PREVIEW: Luton Town v Salisbury City
After winning promotion from the Blue Square South, Salisbury City were left having to make a major reshuffle when manager Darrell Clarke was named assistant boss at Bristol Rovers, writes Mike Simmonds.
The ex-Hartlepool and Mansfield midfielder had been in charge of the Whites since 2010, having ended his playing career with the non-league club, before helping them to their second promotion in three years.
Despite the likes of Tim Flowers, Brian Little, Graham Rix, Paul Telfer, David Holdsworth, Steve King, Liam Daish and Terry Brown all believed to be on the shortlist for the role, City promoted Mikey Harris, who at 28. became English football’s youngest full-time manager.
Harris had spent the last five years as number two at the club though and on getting the role, he said: “People will look at it and say ‘wow, he’s young’, but it doesn’t bother me.
“I’ve been the lads’ immediate boss for five years, so I’m confident I can assert my authority.
“People my age haven’t got the the experience I’ve had.”
One of Harris’ first moves was to appoint former Town striker Warren Feeney as his new player-assistant.
The 32-year-old had the chance to stay on at Plymouth Argyle as a player, but opted to drop down into the Conference.
On accepting the role, he said: “It’s a new challenge and a new lease of life for me.
“The gaffer asked if I’d be his number two and continue playing. I had my bags packed and I didn’t hesitate.
“I wanted to progress into coaching but I also still wanted to play. I dread the day that I can’t play and mixing both roles is challenging but it’s something I enjoy and I’ll give it 100 per cent.”
Harris has been busy making signings too, with Cameroon defender/midfielder Clovos Kamdjo on board now, after playing over 100 times for Barnet.
Also joining the Whites is 16-year-old shot-stopper Monty George, who will provide cover for first team choice keeper Will Puddy.
The club have also re-signed winger Elliott Frear on a permanent deal following his release by Exeter City, while brothers Stuart and Rob Sinclair both agreed new deals.
Glenn Wilson has signed from Gateshead, with one-time Town loanee Ben Wright joining from Forest Green.
Defender Chris Giles has been forced to retire because of persistent injury problems though and will now assist Harris on a short-term basis.
For the club, just playing in the Conference is a victory in itself as they had done so back in the 2009-10 season, but were demoted two divisions to the Southern League Premier due to a breach of Conference rules.
They won promotion to the Conference South in their first season, spending two campaigns at that level, before returning to the Conference through the play-offs last year, starting with a 1-0 defeat at Tamworth on Saturday.
Team news: Hatters will be without Ronnie Henry and Alex Wall for the home clash with Salisbury, while doubts still remain over Alex Lawless and Jon Shaw.
Defender Steve McNulty faces an anxious wait to see if he is available, with the club appealing his controversial red card at Southport on Saturday.
Man in the middle: Paul Rees – officiated 19 Conference games last season, showing seven reds and 54 yellow cards.
Took two Luton games in total, the 2-1 victory at Tamworth and the 2-0 home win over Ebbsfleet when he sent off the visitors’ Stefan Payne after a poor challenge on Jake Howells.
This term, he was in charge for the goalless draw between Woking and Lincoln on Saturday, displaying three yellows.
In charge: Mikey Harris. While a player at Salisbury, midfielder Harris also worked as a fitness coach and sports scientist for the team.
He was appointed assistant boss at the age of 23 during Tommy Widdrington’s tenure and remained in the job when team-mate Darrell Clarke took over as manager in 2010.
Some Salisbury fans questioned Harris’s credentials as a first-time manager and he admitted: “It’s disappointing the fans have expressed their unhappiness because, essentially, I am a Salisbury fan.
“They should know I will do my best for this football club and I will make sure we are successful.”
View from the opposition: Boss Mikey Harris after his side’s 1-0 defeat to Tamworth - “It was a sloppy goal, and as I said to the lads in the changing room, ‘welcome to Conference Premier’.
“We have to defend balls coming into the box and need to keep possession better.
“We played well in patches, creating enough chances, but if you concede a goal early on you give yourself a mountain to climb.”
One to watch: Warren Feeney. The 32-year-old is by far the most experienced player in the Salisbury camp, making 379 appearances and scoring 84 goals in all competitions.
Friendly faces: Warren Feeney, joined Luton in March 2005 after being signed for £150,000 from Stockport and scored 11 goals in well over 50 games for the club.
Left Kenilworth Road to join Cardiff on loan in May 2007, making the move permanent later in the year.
Had spells at Swansea, Dundee United, Sheff Wed, Oldham and Plymouth before moving to Salisbury in the summer.
Ben Wright also played for Town, making five appearances on loan from Peterborough during September 2009 and October 2009, scoring once for the club.
Meanwhile, both Rob and Stuart Sinclair, started their careers at Kenilworth Road too.
We’ve got form: Hatters have only ever played Salisbury City once at home in a competitive clash, winning 4-0 back in March 2010.
Last time out: Town were convincing winners in the club’s only meeting prior at Kenilworth Road.
Claude Gnakpa put Town ahead on 35 minutes, while Tom Craddock added the second just before the break.
Jake Howells netted on 54 minutes, before Simon Heslop completed the scoring with 15 to go.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Ed Asafu-Adjaye, George Pilkington, Jake Howells (Adam Newton 75), Claude Gnakpa (Craig Nelthorpe 80), Freddie Murray, Keith Keane, Shane Blackett, Simon Heslop, Tom Craddock, Kevin Gallen (Liam Hatch 77).
Subs not used: Asa Hall, Matthew Barnes-Homer.
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