PREVIEW: Fulham v Luton Town

Fulham's Craven Cottage ground
Fulham's Craven Cottage ground

Fulham looked like they were going to prove the bookmakers right after being made one of the favourites to reach the Premier League this season.

After dropping out of the top flight last term, the Cottagers started their re-ascent attempt with a defeat to Barnsley on the opening day, but then won three matches in a row, beating Blackburn, Huddersfield and then Millwall, scoring eight goals and conceding one.

However, Scott Parker's side then hit the skids somewhat, as a home defeat to Nottingham Forest, was followed by three draws in a row, held by Cardiff, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield Wednesday.

They did recover to beat Wigan and then hammered Reading 4-1 on the road at the start of October, before once again dropping points in their last two matches, held 2-2 by Charlton and losing to Stoke.

Fulham still have a squad brimming with players that most Championship clubs could only dream of affording though, Tom Cairney staying, plus Alexsander Mitrovic and Alfie Mawson too.

They did lose Ryan Sessegnon to Spurs for £25m, plus Ryan Babel, who joined Galatasaray, while Harvey Elliot (Liverpool), Mattias Kait (Domzale), Rui Fonte (Braga). Floyd Ayite (Genclerbirligi), lazar Markovic (Partizan) and Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson (Aarhus) all departed too.

Parker was able to look to the loan market for some stellar signings, with Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Harrison Reed (Southampton), Anthony Knockaert (Brighton), Bobby Reid (Cardiff) and Ivan Cavaleiro (Wolves) all coming on board.

Team news: Luton have a doubt over on-loan Chelsea midfielder Izzy Brown, but James Bree should be fit, leaving just Glen Rea and Danny Hylton as the absentees.

For the Cottagers, midfielder Stefan Johansen should be available after sitting out the defeat at Stoke City.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (5). Cottagers: Alexsander Mitrovic (8).

Man in the middle: John Brooks – been a quick rise for the official, who was in the Conference back in the 2015-16 season.

Has refereed 10 games this term, with 36 yellows and no reds so far.

Took the Hatters' 0-0 draw against Barnsley in League One last season, a campaign in he produced 156 yellows in 40 matches, plus five reds

The year before, had the whistle for Luton's 1-1 League Two draw at Cambridge, sending off James Collins for two bookings.

Also officiated Town's 3-0 win over Hartlepool in February 2017.

Assistant referees are Darren Blunden and James Mainwaring, with the fourth official Lee Swabey.

In charge: Scott Parker – 39-year-old who is in his first managerial role after having a highly successful playing career.

Started out at Charlton, before a £10m move to Chelsea in January 2004, then joining Newcastle United for £6.5m in July 2005 where he was made captain.

Headed to West Ham in 2007 for £7m, and was named FWA Footballer of the Year before spells at Spurs in August 2011 (£5.5m) and Fulham in August 2013 (undisclosed fee), whom he played over 100 games for, retiring at the end of the 2016–17 season, after winning 18 England caps too.

After hanging his boots up, Parker returned to Tottenham, coaching their U18 squad, as well as being announced as a club ambassador.

In July 2018, Parker left Tottenham to become first team coach at Fulham, while was appointed as the caretaker manager in February 2019, succeeding Claudio Ranieri.

Although the Cottagers were relegated, Parker signed a permanent two year deal in May.

View from the opposition: Boss Scott Parker - “We defended poorly and weren’t clinical enough when we had our moments (against Stoke City).

“We’ve got Luton on Wednesday, which a big game for us, and then Middlesbrough. So we go again.”

One to watch: Alexsander Mitrovic - Serbian striker who began with Partizan, then heading to Anderlecht for £4m in August 2013, having a prolific two seasons.

Headed to the Premier League and Newcastle in July 2015 for a fee of £14.5m, scoring 14 league goals in 65 games.

Went to Fulham on loan, netting 12 in 17 games in the Champ, spearheading their promotion charge, when he then joined permanently for £22m.

Scored 11 goals as the Cottagers went down last term, but has started with a bang this year, notching in five league games in a row as he has 13 in 15 matches this season, eight in the Championship and five for his country.

Friendly faces: Town midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe signed for the Cottagers in January 2014 from Manchester United.

Played 66 times for Fulham over three years, scoring twice but had loan spells at Wigan (twice) and Blackburn during his time at Craven Cottage.

Moved to Millwall on a free in July 2017 and then Luton last summer.

Fulham defender Alfie Mawson played 45 minutes on loan for the Hatters during Town's spell in the Conference, featuring in the first half of the 5-0 win at Alfreton back in December 2013, after joining on loan from Brentford.

Injury then saw him unable to win his place back, as he went to Welling, and then Wycombe where he really caught the eye.

From there, Swansea signed him for £5m, before Fulham paid £20m in August 2018 for his services, where he has played 28 times so far.

Played for both: Malcolm Macdonald – legendary striker who started out with Barnet, before Bobby Robson paid £1,000 to sign him for Fulham in 1968.

Moved to Kenilworth Road a year later, where he scored 58 goals in 101 outings for the Hatters.

Snapped up by Newcastle United for £180,000 in the summer of 1971, where he went on to make his name a real crowd favourite with the Magpies.

We've got form: Bizarrely, Town's recent record at Craven Cottage has been excellent, not tasting defeat for over 40 years, since a 1-0 Division Two reverse in December 1978.

Since then, Luton have visited on six occasions, with three wins and three draws, although before then, it was completely different story.

It had taken the Hatters until the 23rd time of asking to enjoy that winning feeling, after games started with an FA Cup clash in 1903.

They had lost 17 and drawn five of their 22 visits, failing to score in six of their first seven trips, before Malcolm Macdonald's goal settled a Divison Three clash in 1970.

In total, Hatters have won six, drawn eight and lost 22 of their 36 games, scoring 34 goals and conceding 70.

Last time out: Luton held Fulham to a 2-2 draw in their last trip to Craven Cottage, an FA Cup third round clash in December 1999.

Town led through Liam George on six minutes, before Geoff Horsfield (11) and Sean Davis (14) put the hosts 2-1 in front.

Matthew Spring levelled with eight to go forcing a replay which Town lost 3-0 at Kenilworth Road.

Hatters: Nathan Abbey, Stuart Fraser, Efe Sodje, Marvin Johnson, Gary Doherty, Julian Watts, Adam Locke, Matthew Spring, Matthew Taylor, Stuart Douglas, Liam George.

Subs not used: Daniel Tate, Emmerson Boyce, James Ayres, Andre Scarlett, Jerry Moses.

Referee: G Frankland.

Attendance: 8,251.