PREVIEW: Luton Town v Wrexham

Wrexham are quite simply flying in the Conference as they head to Kenilworth Road this afternoon, writes Mike Simmonds.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 15th September 2012, 8:47 am

An indifferent start to the campaign saw the Welsh side enjoy a 3-1 win over Woking on the opening day, before going three games without a win which saw them lose to Macclesfield and draw with bot Ebbsfleet and Grimsby.

Since then though, they have won their last four games, conceding one goal in the process, thrashing Cambridge United 4-1 on their travels last time out to leapfrog Town and move up to third in the table.

Unlike most sides, Wrexham didn’t go through a major transformation over the summer, although they did lose Mathais Pogba, who netted 12 times in the league last campaign, including the winner at Kenilworth Road.

Midfielders Jamie Tolley and Jake Speight left for Mansfield, while the likes of Steve Leslie, Anthony Stevens and Rob Evans were among a handful who were released as manager Andy Morrell trimmed his squad.

The boss has publicly admitted his frustrations over trying to improve his playing personnel, but did move for experienced striker Brett Ormerod on a free, the forward having scored over 100 career goals and once costing Southampton £1.75million.

Goalkeeper Andy Coughlin signed a one year deal after his release from Tranmere, while defender Martin Riley penned the same contract and former Liverpool defender Steven Eright agreed a new two-year extension.

The biggest lost has been defender Mark Creigton, affectionately know as the ‘The Beast’ who is out for the season with a serious knee injury picked up last month.

He tormented Luton last year, especially in the away play-off match, when thrown upfront in the second half, he almost saw the Welsh side overturn a 3-0 deficit, only to just miss out.

Wrexham have kept the spine of the team in tact though, with the likes of Dean Keates, Chris Westwood, Neil Ashton, the tricky Adrian Cieslewicz and Jay Harris vital components of the set-up.

The Dragons were desperately unlucky not to make a return to the Football League last season, finishing second on 98 points, a massive 17 ahead of Town, but still ended up playing second fiddle to Fleetwood, who were champions on 103 points.

The season before they were fourth, also losing in the play-offs to Luton, and they are hoping to get one better than last year and get out of the league by virtue of the title.

Team news: Jon Shaw makes a welcome return for Hatters after completing his three game suspension, while Stuart Fleetwood and Scott Rendell should be fit. Andre Gray, Adam Watkins, Greg Taylor and Jake Howells all came through international duty without injury, but Danny Spiller, James Dance and Garry Richards are all out.

Chris Westwood is set to be included in Wrexham’s travelling party after returning to full training.

Goalkeeper Joslain Mayebi is still struggling with an ongoing Achilles problem, but is expected to play, while international clearance for Andy Bishop is close to being finalised and he could make his debut. As mentioned, Creighton is already out for the season.

Top BSBP scorer: Hatters – Stuart Fleetwood (7). Dragons – Daniel Wright (3).

In charge - Andy Morrell: Player manager who took the hot seat at Wrexham on a caretaker basis in September 2011. Led his side to seven wins in nine games and was appointed on a permanent basis in October, battling Fleetwood for the title, before losing out to Hatters in the play-offs.

The 37-year-ol began life with Wrexham, scoring 34 league goals in 45 games before he was snapped up by Coventry City.

Never really made the impact he wanted to at Highfield Road, before spells at Blackpool, Bury until he returned to Wrexham in June 2010 before eventually taking charge.

View from the opposition - Defender Neil Ashton: “We seem to do well against them during the regular season and then we can’t seem to beat them in the play-offs.

“I am sure it will be a good game and there are are a few things that we need to put right, but it won’t be the be-all and end-all, we won’t be thinking about the play-offs we will be thinking about the three points.

“If they get the three points then they will overtake us in the league and it is a long season.

“There is no animosity between us and Luton, it is just two teams going at it and wanting to win the game.

“These are the games you want to win and I would snap your hand off now if you said we would win 1-0.”

One to watch - Joslain Mayebi: Just for his antics really. One time the keeper can pull of the sublime, the next, an embarrassing blooper.

Time-wasted from the word go at Kenilworth Road in last year’s league match to incur the wrath of the home fans, so it will be interesting to see what he gets up to today.

Born in Cameroon, he signed for Wrexham in August 2010 and broke into the first team last year, playing 43 times.

We’ve got form: Hatters have a clear upper hand against Wrexham in previous matches at Kenilworth Road, winning 12 of their 21 matches, losing five and drawing the other four.

Town haven’t won at home in the league against their Welsh opponents for the last two seasons, drawing and losing, but have come out on top in front of their own fans in both play-off encounters.

Luton’s heaviest win over the Welsh side came in November 2004 when Steve Robinson, Sol Davis, Steven O’Leary, Steve Howard and Ahmet Brkovic netted in a 5-1 League One victory, Hector Sam replying for the visitors.

A few years earlier, they suffered their biggest loss, hammered 5-2 as a Karl Connolly hat-trick, plus goals from Dave Brammer and Craig Skinner, were too much for Steve Davis and Phil Gray’s efforts.

Last time out: Kenilworth Road was rocking as over 9,000 saw Luton roar into a 2-0 half time lead in their play-off semi-final first leg encounter last season.

Town produced their best performance of the campaign as Andre Gray fired the hosts in front, before Stuart Fleetwood raced clear to make it 2-0.

More goals could have followed in the second half, but Town were worthy winners on a special night.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, George Pilkington, Jake Howells, Curtis Osano, Janos Kovacs, Keith Keane, Alex Lawless, Robbie Willmott, Stuart Fleetwood (Craig McAllister 71), Andre Gray (Amari Morgan-Smith 87) , Adam Watkins (John Paul Kissock 83).

Attendance: 9,012.

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