PREVIEW: Tamworth v Luton Town
Tamworth will be ringing the changes for their Skrill Premier clash with Luton Town this weekend, writes Mike Simmonds.
A disappointing start to the campaign saw boss Dale Belford act on Friday as the Lambs announced a double loan signing with the additions of striker Nick Chadwick from Plymouth Argyle and young Birmingham City defender Ryan Higgins.
Right back Higgins, who joined the Blues following his release from Premier League Everton, has joined on a one month loan deal.
The much-travelled Chadick started his career promisingly at Everton 11 seasons ago, netting three Premier League goals and has played for Derby County, Millwall, Hereford United, Shrewsbury Town, Chester City, Barrow and Stockport County.
Plymouth boss John Sheridan said: “I’ve been honest with him all along that, if he could get a club that would suit him and would enable him to go and get some football, then I wouldn’t stand in his way.
“Even though Tamworth are in the Conference, it’s a very tough league now.”
Meanwhile Belford has also swooped to bring back former midfielder Lee Hildreth.
The ex-Coventry youngster, now 25, played 11 times for Tamworth in 2008-09, but has spent the last 18 months with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan.
It looks like another season of struggling against the drop for Tamworth based on their early season form.
Last year they escaped relegation by a mere five points, finishing in 19th place, and it’s the same berth they currently occupy.
It had been such a good start to the season for the Lambs as they were unbeaten in their opening three games with a win at Salisbury followed by two good draws against Barnet and Wrexham.
The inability to maintain such form has proved worrying though as three straight defeats without a goal followed, before Lambs confidently dispatched Southport 4-1.
But again, one point was taken from the next three games, although the Lambs did pull off a fine 2-1 win at Forest Green Rovers to stop the rot.
They were back to their inconsistent ways again though, with just one win from their last four games, as they haven’t scored in the last two matches either.
At home, the Lambs have found it tough going too, winning just twice, drawing two and losing the other three contests.
Belford was forced to remould his squad completely over the summer, with the main loss, striker Adam Cunnington, leaving to sign for current leaders Cambridge, with his 21 league goals some void to fill.
Richard Tait also moved to United, while others leaving were Marcus Kelly, Jordan Ivey-Ward, Peter Till, Tommy Wright and Tony Breeden.
In came a host of new faces, with former Football League duo Mark Wright and Justin Richards signing up, plus Deqwon Ebanks, Tom Eckersley and Ben Richards-Everton too.
With Tamworth’s average attendance of just 968, they crowd is expected to swell to over 2,000 with Hatters confirming they had sold 1,188 tickets for the game.
Lambs general manager Rod Hadley said: “Based on early season attendances - they will have more fans in the ground than us.
“So come on all the fans who went to Everton, come on down and support your town team. There can be no excuses as both Villa and Blues are not playing until Sunday.”
Boss Belford added: “I want home fans to come down and help us do that.
“Luton will have a big following behind them but our home support can make the difference on Saturday.
“It promises to be a fantastic occasion and I want people in Tamworth to come along and help us create a real carnival atmosphere.”
Team news: Tamworth’s Jack Evans became the latest casualty as he was stretchered off during the 2-0 defeat at Welling on Saturday.
The former Gillingham right back has suffered ligament damage in his knee and could face up to three months on the side-lines.
Manager Dale Belford said: “I really feel sorry for the kid. Jack has been growing in stature with every game he has been with us. I feel that he will go on and play at a higher level, in the football League one day. Afterall he’s only 20. So it’s a real blow for him and for us.”
Central defender Jordan Rose (knee) also remains sidelined and is currently undergoing scans to determine the extent of his problem, while ex-Hatter Wayne Thomas is still at least a month away from fitness.
Striker Justin Richards is back in training but doubtful for Saturday but former Walsall winger Mark Wright (back) hopes to be available.
Belford added: “It’s difficult at the moment with the injuries we have had.
“These are big players missing for us. But we just have to be positive and focus on the players that we do have at our disposal.
“We have a good bunch of lads here and a great spirit in the dressing room.
“Whichever 11 players I put out against Luton Town this weekend will give it a real good go and I know they are capable of getting a positive result.”
