PREVIEW: Luton Town v Gateshead

The promotion push at Gateshead is starting to really take shape under the stewardship of Gary Mills, writes Mike Simmonds.
Jon Shaw celebrates his goal against Gateshead last seasonJon Shaw celebrates his goal against Gateshead last season
Jon Shaw celebrates his goal against Gateshead last season

The former York City manager, well known to Hatters fans, took over on September 3 after a woeful start had seen Heed lose four out of their opening six games under Anth Smith.

Since then though, Mills, who is no stranger to play-off success at this level, has overseen 10 league wins, one draw and four defeats, as the Tynesiders have climbed to ninth in the table, just four points off the top five.

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They are also not too far away from Town either, and Mills has the Hatters firmly in his sights, telling the Chronicle prior to today’s clash: “It’s a massive game on Saturday.

“We’re nine points behind Luton at the moment, with a game in hand. Beat them down there and suddenly your six points behind with that game in hand.

“So you never know. We know it’s going to be tough, it’s always a tough place to go.

“But we’re capable, we’re capable of going and getting a result down there and we’re looking forward to it.”

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Heed chairman Graham Wood definitely has set the target of elevating the club back to the Football League, for the first time since the 1960s, as he recently told BBC Newcastle: “This league is financially unsustainable - I’m having to bankroll the club.

“It’s a terrible league to be in and promotion would be worth around an extra £1m a season.

“We’re still going to move to a new stadium, it’s just taking longer than we had hoped.

“Gary has transformed the side on the pitch and I think as a club we can sustain a new ground in the Football League.

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“I think our squad is good enough we just need a bigger income.”

Team news: Hatters are without Jon Shaw (calf), Alex Lacey (metatarsal), Andy Parry (hernia), Solomon Taiwo (hernia) and Danny Fitzsimons (knee).

Alfie Mawson, Alex Wall and Anthony Charles are all back in training through.

For Heed, midfielder Phil Turnbull is set to make his 300th appearance for the club, but James Brown is out and there are doubts over Jamie Chandler.

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Top Skrill Premier scorer: Hatters: Andre Gray (12). Heed: Josh Walker, James Marwood, Colin Larkin, Jordan Hugill (5).

Man in the middle: Daniel Cook - taken nine Skrill Premier games this season, showing a hefty 38 yellows and two reds thus far.

First time he has officiated either Hatters or Gateshead in a league match though.

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

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

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

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

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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 this year as he penned a one year rolling contract at Gateshead. Was the subject of some intense interest from Forest Green Rovers over their vacancy recently, but opted to stay with Heed.

View from the opposition: Heed boss Gary Mills: “It’s always a great atmosphere at Kenilworth Road and it’s a great game to have after the disappointment at Eastleigh (FA Trophy).

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“That was a blip as we have played well over the last couple of months and we’ll be looking to get back to those standards on Saturday.

“It is a good game for us, the type of game we want to be playing on a regular basis, and we will relish the challenge.

“Luton are going well and are desperate to get back into the Football League. They want to get closer to Cambridge and we want to get closer to Luton and the top five.”

Average home crowd: Luton: 6,426. Gateshead: 755.

One to watch: James Marwood - Been a regular in the goalscorers column in recent weeks.

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After failing to net in the opening seven games of the season, he then went on a prolific run, notching in six of his next seven league and cup games.

Came through the ranks at Newcastle United and is the son of former Arsenal, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday winger Brian Marwood.

After his release from Newcastle, had brief spells at Blyth Spartans and Northern League club Team Northumbria before he linked up with Gateshead in the summer of 2010.

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

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After an initial loan move in November 2009, he joined permanently in August 2010 and bagged an impressive 45 goals in 80 league games 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 over 50 league games, scoring 12 goals, including one in 12 league appearances this season.

We’ve got form: Hatters have never lost to Gateshead at Kenilworth Road in their five previous encounters, winning three and drawing two.

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Twice Luton have had to come from 2-0 down to earn a point though, which they did last year and in the 2010-11 campaign.

The biggest win was a 5-1 hammering in October 2011 when Jake Howells (2), Jamie Hand (2) and Aaron O’Conner scored, while a certain Jon Shaw netted for Heed.

Last time out: A second half fight back saw Town claim a point against Gateshead on the opening day of the Conference season last term.

Liam Hatch and Yemi Odubade had put the Heed 2-0 ahead by the break, before Jon Shaw came off the bench to mastermind Town’s revival.

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He netted on 61 minutes and Stuart Fleetwood levelled on 71 as the points were shared.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Janos Kovacs, Jake Howells, Ronnie Henry, Greg Taylor (Alex Lawless 46), JJ O’Donnell, Scott Rendell, Stuart Fleetwood, Yaser Kasim (Jon Shaw 46), Andre Gray (Adam Watkins 69).

Subs not used: Dean Brill, Dean Beckwith.

Attendance: 6,743.

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