PREVIEW: Gateshead v Luton Town

The form team in the division right now, Gateshead’s preparation for Saturday’s clash against Luton Town has been interrupted by persistent rumours surrounding boss Gary Mills, writes Mike Simmonds.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 1st November 2013, 7:31 pm
Dean Brill has moved to Inverness on a permanent basis
Dean Brill has moved to Inverness on a permanent basis

The former York manager, who was only appointed in September, had been hotly tipped to take over the vacant position at Forest Green Rovers.

An official approach was made for his services, but Mills quickly declared his loyalty to the Tynesiders, telling the Chronicle: “There was a chance to go and earn a lot of money but you make decisions in life.

“I’ve done it before, certainly as a player, and never regretted going somewhere for less money. What I’ve achieved outweighs money, for me.

“All I can base this on is that from day one since I arrived, I’ve loved it.

“Darren (Caskey) has come up, that was a big factor. We had a chat, he feels the same – that we can actually do something here.

“So it was difficult to turn down such security financially but certainly the other side of it, everything that’s right about football, is the right reason to stay here.

“It’s not been a nice few days because when this happens, when a club shows an interest it’s flattering and we all know what Forest Green Rovers are looking to do over the next few seasons but I’ve come here to do a job.

“Everyone makes decisions in life and I see no reason to go from here because it is right for me.”

Heed chairman Graham Wood was relieved with the decision of Mills to turn down Rovers, and think his choice will further elevate his status amongst Gateshead fans.

He said: “It was great to hear the news from Gary, I was desperate to hear he wanted to stay.

“It was a tough decision for him and it was the nightmare scenario to hear of Forest Green’s interest.

“I can understand but I wasn’t appreciative of it when he is in work and there are some very good managers out of work.

“Having said that I can’t be hypocritical as I might have done it myself in different circumstances.

“It was a worrying time but I’m delighted with the outcome. I think he’ll be a hero now with the fans.

“I would imagine there was quite a lot of money at stake, so it’s great to hear.”

Since Mills was appointed at the International Stadium, he has seen them move up to tenth, just three points from the play-offs and top of the form table.

So good have the Heed been in fact that Mills was named manager of the month for October earlier on today.

The manager’s arrival at Gateshead followed a disappointing start to the season under Anth Smith.

Heed lost their opening four games, before finally registering a point at the fifth attempt with a 2-2 draw against Macclesfield.

By that time, Smith had resigned and Mills was appointed in early September, starting with a 2-1 win over Hereford.

The upturn in fortunes since has been quite dramatic as Mills has overseen eight wins from 11 games, including five triumphs in their last five games, including FA Cup progress too.

They are defensively solid now as well, conceding just once during their run, and bagged four at Nuneaton recently.

After joining, Mills was quick to name former Tottenham, Reading and Notts County midfielder Darren Caskey as his assistant, with David Rush making way.

One player Mills is trying to get the best out of is striker Richard Brodie, who has returned to the club after his loan spell at Hereford.

He said: “This is a new start for Richard.

“He was dreadful when I came in a few weeks ago, mentally and physically.

“He had had a pre-season but what I saw was somebody who looked like he was not fit. Mentally, he was not switched on to being here.

“I had a good half-hour chat with him and he is telling me he wants to be here, he wants to play for Gateshead.

“He wants me to give him the chance and I basically said ‘That is down to you, not me’.

“He could be a huge asset for Gateshead.”

The boss has been quick to call for reinforcements too, with former Wales international John Oster (13 caps) signing on non-contract terms, Middlesborough defender Lewis Sirrell joining for a month and goalkeeper Alex Baird penning non-contract terms.

One player they have lost though is Port Vale striker Jordan Hugill.

The 21-year-old enjoyed a prolific one month spell, netting five in four games, but has returned to Vale Park.

Team news: Former Middlesbrough midfielder Josh Walker has given Gateshead a boost ahead of Saturday.

The former England U20 World Cup captain missed the Heed’s wins at Nuneaton and Chester but played the full 90 minutes in a 4-0 Durham Challenge Cup win over Coxhoe Athletic.

John Oster also fit again as is veteran Micky Cummins, while summer signing Joe Tait played his first game after an operation.

Richard Brodie is doubtful after picking up an ankle injury.

Meanwhile, Hatters are without Danny Fitzsimons as he undergoes an operation which might force him out for the season. Jon Shaw and Alex Lawless are also ruled out, but Scott Griffiths, Ronnie Henry, Alex Wall and Anthony Charles are expected to be fit.

