PREVIEW: Fleetwood Town v Luton Town

Hatters host Doncaster this weekend
Hatters host Doncaster this weekend

Fleetwood are still harbouring aspirations of featuring in the League One play-offs at the end of the season after beginning to hit some form.

The Cod Army, who appointed former Premier League star Joey Barton in the summer, took a while to really get going, with four wins in their opening 12 matches.

Three victories from five followed during November and December, before they rather stalled somewhat over the new year period.

Hammered 5-2 at home by Portsmouth on December 29, Fleetwood went four games without a win, including three draws, also knocked out of the FA Cup on home soil by AFC Wimbledon.

An impressive 3-0 win at the Dons gained revenge for their cup exit though, as although beaten by Scunthorpe, Barton’s men have picked up back-to-back league wins for only the second time this term in their last two outings, seeing off both Charlton and Bradford 1-0 to make it nine points from a possible 12.

That sees them sitting ninth in the table, eight points behind Doncaster in sixth as top scorer Paddy Madden remains hopeful of getting above the dotted line.

He told the Blackpool Gazette, saying: “You are in the wrong game if you do not want to go on, succeed and be in those play-off spots.

“We are eight points off but you do not get too carried away.

“Once you keep racking the points up the teams in the play-off spots start to get a little bit more nervous. You never know what will happen.”

Fleetwood had a fairly busy January transfer window with a host of incomings and departures.

Joining the club was Barry Town United right back Macaulay Southam-Hales for an undisclosed fee, while Stoke City defender Harry Souttar arrived on loan, with Harvey Saunders snapped up from Darlington too.

Barton moved a fair few out though, Conor McAleny (Kilmarnock), Gethin Jones (Mansfield Town), Cian Bolger (Lincoln), Chris Long (Blackpool), Lewis Baines (Stockport), Kyle Dempsey (Peterborough) and Michael O’Donohue (FC United) all leaving.

Team news: Luton have Harry Cornick, Elliot Lee and Kazenga LuaLua back in training, while Luke Berry is due to return this week, making him a slight doubt for the weekend.

Glen Rea is still out for the rest of the campaign with his knee injury.

The Cod Army welcome Wesley Burns into the squad after injury, but are without James Wallace and Eddie Clark.

Milestones: Luton could set a new club record of 20 Football League games without defeat if they get a result at Fleetwood.

The Hatters equalled the sequence of 19 set twice in their history by beating Wycombe 3-0 last weekend.

Striker James Collins is now one goal away making it 20 for the campaign too.

Top scorers: Hatters – James Collins (19). Fleetwood – Paddy Madden (17).

Man in the middle: Peter Bankes - taken 28 games this season from the Championship to League Two, showing 124 yellow cards and four reds.

Dished out seven cautions in his last match, the East Anglia derby between Norwich and Ipswich on Sunday.

His last Luton game was in the 2015-16 season, as the Hatters won 2-0 at Blackpool.

Had Town twice the campaign before as well, home defeats to Portsmouth and Accrington, while officiated a 2-0 defeat at Shrewsbury in August 2014, dismissing Matt Robinson.

Assistant referees are Timothy Wood and Geoffrey Russell, with the fourth official Thomas Bramall.

In charge: Joey Barton – 36-year-old who was never far from making the headlines during his playing days.

Started out at Manchester City, playing over 150 times for the Blues, winning an England cap in February 2007, then joining Newcastle for £5.8m.

Had four years with the Tynesiders, heading to QPR in August 2011 and spent a year on loan with Marseille in 2012.

Headed to Burnley in 2015 and had a brief stint with Rangers north of the border, until he was banned from football after admitting an Football Association charge relating to betting in April 2017.

When that expired, Barton was appointed as manager of Fleetwood in June 2018.

View from the opposition: Joey Barton talking to the club’s official website: “We have 14 games to play, there are lots of points to play for.

“It is one game at a time; we have another game coming up, Luton at home.

“It will be a good test to see how we are progressing but we don’t fear anyone.”

Played for both: Striker Andy Mangan began his career with Blackpool and went to Accrington, Bury, Forest Green Rovers and Wrexham before signing for Fleetwood in June 2011.

Spent two years at Highbury, scoring 24 goals in 59 games until heading back to Rovers in June 2013.

Joined Luton on loan in April 2014 as the Hatters closed in on promotion from the Conference, although didn’t actually make a first team appearance for the club during his time at Kenilworth Road.

Spells followed at Shrewsbury Town, Tranmere, AFC Fylde and Bala Town, before signing for Accrington once more in the summer, making six appearances this season.

One to watch: Ched Evans. Controversial striker has hit some real form recently with six goals in his last 10 games after joining on loan from Sheffield United in the summer.

Started out with Manchester City, as he had spells with Norwich before a big money move to Sheffield United in July 2009, scoring 48 goals for the Blades in 113 games.

Was jailed for two and a half years after being found guilty of rape in April 2012, although his conviction was quashed in April 2016 and he was found not guilty later that year.

Joined Chesterfield in June 2016, while went back to Bramall Lane in May 2017, before moving to Fleetwood.

Started well with five goals in opening six matches of the season, before they dried up, with just two in his next 13 appearances.

Netted the winner against Burton on December 15 though and has been a regular on the scoresheet since.

We’ve got form: Luton have never lost to Fleetwood on their travels, with two wins out of two.

The first came during a Blue Square Bet Premier clash in August 2010, Hatters coming away 3-0 victors courtesy of goals for Matthew Barnes-Homer, Claude Gnakpa and Tom Craddock.

Last time out: Luton picked up the victory needed to make sure of a Conference play-off place during their last visit to Highbury on April 28, 2012.

Against a side including striker Jamie Vardy and former Town defender Steve McNulty, Craig McAllister’s cross was deflected into his own net by Nathan Pond on 17 minutes.

Andre Gray then sealed victory with 20 minutes to go, giving Town boss Paul Buckle a vital three points.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Curtis Osano, George Pilkington, Janos Kovacs, Jake Howells, Keith Keane, Alex Lawless (Greg Taylor 52), John-Paul Kissock, Adam Watkins, Craig McAllister (Robbie Willmott 62), Andrew Gray (Stuart Fleetwood 85)

Subs not used: Lewis Kidd, Shane Blackett.

Attendance: 4,446.

Referee: Stephen Martin.