PREVIEW: Nuneaton Town v Luton Town

Nuneaton Town are finding life in the Conference far harder than they would have hoped after becoming rooted to the bottom of the table in recent weeks, writes Mike Simmonds.

An extra-time FA Cup win over AFC Telford United is their only victory in the last 14 games as they are starting to become cut adrift at the bottom, already six points from safety.

In fact they have only won three matches all season, but almost made it four in the first game of their FA Cup first round tie with Town, leading with four minutes to go until Scott Rendell popped up to force tonight’s replay.

Being a part time club in what is now largely a full time league is having an affects on the club though as manager Kevin Wilkin said: “We are trying to change things around, although we work within the transfer windows now, which brings its problems.

“It has been tough and we are bottom of the league, but I wouldn’t be out of order if I said that we should have another five or six points to our name, and if we had then we would be in a position that everyone would feel a whole lot better about.

“It is about showing that little bit of patience and I believe that the majority of people are showing the patience that is needed and are mindful of the challenges that we have at the moment.

“But they are challenges that you need to rise to and meet and keep believing and if people do, I am confident we can get out of the position we are in at the moment.”

Wilkin allowed striker Kyle Perry to extend his loan by a further month at Hereford United this week, while has also recently added defender Kevin Malaga from Coventry City on a one-month loan deal.

The Frenchman made his debut against Hatters in the FA Cup and has played for Auxerre, while was once captain of the Nice reserve team.

Nuneaton also brought in striker Connor Taylor on loan from Walsall, with the forward, who was released by Premier League side Aston Villa in the summer, netting once in four games so far.

Team news: Hatters are without the cup-tied pair of Simon Ainge and Jonathan Smith, while Jon Shaw is expected to miss out with his thigh injury.

With seven substitutes named on the bench in cup ties, the likes of James Dance and Alex Lacey will come into contention, although Garry Richards and Danny Spiller are still absent.

Nuneaton will be without on-loan goalkeeper Adam Smith who is ineligible for the FA Cup, so Ben McNamara should continue.

Forwards Kyle Paterson and Tyrell Waite, who scored in the first game at Kenilworth Road are both fit again and could return to the side to face Luton.

Utility player David McNamee is still expected to be out with a calf injury.

Top BSBP scorer: Boro - Adam Walker (7). Hatters - Stuart Fleetwood (10).

Man in the middle: Gavin Ward - Surrey based official who has taken games from Championship to League Two this season.

Shown 49 yellow cards and four reds in his 14 games, and was in charge of the 0-0 draw between Southend and Port Vale in League Two on Saturday, while officiated Watford’s 0-0 draw with Millwall before that.

Last reffed a Luton game when Hatters went to Southampton in the FA Cup back in January 2010 when Town were beaten 1-0.

Also had the whistle during Town’s clash with Bournemouth in 2008, where he abandoned the match after just eight minutes due to adverse weather conditions.

In charge: Kevin Wilkin – had spells with Cambridge City, Northampton Town and Rushden & Diamonds amongst others during his playing career, while also spent time with Nuneaton Borough.

Returned to Nuneaton as player/assistant manager in 2004 and following sacking of Roger Ashby in 2006 became caretaker and then permanent boss.

After Borough were liquidated at the end of the 2007–08 season he was appointed manager of the reformed club, guiding them through the Southern League Division One Midlands and Premier Division with two play-off triumphs.

Completed a hat-trick of play-off wins after a 1-0 triumph over Gainsborough Trinity saw them back into the Conference this season after a nine-year absence.

View from the opposition: Kevin Wilkin: “I think that you realise that if you do apply yourselves in the right way and get organised, there is no reason to believe that you can’t come out with a result against these sides.

“We were mighty close against Luton, the first time of asking but that concentration level for 90 minutes is what we need to find to turn these draws into wins.”

One to watch: Adam Walker. 21-year-old midfielder has been something of a star since signing from Coventry City in the summer, where he made two appearances in the Championship, netting seven times for his new club already.

Walker was one of Town boss Paul Buckle’s targets earlier in the season, with a bid rejected by Nuneaton, while the player wanted to concentrate on his studies too.

The midfielder has confirmed he hasn’t closed the door on a move to Kenilworth Road though as he wants to get back into full time football.

Friendly faces: Hatters have had links with Nuneaton over the years, the main one, manager David Pleat, who was on the coaching staff at Nuneaton Borough, before moving to Town in 1978.

Pleat also brought Kirk Stephens to Kenilworth Road with him and he went on make over 200 appearances for the Town.

We’ve got form: It’s Hatters first trip to Nuneaton, but the sides have got to know each other well over the last few weeks, playing at Kenilworth Road twice. Both games have been tough spectacles for the supporters, with Luton relying on late goals in each to get a result. Alex Lawless scored twice in the 2-0 league win, before Rendell’s late leveller in the cup tie.

Did you know: Nuneaton have progressed to the FA Cup third round three times, in the 1949–50 season, 1966–67 and 2005–06.

A crowd of 22,114 were in attendance at their Manor Park ground on January 28, 1967 when Rotherham were held to a draw, before the Millers went on to win the replay 1-0.

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