PREVIEW: Coventry City v Luton Town

James Collins scores the late equaliser at Coventry last season
James Collins scores the late equaliser at Coventry last season

The manager of the month curse has hit Coventry City in pretty spectacular fashion after boss Mark Robins picked up the award for October.

A run of five league wins in a row, that after losing to Portsmouth in the opening game saw Robins pip Nathan Jones to the gong, as things were looking rosy on the pitch at the Ricoh Arena.

However, he might be wishing he hadn’t received the honour, as since then, the Sky Blues have been on the slide, and a pretty dramatic one that.

They began November with a 1-1 draw at home to Accrington, before going out of the FA Cup 3-2 at Walsall.

A 2-0 defeat at Cheltenham in the Checkatrade Trophy followed, while they also went down 1-0 at Burton Albion.

City did pick up a point by drawing 1-1 with Peterborough on home soil, but they lost 3-0 at Fleetwood.

December hasn’t started any different for Robins’ men either as although leading 1-0 at Walsall last weekend going into the final minute, they somehow conceded twice in stoppage time to lose 2-1 to their near neighbours.

That puts the their winless run to seven games in all competitions, while taking just two points from 15 in the league has seen City tumble away from play-off contention, now sitting in 11th place, six points adrift of Barnsley in sixth.

Although on the poor run, the Sky Blues have proved difficult to break down in front of their own fans, possessing the second best defensive record in the league, conceding just eight in their 10 matches, a stat bettered only by Barnsley.

However, celebrations have been scarce, with Coventry scoring just nine, managing two in a game once, making it the second worst record, with only bottom side Bradford netting less, as they have struggled to replace last term’s top scorer Marc McNulty, who headed to Reading in the summer.

Midfielder Tom Baylis is retaining confidence his side can get back on track this weekend though telling the club’s official website: “Luton are second and it’s always a tough game, but we will be after the three points.

“We’ve been working on trying to bury teams, we’re creating chances so hopefully we will be able to do it this weekend.”

Off the field, the much publicised worries show no signs for ending, with real questions marks raised as to whether Coventry will survive as a club beyond this season.

With the Ricoh Stadium’s owners Wasps RFC stating they will not discuss a new rental agreement until the club’s owners, Sisu, end their legal action against them, the Sky Blues have been told by the English Football League that they will not be able to play outside the city if they fail to reach a new deal.

Chief executive Dave Boddy admitted the club’s future in the Football League is ‘severely at risk’ if they cannot reach an agreement to stay beyond the end of the season when the current deal runs out.

In an open letter to fans recently on their official website, the club said: “The club believes that it is vital to engage all parties – regardless of whether they are public or private organisations – in order to come to a positive resolution.

“If the current position is not resolved and the football club has no stadium to fulfil its fixtures then the outcome will be inevitable and the impact on the local community of the loss of the football club will be devastating.”

Meanwhile, Coventry’s game at the weekend will be their first ever Jimmy Hill Day.

The event will be held each year on the home game closest to the day that Jimmy, who was manager, managing director and chairman of the Sky Blues, sadly passed away in December 2015.

There will be tributes on the day, as well as fundraising activities for the Jimmy Hill Legacy Fund, and stars of the 1960’s will be in attendance too.

Team news: Luton have virtually a clean bill of health for the match, as Alan McCormack is back in training, with only Jack Senior and Jack James missing.

Coventry attacker Max Biamou is out after suffering an ACL injury against Blackpool in August, while they recently recalled Reise Allassani from his loan spell at Ebbsfleet United.

The club also confirmed today that Jodi Jones will be out for year after suffering a second ACL injury.

Top scorers: Hatters – Elliot Lee (10). Sky Blues – Jonson Clarke-Harris, Jordy Hiwula, Connor Chaplin (4).

Man in the middle: Charles Breakspear. Has taken 24 games this season, showing nine red cards in that time already, including three in the Crawley v Swindon clash back in August.

Brandished 88 yellows too at an average of just under four a game, although hasn’t sent anyone off in his last seven matches.

Taken Luton once, the 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland in August, while one of his three Hatters matches last term was this fixture back in March.

The Surrey official also had the 1-1 draw with Notts County and 1-0 win over Chesterfield, sending off midfielder Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu.

Refereed Luton three times in the 2016-17 campaign, the 4-0 Checkatrade Trophy victory over Chesterfield at Kenilworth Road and both games with Newport County, dismissing Johnny Mullins in the 2-1 home win, awarding a last minute penalty for the Hatters to win it.

Also sent off Exiles defender Mark O’Brien as Luton were held to a 1-1 draw in Wales later in the campaign too.

Officiated Luton twice in the 2015-16 season, a 1-0 win at Leyton Orient and then home to Dagenham, while had the 2-2 draw with York in February 2015, showing red cards to both Jake Hyde and Steven McNulty.

Luton are yet to lose with Breakspear in charge as his only other match was a 2-2 draw at Cambridge in March 2013, when both sides were in the Blue Square Bet Premier.

Referees assistants are Craig Taylor and Simon Shaw, with the fourth official James Mainwaring.

In charge: Mark Robins – 48-year-old, who had an excellent career as a striker during his playing days.

