawley, Bristol Rovers, Brentford, and Wycombe in his career that started with Ebbsfleet, before a £140,000 move to Bristol City in September 2008.

Friendly faces: Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, the defender moved to Alfreton on loan back in September and has made 14 appearances in the Skrill Premier, picking up one booking in the league so far.

We’ve got form: Town’s supporters are yet to celebrate a goal at the Impact Arena, let alone a win during Luton’s two previous visits.

The first saw Town held to a 0-0 draw, while they were seen off 3-0 last term.

Last time out: Alfreton eased to a 3-0 win over Luton last season, dominating their opponents from the first whistle.

Anthony Wilson opened the scoring after just two minutes, while Dan Bradley netted from the penalty spot on 23 minutes.

Wilson then had his second of the game just after the hour mark in what was a hugely disappointing day for former boss Paul Buckle’s side.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Dean Beckwith, Janos Kovacs (Connor Essam 46), Jake Howells, Ronnie Henry, Greg Taylor (Stuart Fleetwood 49), Alex Lawless, JJ O’Donnell, Jake Robinson, Adam Watkins (Yaser Kaim 49), Andre Gray.

Subs not used: Dean Brill, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner.

Referee: Anthony Backhouse.

Attendance: 1,392.

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.