PREVIEW: Nuneaton v Luton Town
Stopping Hatters’ star striker Andre Gray will be a big part of Nuneaton’s plans ahead of tomorrow’s game, writes Mike Simmonds.
Defender Gavin Cowan, a former team-mates of Gray’s at Telford, believes that the forward was the clear difference between the sides when they met at Kenilworth Road recently, bagging a hat-trick in the 3-0 win.
Cowan told the Nuneaton News: “I thought we were the better side last time we both played, but then Andre went and made the difference.
“He gave them that first goal and with 8,000 people behind them there was no stopping them then.
“We could not live with them and they just ran away with it.
“It was all because of Andre though and we will be out to stop him tomorrow.
“Andre is obviously a quality player, I know him as both an opponent and a teammate.
“He is a really humble guy and a real threat on the pitch.
“He is key for them and both me and Gaz Dean will be doing what we can to keep him quiet.”
Although obviously keeping an eye on Gray, Cowan added they wouldn’t be changing their whole game for Town’s 22-goal marksman.
He continued: We have made no special plans as such, we will just play the game we normally play.
“I don’t think you can change anything just for one player, you just have to keep doing what you do – especially as that has got us up to fourth place.
“But at Nuneaton we have our own quality players and I think we will be concentrating on what they can do to Luton rather than what Luton can do to us.”
Since Nuneaton’s defeat at Kenilworth Road, a match which will always be remembered for the storm of almost biblical proportions that sent both sets of players scurrying for the changing rooms, their play-off hopes have shown no signs of wavering.
Kevin Wilkins’s side recovered to defeat Aldershot 2-1 at home, and although they went down 2-1 at Salisbury, back to back wins at Lincoln and then home to Hyde put them right back on track as they sit in fourth place.
Home form has been solid for Boro all season as they have taken 31 points from 16 games with nine wins, four draws and three defeats, scoring 23 and conceding 16 in front of their own fans.
Recent home form has been excellent too as after a surprise 2-0 defeat to Woking on December 21, they have taken 13 points from a possible 15, with four wins, plus a draw against title chasers Cambridge United.
Boss Wilkin also hopes his side have learned the lessons from their trip to Bedfordshire too, as he said: “The game was not that long ago, I am hoping it is fresh in the minds of the players.
“It was not a beating that they should not be embarrassed of, for 45 minutes at their ground we gave them a great game.
“The conditions were awful, it was the game we had to go off in due to the weather, but we held them well.
“But then we let our heads go and we made a couple of mistakes and the lad Andre Gray punished us.
“If we can learn from that, if we can take the positives from that match I am sure we can give it a really good go this weekend.”
Team news: Hatters are virtually at full strength for their trip to Nuneaton, as only Jonathan Smith and Danny Fitzimons are sidelined.
Top Skrill Premier scorers - Hatters: Andre Gray (22). Boro: Louis Moult (13).
Average attendances: Town: 6,775. Nuneaton: 1,120.
Milestones: Hatters striker Andre Gray will net his 50th goal for the club if he is on target at the weekend.
The former Hinckley United forward is also closing in on his 100th appearance as he has played 96 times so far.
Man in the middle: Darren England - Taken 10 Skrill Premier clashes this season so far, none involving Luton or Nuneaton, showing 28 yellows and one red so far.
Has had the flag for a number of Premier League games this year though, including at the Emirates for Arsenal’s 2-1 FA Cup win over Liverpool last weekend.
In charge: Kevin Wilkin, 46-year-old who started his career with Cambridge City, before moving into the Football League with Northampton Town.
Also had spells with Rushden and Diamonds, Nuneaton Borough, Cambridge City again and Grantham Town, before returning to Nuneaton as player/assistant manager to Roger Ashby in 2004.
Following the sacking of Ashby in 2006, he was appointed caretaker manager and then given the job on a permanent basis.
After Nuneaton Borough were liquidated at the end of the 2007–08 season he was appointed manager of the reformed club, now known as Nuneaton Town.
Guided them through the Southern League Division One Midlands and Southern League Premier Division, plus the Conference North to move back to the Conference after a nine-year absence.
One to watch: Andy Brown - 27-year-old striker who is always a handful, scoring seven league goals in 22 games so far this season.
Started his career at Telford, before moving to Nuneaton in July 2012 and notched a hugely impressive 19 league goals last season.
View from the opposition: Striker Andy Brown told the Nuneaton News: “They (Luton) are flying at the moment, it will be one of the toughest, if not the toughest games we have left.
“We are not worried, though, we do better in the bigger games I think.
“As a team we save our best performances for those games when it seems we have no chance.”
Boro boss Kevin Wilkin has also urged his side’s supporters to make some noise, with Hatters potentially bringing over 2,000 travelling fans with them.
He added: “We have a large hardcore following of fans and we are going to need them tomorrow.
“Luton are reportedly bringing a couple of thousand and that will make for a great atmosphere.
“We will need as many as we can down there to match that, it will be great if we could get as many fans as we can at the game, it will help the lads in what will be a tough game that is for sure.”
We’ve got form: Luton have travelled to Nuneaton twice in their history and never conceded a goal yet.
They enjoyed a 2-0 victory in the FA Cup last season thanks to Scott Rendell’s double, before drawing the league encounter 0-0.
Last time out: Hatters were held to a goalles draw in the Conference trip to Nuneaton last season as manager John Still was running his rule over the squad inherited from Paul Buckle.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Jake Howells, Steve McNulty, Ronnie Henry, Jake Goodman, Alex Lawless, Arnaud Mendy (JJ O’Donnell 46), Jonathan Smith, Stuart Fleetwood (Scott Rendell 57), Andre Gray (Alex Wall 57).
Subs not used: Dean Brill, Greg Taylor.
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