Came through the ranks at Manchester United and is widely regarded as the player who saved Alex Ferguson’s job, when scoring the winner in a 1-0 FA Cup win at Nottingham Forest in 1990.

Left the Red Devils for Norwich City for a fee of £800,000, before spells at Leicester City, FC Copenhagen, Reading, Ourense, Panionios, Manchester City, Walsall, Rotherham United, Bristol City, Sheffield Wednesday and Burton Albion.

Joined Rotherham in 2000, becoming assistant manager and was caretaker boss in February 2007, given the reins permanently in April.

Appointed Barnsley chief in September 2009, although resigned at the end of the 2010–11 season, named Coventry manager in September 2012.

Stayed less than a year, unveiled as Huddersfield boss in February 2013, parting company with the Terriers after the first game of the 2014–15 campaign.

Back in work shortly afterwards though, taking charge at Scunthorpe United in October 2014, where he stayed until being sacked in January 2016.

After 12 months out of work, returned to Coventry in March 6, 2017, leading the club to Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success at Wembley.

Although the club were relegated down to League Two, Robins was back at the home of football with his side in May, as the won promotion vial the play-offs, beating Exeter City.

View from the opposition: Mark Robins talking to the club’s official website - “It will be another tough game, Luton have come up into the league and have adapted really well and they try and play.

“They’re on a good run but for us it’s a chance to take another scalp from a team in the top two.”

Friendly faces: Hatters legend Mick Harford spent a superb six years at Luton after David Pleat signed him from Birmingham for a fee of £250,000 in 1984.

Won two England caps and was part of the famous side who won the League Cup in 1988, scoring in the following year’s final as Town lost 3-1 to Nottingham Forest.

Went to Derby in 450,000 in January 1990, but returned to Kenilworth Road in 1991 for £325,000, despite interest from Manchester United.

Sold to Sunderland for £250,000 in March 1993, with both spells at Luton heralding 92 goals from 217 games.

Joined Coventry for £200,000 in July 1993 but a back injury restricted him to just one appearance, scoring the winning goal against Newcastle United.

Headed to Wimbledon in 1994 for £50,000 before retiring in 1998 and was named Luton manager 11 years later, winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in April 2009, leaving in October 2009 with the club in the Conference.

Returned once more as chief recruitment officer in January 2016 and his scouting was one of the big reasons that Luton have signed players such as Isaac Vassell and Aaron Jarvis.

Played for both: Paul Telfer – came through the ranks at Luton as he went on to make 165 appearances for the Hatters, scoring 22 goals.

Signed for Coventry under Ron Atkinson in the summer of 1995, going on to play well over 150 times for the Sky Blues.

Headed to Southampton in October 2001 and then north of the border to Celtic in 2005, before spells with Bournemouth, Leeds United, Slough Town and Sutton United before retiring.

Went to North American Soccer league side Indy Eleven under former Hatter Juergen Sommer in May 2014 although left in June 2015.

One to watch: Conor Chaplin - the 21-year-old midfielder is one of City’s main goal threats this season.

Started his career at Portsmouth, scoring 22 goals in 104 league games, before moving to City on loan until January this summer, when the transfer should become permanent.

Off the mark in his second game as Coventry won 2-1 at Oxford and has bagged four in total from his 15 league games to date.

We’ve got form: Luton have quite frankly an atrocious record at Coventry during their history.

After the matches started in the Southern League back in 1909, it took 11 years for a first win, 1-0 through Sid Hoar in the FA Cup during 1920, with heavy 5-2 and 6-2 defeats suffered.

Normal service resumed in the league afterwards though, as including a 5-1 defeat, it took until 1930 for the Hatters to claim the points with Andy Rennie getting both in a 2-1 triumph.

They then had to wait 57 years and 19 games until their next win though, Brian Stein scoring the only goal in a 1-0 Division One triumph in 1987.

Any thoughts that would lead to an upturn in form were swiftly forgotten by another seven straight defeats, scoring just once, losing 5-0 in 1991, the losing sequence ended only by a 2-2 draw last season.

In fact when Scott Cuthbert netted the first in the 2-2 draw, it ended a run of over 25 years since Luton had even scored, Graham Rodger netting in a 2-1 defeat in 1991

It makes the overall reading pretty grim as from 38 games, Luton have won just three, drawn eight and lost a whopping 27, scoring 34 goals, drawing a blank on 16 visits, while conceding a hefty 87.

Last time out: Luton trailed 2-0 at the break after Peter Vinceti (3) and Marc McNulty (45) put the hosts on course for what was seemingly a comfortable win.

However, Scott Cuthbert pulled one back just 10 minutes into the second period, then City fan James Collins netted with two minute to go as Luton snatched a point.

Luton: Marek Stech, Jack Stacey, Dan Potts, Scott Cuthbert, Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea (Luke Gambin 66), Luke Berry, Flynn Downes, Harry Cornick (Elliot Lee 66), Danny Hylton, James Collins.

Subs not used: James Shea, James Justin, Johnny Mullins, Olly Lee, Jake Jervis.

Referee: Charles Breakspear.

Attendance: 8,863.