PREVIEW: Luton enter new territory with Braintree test

THOSE who thought Braintree would be the whipping boys of the Blue Square Bet Premier this season have been forced into a swift rethink after the Essex club started their campaign in stunning form, writes Mike Simmonds.

Friday, 26th August 2011, 2:14 pm

An opening day 1-0 defeat Darlington was quickly swept aside with a 5-0 thrashing of Grimsby, before Forest Green Rovers were dealt with 2-0 in midweek as Iron made it three games unbeaten.

Just being in the Conference is an achievement in itself, with the club now playing at the highest level ever in their 113 year history and Saturday marks the first time Hatters have taken to the field against their opponents.

After winning promotion from the Blue Square Bet South as champions last season, the club changed managers, as Rod Stringer was unable to agree terms on a new deal and resigned, while Hampton & Richmond chief Alan Devonshire was appointed.

He was quick to make some experienced signings too, bringing in former Port Vale striker Leon Constantine, ex Peterborough forward Ben Wright, while among others Hayes & Yeading striker Andrew Yiadom also joined the club.

Team news: Town will be hoping that injured trio Keith Keane, Robbie Willmott and Alex Lawless are fit again after missing Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Mansfield.

One player has been crossed off the injured list though with Dan Gleeson returning to the squad, but there is still no further news on George Pilkington, Freddie Murray, Shane Blackett and Charlie Henry.

In charge: Alan Devonshire – Former West Ham United midfielder who remains a Hatters legend after making over 400 appearances in 14 years at Upton Park. Won eight caps for England between 1980-83 before finishing his career at Watford.

Apppointed manager of Maidenhead United in 1997 before leaving for Hampton & Richmond in 2003 where he spent eight years until joining Braintree at the start of the current season.

Opposition view: Defender Matt Paine - “Luton have got a lot of history there and we know all about that and they’re a well-supported club.

“But we’ll go there to try and get a result and all of the guys can’t wait for the game.

“It’ll be a great day for the fans, especially if we can get a result.

“It’s a big game for us against Luton and there are plenty more of them to come.

“It’s what we worked so hard to do last season - we want to be testing ourselves against the big clubs in our division.

“We just can wait for the games to come, we want to push on and send a message to this division that we’re no pushovers.”

One to watch: Sean Marks – striker was the top scorer with 25 goals as Braintree won promotion to the Conference last season. Opened his account for the new campaign with two in the 5-0 demolition of Grimsby.

Familiar faces: Ben Wright – the striker spent a month on loan at Kenilworth Road in September 2009, making five appearances and scoring one goal.

After starting his career at Peterborough, the 23-year-old has had spells at Kettering, Grimsby, Barnet, Hayes, Crawley, but has now signed permanently for Braintree.

We’ve met before: Hatters have never come across Braintree in a competitive match before.

Fact attack: Iron manager Alan Devonshire has a race horse named after him.

William Hill Odds: Luton win 4/9, Mansfield win 9/2, Draw 7/2.