Top Skrill scorer - Heed: Jordan Hugill, Colin Larkin (5). Hatters: Luke Guttridge, Andre Gray (6).

Man in the middle: Ross Joyce - Yet to take either side this season, but has refereed seven games, showing 25 yellows and one red, while last campaign he brandished 101 yellows and five reds in 31 games.

Something of a good omen for Town as they are yet to lose under his charge, with Joyce officiating the 2-1 win at Lincoln, plus draws at Mansfield and Wrexham last campaign.

He also had the whistle for the 3-1 win at Tamworth and 0-0 draw at Alfreton the season before too.

In charge: Gary Mills - 51-year-old who had a fine playing career, making over 650 appearances, including two for the England U21s, with the highlight being part of the Nottingham Forest European Cup winning team of 1980.

Left the City Ground to move to Seattle Sounders, before a loan spell at Derby, until he moved back to Forest and then played for Notts County and Leicester City, helping the Foxes win promotion to the Premier League in 1994.

Ended his Football League playing days back at Notts County, and then started his managerial career as player-manager with Grantham Town in 1996.

Also was in charge of King’s Lynn and Tamworth before becoming first team coach at Coventry in 2002.

Was handed the reins at Notts County in 2004, but was sacked in the same year when the club was relegated.

Appointed as Alfreton boss in 2005, before moving to Tamworth in 2007 and then took over at York in 2010, leading the club back into the Football League at the expense of Luton Town in the play-offs during 2012.

Despite that feat, he was sacked by the Minstermen in March with his side just four points above the relegation zone.

His six months out of football was ended in September as he penned a one year rolling contract at Gateshead.

View from the opposition: Heed boss Gary Mills - “Luton are the biggest club in the division in terms of their fan base and history. Like us they are in good nick and it promises to be a cracking game.

“We are top of the form table and Luton second so both sides will not lack confidence and if we get another win we’ll be only two points behind John Still’s side.

“We have been playing very well and have got ourselves into this position by working hard and being consistent.

“We’ve tightened it up at the back conceding just one goal in five games and have added consistency to our game.

“Saturday gives us the chance to put down a marker against one of the favourites for the title and show that recent results haven’t been a flash in the pan.”

Average home crowd: Gateshead: 704. Luton: 6,452.

One to watch: Colin Larkin - Experienced striker who has scored five league goals for the Heed this season, including four in his last seven matches.

Began his career at Wolves, and then had a £125,000 move to Mansfield, where he bagged 25 league goals in 95 games.

From there, enjoyed spells at Chesterfield, Northampton, Hartlepool, Lincoln and Harrogate before moving to Gateshead in the summer.

Friendly faces: Town forward Jon Shaw is something of a cult hero at Gateshead after his two spells with them.

After an initial loan spell in November 2009, he joined permanently in August 2010 and bagged an impressive 45 goals in 80 league games for the Heed before his contract ran out and he was snapped up by Luton.

Striker Liam Hatch, 31, had a loan spell at Luton in the 2009-10 season, making 22 league appearances and scoring four times.

He returned to Darlington though and moved to Gateshead permanently in January 2012 where he has played 50 league games, scoring 12 goals, including one in 11 appearances this season.

We’ve got form: Hatters have never particularly enjoyed their trips to Gateshead in recent seasons with no win in their last three visits.

They were hammered 5-1 last time out, the biggest defeat against the Tynesiders in their history, drew 0-0 the previous season and lost 1-0 the campaign before.

Town’s only other trip did end in victory though, with a 1-0 win in the Conference back in 2010 secured thanks to keeper Paul Farman’s own goal, making Luton’s overall record one win, one draw and two defeats, scoring twice and conceding six.

Last time out: Hatters produced an awful show in their 5-1 defeat last season, with the game played at Carlisle’s Brunton Park ground.

With manager John Still absent scouting another match, assistant Terry Harris took charge and quickly saw Town go 2-0 down after 15 minutes with goals from Ryan Donaldson and Josh Gillies, before Dan Walker pulled one back on 35.

They they fell further behind before the interval to a Gillies penalty, while second half strikes from Donaldson and former Hatter Liam Hatch sealed the win late on.

Hatters: Dean Brill, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Steve McNulty, Simon Ainge, Jake Goodman, David Martin, Jonathan Smith, Dan Walker, Solomon Taiwo (Matt Robinson 46), Alex Wall (Scott Rendell 86), Andre Gray.

Subs not used: Scott Griffiths, Jon Shaw, Ben Barnes.

Attendance: 382.

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