PREVIEW: Luton Town v Cambridge United
Cambridge United travel to Kenilworth Road this afternoon as the early pacesetters in the Skrill Premier League, writes Mike Simmonds.
The U’s have started the season in excellent form with a crushing 5-1 win over Halifax kickstarting their campaign, before they were held to a 2-2 draw at Welling.
Since then though, United have shown they can eke out a result too though, edging out Aldershot and Lincoln, both by narrow 1-0 margins.
Managed by Richard Money, Cambridge overhauled their squad in the summer and running an eye over the new recruits, they have bought well.
Tamworth striker Adam Cunnington joined on a free after netting 21 goals in the Conference last season, while highly-rated Dartford defender Tom Bonner was snapped up too.
Bonner’s former team-mate Tom Champion arrived and also moving from Tamworth was Richard Tait, with experienced Grimsby defender Ian Miller brought in as well.
Ex-Hatters defender Greg Taylor joined on a free, with the club swooping for former Sunderland keeper Ben Wilson on non-contract terms after 12 years with the Black Cats.
Another excellent addition is former Southend and Town defender Michael Spillane, who has signed a one year contract, to give Cambridge’s squad a very strong look to it.
On his new deal, Spillane said: “I had other offers on the table, for more money, but I really believe in the project.
“The fact that it’s a new challenge appeals to me so it all meant there was only one choice - that was Cambridge United.”
All the new faces meant there would be casualties along the way, with Michael Gash moving to Kidderminster, while the likes of Michael Wylde, James Jennings, Tom Shaw, Jonathan Thorpe, Joe Anderson and James Brighton all moved on too, while Blaine Hudson has joined Welling on a season-long loan deal.
Released were Billy Gibson, Curtis Haynes-Brown, Charlie Wassmer, Adriano Moke, McAuleigh Richards, Craig Ross, Jonathan Hedge and Rossi Jarvis as head coach Money believes the newlook squad has real potential.
He said: “Obviously when you watch them (potential new signings) you look at what their characteristics are on the pitch.
“When you talk to them and meet them - some of them we met three or four times - you get a feeling about them and you hope they are what they seem.
“They’ve come here and gelled really well. They are good people, and it also makes life easier when you’re doing well.
“The proof’s always when you get one or two little bumps in the road.
“There are things we’ve put in place which will hopefully steer us through those difficult times.”
Team news: The U’s hope to have last season’s top scorer Tom Elliott available, while Andy Pugh and Kevin Roberts will both be in contention having fully recovered from their respective injuries
Hatters are waiting on the fitness of Solomon Taiwo (hamstrin), Alex Lawless (groin) and Jon Shaw (groin), but Anthony Charles (shoulder), Alex Wall (virus) and Danny Fitzsimons (knee) are all out.
Top Skrill scorer - Hatters: Luke Guttridge (2). United: Adam Cunnington, Ryan Donaldson, Delano Sam-Yorke (2).
In charge: Richard Money - 57-year-old 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 Anfield, 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. After Villa, he joined the coaching staff first at Nottingham Forest and then Manchester City.
Was also academy director and first team coach at Coventry City, before moving to Sweden where he had spells at AIK, then at Västerås SK and then moved to Australia where he coached Newcastle United Jets.
Returned to England to become manager of Walsall in May 2006 and then took over 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: Adam Cunnington - 25-year-old was a prolific striker at Tamworth last season, netting 21 goals in the Conference.
Started his career at Kettering, before a loan move to Dagenham & Redbridge, then managed by John Still, before another temporary spell at Alfreton.
Joined Tamworth in July 2012 where he made the headlines regularly and was linked with a move to Luton, before Cambridge snapped him up.
Friendly faces: Greg Taylor made 43 appearances scoring once for Town after they snapped him up from Darlington before he was released at the end of last season and then joined Cambridge on a free transfer.
Recent United signing Michael Spillane, had a hugely successful loan spell at Town, playing 38 league times, scoring three goals and lifted the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. He then joined Brentford before spells at Dagenham & Redbridge, under Luton boss John Still, and Southend, until he joined Cambridge last week.
Boss Richard Money is also a former Town player, making 49 appearances and scoring once during 1981-82.
Town midfielder Luke Guttridge spent five years at Cambridge, making over 150 appearances, scopring 17 league goals, before joining Southend United on a free in March 2005.
First team coach Hakan Hayrettin enjoyed a season at Cambridge too, making 17 appearances in the 1994-95 campaign.
Scott Rendell despite not having a squad number spent two prolific spells at Cambridge, scoring 17 in 29 league games between August 2007-May 2008, before heading back on loan from November 2008 to May 2009 and notched 15 in 27 appearances.
We’ve got form: Hatters just about hold the edge over Cambridge during their previous encounters at Kenilworth Road, winning five, drawing five and losing three, scoring 16 goals to their opponents 12.
The biggest win for Luton is 2-0, which they have managed on two occasions. First, back in the 2010-11 season thanks to Andy Drury and George Pilklington, before they picked up another 2-0 win back in Division One in 1993 after Kerry Dixon and Scott Oakes netted.
Town’s heaviest defeat was 2-1 back in the 2002-03 season when Cambridge won the Football League Trophy tie. Tony Thorpe had put Luton ahead that night, before Terry Fleming levelled and then a certain Luke Guttridge popped up with the winner in extra time.
Last time out: Luton were 3-2 winners over Cambridge at Kenilworth Road last season in what was a thoroughly entertaining encounter.
The visitors went ahead through Ricky Wellard’s marvellous strike, but Janos Kovacs headed in from a corner to level.
After the break, Andrew Gray escaped the defence to net, before Dean Beckwith added a third from another corner as Rory McAuley pulled one back late on.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Dean Beckwith, Janos Kovacs, Jake Howells, Greg Taylor, Alex Lawless, JJ O’Donnell, Scott Rendell (Connor Essam 86), Stuart Fleetwood (Jake Woolley 89), Andre Gray.
Subs not used: Dean Brill, Adam Watkins, Yaser Kasim.
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