UPDATED: All change for Hatters as they prepare for Dorchester third instalment?
It could be all-change for Luton as Dorchester visit Kenilworth Road for the second time in four days for tonight’s FA Trophy first round replay, writes Mark Wood.
The Hatters edged Saturday’s FA Cup second round encounter 2-1, and it will be the third time the teams have faced each other in a row after they drew 2-2 at the Avenue Stadium in the initial tie.
As a result, and with an increasingly congested fixture list, manager Paul Buckle revealed at yesterday’s press conference that he is likely to use ‘all’ his squad for the encounter.
Greg Taylor has returned from his loan at Tamworth but is cup-tied, while Dean Beckwith is also a major doubt after breaking his nose in the weekend’s win.
Simon Ainge is available after being cup-tied for Saturday, while the likes of Arnaud Mendy, Dean Brill, Alex Lacey, Adam Watkins, Jon Shaw, James Dance and more could also feature.
Boss Paul Buckle, speaking yesterday, said: “We haven’t been able to have any development games, any reserve games at all, which has been difficult.
“So a lot of the players have not had games. All I can say is I will field a really strong team, I’ll field a team I feel can win.
“There might be changes, but if there are changes there’ll be a good reason behind them.
“Now we’ve got the FA Cup game out of the way it will give me a chance to look at it, look at the squad, talk to the staff and make sure we all agree on what we’re going to try and do in these next few weeks and months.
“But we mustn’t take our eye of the ball in terms of the next game. We are very keen to keep our unbeaten run going, but at the same time I’ve got a squad that I believe in.
“I really do believe in the squad and I said to them this morning,.
“Whichever team we pick it will not be an understrength team. It will be a team that we think can go on and win and if we didn’t think they were capable they wouldn’t be at the club.
“They’ve all trained very, very well this morning, they’ve all given themselves a chance to be involved tomorrow night.
“Not only that, the games are coming thick and fast, and this one comes very quickly after Saturday, and I might well use all the squad tomorrow.”
On Beckwith, he said: “He’s had his nose put back into place, so that obviously a sore one. And with the game coming round so quickly it gives him not much time to recover and be match-fit.
“It’s a big part of his game heading the ball. He’s had a bit of a sore head as well as the nose so I won’t take a risk there if I feel there is a doubt.
“He’s said this morning that he could join in training but he couldn’t head it, so we suggested he just played his normal game!
“So he’s not had any luck at all Dean. I thought he did very well Saturday, I thought he looked very solid, he kept his game simple.
“Which is one of the things we’ve been asking the defenders to do. Let’s face it, they’re defenders for a reason and what that tells you is that they should be keeping clean sheets and they should be bossing people front of them.
“And I thought Dean did that and I though he kept his game simple, cleared his lines, him and Janos (Kovacs) did that and we didn’t really give them a chance.
“I was very pleased with him, it did disrupt it when he went off, it wasn’t great for us when you’ve got someone coming on cold, but I thought Lacey held his own and did OK and I won’t be afraid to use him.”
In fact Lacey looks likely to be thrust into the action, as Buckle continued: “I’ve got no problem with the defence, I’m very, very pleased with the squad, and the only doubts were Beckwith took a bad bang so might not make it. Which will probably mean that someone like Lacey might get a chance. But again if he plays he deserves it.
“All of the players are valued members of the squad so if they get their chance they deserve it.
“It’s always difficult for a younger players to actually get into the team and stay in the team, particularly at a club like ours where we’ve got big competition for places.
“But it’s important that the coaches keep the players sharp, which they have done. “Really take these development games seriously because they are a big part of a young player’s development.
“And when they get their opportunity in the first team, if you’ve been doing the games at tempo and doing it right it gives them every chance to come in and fit in.
“Lacey is someone who is highly thought of at the club, he’s just not had too many opportunities.
“But if he gets it, it’s important that he takes it like all the players. Whoever gets an opportunity it’s the next opportunity for them to impress and it’s the next opportunity for us to progress in the cup.”
Full-back Taylor has returned from his loan spell at Tamworth, but won’t be able to play a part.
Buckle said: “Taylor’s come back today. Taylor’s back with us. He can’t play tomorrow because he is cup-tied.”
Meanwhile, creative midfielder Watkins is back in the mix and Buckle is looking for him to get back to his best.
He said: “Watkins I’m delighted with. Watkins wanted to go out and play some football.
“I had a chat with him saying, you know, sort of stick around for a bit. We don’t want you to go out on loan, we want you to be in and around it.
“And when you get your opportunity you’ve got to take it. He’s got some fierce competition in there.
“We’ve got some good midfield players at the club, but Adam’s looked good and the one thing I’ve been pushing with him is let’s try and get him back to his best.
“And his best is really when he doesn’t think too much about the game, when he does things off the cuff and he’s explosive in his running and he gets in the 18-yard box.
“He’s looked very good in the last couple of days training, he’s looked back to his old self so I wouldn’t be afraid to put him in now.
“He is a threat, I think he was on a really good run at the club. Sometimes as a younger player you have a little bit of a dip.
“But I certainly feel now he’s coming back to somewhere near where he needs to be. I’m pleased to see that with so many games coming up.”
Keeper Mark Tyler put in a stellar performance to see the Hatters through at the weekend, but Brill also comes back into the equation.
“Dean comes into it in terms of games as well,” continued Buckle. “You have these reserve games and these development games to keep everybody’s eye in and keep them sharp because you never know when you’re going to need the squad.
“It is a balancing act. Dean has proved already he’s more than capable of playing in our first team.
“Whether I decide to go with Mark, or with Dean I don’t see there being too much difference in the goalkeepers there, I really don’t.
“Mark was fantastic in the latter part of the game on Saturday, and when called upon, but like I joked with him this morning, he’s not had much to do this season, so it will do him good to make a couple of saves.
“Again when you’ve not touched the ball hardly, he’s just kicked the ball for up to 60 minutes and then all of sudden he’s called upon, so it shows the concentration levels that are needed and required from the back four and the goalkeeper and his saves were great, they were important, but he’s an important part of what we are doing.
“He knows the club inside out, he’s desperate for success at the club and he’s shown that in his game in the latter stages on Saturday.”
Buckle though is pleased with the way his whole squad is performing at the moment and knows he will need them all in the coming weeks and months.
He added: “I’m really pleased with the players at the moment, they’re in a really good place, the team spirit is great and just watching training this morning with Carl (Emberson) and Alan (Neilson) who took the training, they were looking in really good spirits and up for the game tomorrow night now.
“I’ve just got an email off of Kevan (Platt, secretary), telling me the fixture update, which I’ve just left for now, I was enjoying my morning before that came through. We’ve got games coming through now thick and fast leading up to Christmas, and very important games.
“But the key for us now is to concentrate on the next one, which is tomorrow night against Dorchester in the Trophy and it’s a game we want to win.”