Meanwhile, Hatters are now only without Danny Fitzsimons and Jon Shaw for the clash.
Top Skrill scorer - Lambs: Richard Peniket (3). Hatters: Luke Guttridge, Andre Gray (6).
Man in the middle: Rob Whitton - has shown 24 yellow cards and two reds in his eight games this season, including two bookings in Luton’s 2-0 win over Dartford in September.
Last season he brandished his yellow card 75 times, while also sending off four players in his 25 games.
Took Luton four times at home, with Hatters winning twice (4-1 against Macclesfield and 3-0 win over Lincoln), plus drawing 1-1 with Nuneaton in the FA Cup and then losing 2-1 to Hyde.
Whitton also officiated Town’s 5-2 hammering at Newport County taking his overall record while reffing Luton to seven wins, one draw and two defeats for the Hatters.
In charge: Dale Belford - 46-year-old, who had been a goalkeeper at Aston Villa, but never made a first team appearance before spells at the likes of Notts County, Nuneaton Borough, before moving to Tamworth in October 1988.
When with the Lambs set a club record of 712 minutes without conceding a goal in February and March 1989 and was also part of the FA Vase winning team in 1989.
Had further spells in non-league at Atherstone United, Hinckley United, Gresley Rovers and Sutton Coldfield Town, before moving to Tamworth in 2006-07 as player-goalkeeping coach.
Had spells at a variety of clubs on the coaching staff, before becoming manager of Atherstone Town in February 2010.
Returned to Tamworth as a player-coach in March 2011 and when Des Lyttle departed as boss in April 2011, Belford was appointed caretaker manager for the four remaining league games.
An injury forced him to don the gloves once more as he became the only player to play for Tamworth in four decades (1980’s, 1990’s, 2000’s and 2010s).
Marcus Law took over after Belford kept the Lambs up but he was appointed as boss again when Law left in January of this year.
View from the opposition: Tamworth boss Dale Belfrod said: “It’s a massive game this weekend, there’s no doubt about it, it’s David and Goliath stuff really.
“Luton are the biggest club in the Conference, there’s no question about that.
“The fact they can get more than 7,000 fans for home games says it all really.
“So it’s a massive test for us but we are up for it and we don’t fear them.
“Make no mistake about it, we will be setting up to win the game this weekend.”
Average home crowd: Tamworth: 968. Luton: 6,452.
One to watch: Striker Richard Peniket is the Lambs leading scorer with three goals so far.
The 20-year-old is in his first full senior season as after starting his career at Fulham, he had loan spells with Hereford, Kidderminster and Telford before joining Tamworth permanently in the summer.
Friendly faces: Defender Wayne Thomas spent a frustrating spell at Kenilworth Road last season. On joining, he couldn’t play due to international clearance, before getting sent off at Braintree in his second match and didn’t play afterwards.
On his release from Town, he joined Tamworth and scored on his debut in the opening day 1-0 win at Salisbury. Has played 11 times for the Lambs since but is currently injured.
We’ve got form: Luton have won their last two visits to the Lamb Ground, with a 2-1 sucess last season, following up a 3-1 victory the year before when Danny Crow bagged a double.
Priot to that, they went down to a 3-1 defeat in 2010-11, when then manager Richard Money got into a public spat with the away fans who were critical of Pavel Besta’s performance.
Town’s first trip ended in a 1-1 draw as George Pilkington opened the scoring for Luton, before Des Lyttle rescued a point.
Last time out: Hatters were indebted to substitutes Yaser Kasim and Stuart Fleetwood for their come from behind 2-1 win at Tamworth last season.
Trailing 1-0 to John Dempster’s 22nd minute strike, the introduction of the pair proved vital as Kasim scored on 63 minutes, before Fleetwood (65) completed the turnaround.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (Jake Robinson 57), Dean Beckwith, Jake Howells, Connor Essam, Ronnie Henry (Yaser Kasim 58), Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw (Stuart Fleetwood 58), JJ O’Donnell, Scott Rendell, Andre Gray.
Subs not used: Janos Kovacs, Dan Walker.
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