PREVIEW: Macclesfield Town v Luton Town
Macclesfield are enjoying some serious home comforts as they look to make a late charge for the Skrill Premier play-off places this season, writes Mike Simmonds.
After a rotten start to the campaign in which the Silkmen picked up just one point from four games in front of their own fans, including defeats to Nuneaton, Braintree and Alfreton, things have picked up dramatically.
A 3-2 win over Woking on September 21 started the turnaround, with Macclesfield now having gone 15 matches without defeat at home, winning 12 and drawing three.
That run is even more impressive thanks to the Silkmen’s FA Cup exploits as they hammered League One Swindon 4-0 and then held Championship outfit Sheffield Wednesday to a 1-1 draw.
In all, they have claimed 29 Skrill Premier points from a possible 33 at home in the sequence, as only Southport and Kidderminster have left with something to their name.
The club weren’t too busy in the transfer window last month, although did re-sign striker Waide Fairhurst from Lincoln City on loan, with the forward netting against Luton last season.
They also swooped to bring in former Town captain George Pilkington for a month too, although the 32-year-old saw his intended debut clash against Hereford postponed at the weekend.
Young defender James Bolton left the club on loan as well, moving to FC Halifax.
The Silkmen were dealt a huge blow in December though as on-loan Scunthorpe striker Connor Jennings returned to his parent club after a hugely successful spell in which he netted 14 league goals in just 16 appearances.
Top Skrill scorer - Silkmen: Connor Jennings (14). Hatters: Andre Gray (17).
Team news: Paul Turnbull is available for Macclesfield tonight as apart from but Carl Martin (hamstring), the Silkmen have a fully fit squad to choose from.
Hatters are without Ryan Inniss (illness), but both Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and Alex Lawless are now fit, leaving only Jonathan Smith and Danny Fitzsimons as the long-term injuries.
Man in the middle: Karl Evans - Greater Manchester official has had five Skrill Premier games this season, showing 11 yellows and one red.
Yet to take either Luton or Macclesfield in the league this campaign, but officiated the Silkmen five times last season, four at home, with the Moss Rose club winning two and losing two, plus the 1-1 draw at Hyde.
In total, he took charge of 22 games, brandishing 79 cautions and six red cards.
His last Luton match was the 2-0 win over Newport County at Kenilworth Road in January 2012 when he sent off former Hatter Ryan Charles.
Also had the whistle for Town’s 2-2 draw at Chester in League Two in January 2009 and the 2-1 home defeat to Brighton in League One back in April 2008.
In charge: John Askey - the 48-year-old is a bona fide Macclesfield legend having joined back in 1984 alongside his brother Bob to fill a gap when the club were short of players.
He remained as a player throughout the club’s Northern Premier League title win in 1986–87 and subsequent promotion to the Vauxhall Conference, awarded a testimonial against Manchester United in 1994.
Made more than 700 apearances for the club in total, scoring over 150 times, including in his final ever game, on the last day of the 2002-03 season, with an 88th minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Rochdale.
When Town boss David Moss was sacked in 2003 following a 2–1 home defeat to Southend, the club appointed Askey as his replacement on a temporary basis.
Was replaced after six months by ex-Hatter Brian Horton, but Askey stayed as assistant boss and then moved to the youth team.
Returned to the hot seat on April 3 last year when Steve King was dismissed and handed the job permanently in June.
View from the opposition: Boss John Askey told the club’s official website - “It’s going to be a challenge, and it’s going to be tough, but these are the games you look forward to.
“We’ve not lost here for a few months now and we know what we are capable of.
“It doesn’t matter who you play as long as your players perform and work hard, which is what they have been doing and we need for them to keep doing tonight on a heavy pitch which could be a test of character tonight.”
“A win tonight could see us up to eighth and three points away from the play-offs.
“It’ll be the highest position we’ve had all season, and perhaps we can start getting a bit giddy about our chances, and it would lay down a bit of a marker.
“But we’ve got a very tough game ahead of us first.”
One to watch: Scott Boden - 24-year-old forward, who is in his second stint at Macclesfield after a loan spell in 2011.
Returned to the club on a free transfer from Chesterfield in the summer but struggled to get going with just three goals in his opening 11 games.
Since then has scored nine in 15, including six in his last seven matches, including netting at Hillsborough in the club’s valiant 4-1 FA Cup defeat.
Friendly faces: Former Town skipper George Pilkington joined Macclesfield on a month’s loan last week.
The 32-year-old made 172 appearances for Hatters, netting 12 times, before leaving in June 2012 to join Mansfield.
Made just six league appearances for the Stags including two this term, as he has also spent time on loan at Forest Green Rovers this campaign, playing eight times.
Efe Sodje is also at Macclesfield as player assistant coach, with the defender having a spell at Kenilworth Road between 1999-2000, playing 14 times in total after joining from the Silkmen.
Left Town on loan to join Colchester during his time in Bedfordshire, before moving to Crewe.
Now 41, has returned to Macclesfield’s backroom staff and has played six times this season, but not featured since September 24.
Although out on loan, John Paul Kissock is still a Macclesfield player.
The tricky midfielder, affectionately dubbed Messi by the Hatters faithful, made 31 appearances for Town, scoring once.
Played 13 games for the Silkmen this season before being loaned to League One Oldham Athletic on deadline day.
We’ve got form: Moss Rose is something of a bogey ground for Luton who are yet to taste victory in their history, losing two and drawing two.
They were held to a 2-2 draw in Division Two in the 1998-99 season thanks to Stuart Douglas’ third minute strike and Phil Gray’s injury time leveller.
The next clash in 2001 ended 4-1 to the hosts, with a hat-trick from now England striker Rickie Lambert, while Steve Howard replied for Luton.
Ryan Charles 90th minute strike couldn’t prevent a 2-1 defeat in 2008, before last season’s 1-1 draw.
Last time out: Hatters were held to a 1-1 draw at Macclesfield last season on quite an evening for Town fans.
Manager Paul Buckle left the club by mutual consent just hours before the game, before Andre Gray gave Town 1-0 lead.
Gray was then brought down by keeper Rhys Taylor shortly afterwards who was dismissed and with no substitute on the bench, midfielder Peter Winn took the gloves.
He kept a clean sheet for over an hour though with an inspired display and the Silkmen earned a deserved leveller when Waide Fairhurst scored with 15 minutes to go.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Steve McNulty, Jake Howells, Ronnie Henry, Greg Taylor (Stuart Fleetwood 86), Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw, Jonathan Smith (Arnaud Mendy 79), Scott Rendell (JJ O’Donnell 46), Andre Gray.
Subs not used: Janos Kovacs, Scott Neilson.
For all the latest Luton Town FC news, reports, stats, player profiles, live match updates, MOM poll, prediction table and a complete fixture list, visit our Hatters Microsite.