Hartlepool’s superb start to the season is slowly starting to unravel due to a shocking run of form recently.
After somehow beating the odds to survive the drop last year, putting together a magnificent run of five wins, three draws and three defeats in their final 11 games to avoid relegation by four points, Ronnie Moore’s side clearly took that feel-good factor into the current campaign.
They began in terrific form, opening up with four wins from four, including a 1-0 win at Fleetwood in the Capital One Cup.
However, a 2-0 defeat at Stevenage started the rot which then saw Pools exit both cup competitions, hammered 4-0 at home by Premier League Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup, although they were unfortunate with a penalty shoot out exit in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to Sheffield United.
However, it’s the league form that has been the main concern as Moore’s side had lost four in a row before managing to draw 0-0 with Cambridge and then enjoying a 2-1 success at struggling Yeovil.
But they were soon brought back to earth with a bump at home to Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night, beaten 3-0, with Moore blasting the performance afterwards.
Speaking to the Hartlepool Mail, he said: “We’ve not manned up as individuals, as a team. We can’t be having performances like that, it’s as bad (a performance) as I’ve been at the club.
“If we defend like we did – no guts, no organisation then you lose games, no doubt.”
As expected, Moore made some alterations to his squad in the summer. bringing in the experienced Billy Paynter to lead the attack, plus Adam Bartlett and Carl Magnay.
Trevor Carson was signed to replace Ross Flinders in goal, with Mansfield striker Rakish Bingham joining too.
Middlesbrough right back Brad Halliday recently penned a one month loan deal, while Scunthorpe’s Andrew Boyce extended his stay for another month, but 33-year-old defender Stuart Parnaby was forced to call time on his career due to injury.
Moore is still looking to bring players in, possibly ahead of this weekend’s clash, as he added: “The squad is better than last season’s, but one or two of them at the moment are not performing to their capabilities.
“One or two haven’t shown their true colours, but how long do you wait?
“I’ve tried again all day yesterday to get players in, made phone calls everywhere.
“We are after a winger with pace who can give us something going forward and a midfielder with box to box energy.”
Team news: Luton will be without Paul Benson (neck), while Stephen O’Donnell is expected to be missing too, with Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and Magnus Okuonghae saved for Tuesday night’s trip to Gillingham.
Scott Cuthbert should be okay after picking up cramp at Morecambe, with Luton having no fresh injury concerns.
For Hartlepool, Rakish Bingham has returned to training after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury and midfielder Michael Woods is available after suspension.
Jordan Richards (back) was given the all-clear to resume training this week but won’t feature while there are doubts over Michael Duckworth (hamstring) and Harry Worley (ankle).
Top scorers - Hatters: Cameron McGeehan, Jack Marriott (4). Pools: Billy Paynter (4).
Man in the middle: Richard Clark - official has made 21 bookings in his seven games so far this season and it will be only the second time he has taken Luton, his other the 1-1 draw at Oxford in February earlier this year.
Showed 89 yellows and six reds in 28 games last term while the campaign before that, brandished a hefty 102 yellows and 12 reds.
Gareth Mellor and Wayne Grunnill are the linesmen, with Andrew Miller the fourth official.
In charge: Ronnie Moore - 62-year-old who had a lengthy playing career at teams including Tranmere Rovers, Cardiff City, Charlton Athletic and Rotherham United, starting as a centre-half and then becoming a centre forward.
Retired in 1989 before becoming Southport boss in 1996 and headed to Rotherham United in 1997, guiding them to two successive promotions from Division Three to Division One.
Eventually moved to Oldham Athletic in 2005, before becoming manager of former club Tranmere Rovers one year later.
Went back to Rotherham for a second time in 2009, although returned to Tranmere Rovers for a second time in 2012.
However, in February 2014 he was suspended by the club, after a Football Association investigation into alleged breaches of betting rules, with Moore later admitting breaches of the rules, and was sacked in April 2014.
Appointed Hartlepool boss in December 2014 and saved the club from relegation despite being 10 points adrift at one stage.
View from the opposition: Ronnie Moore talking to the Hartlepool Mail - “There are no easy games, it doesn’t matter who you are playing, you have got to play someone.
“Yes, they are a decent side, they have a good squad, smaller than last year but with better players. I’ve said openly they will be a top three side.”
One to watch: Billy Paynter - Experienced striker joined Hartlepool in the summer after a disappointing time with Carlisle.
Netted just twice in 21 appearances while at Brunton Park, but was up and running immediately for his new club, scoring in his first three matches.
Added a fourth in the 3-2 defeat to Carlisle, but has only notched once in the last eight games.
Friendly faces: Centre half Harry Worley spent two months at Kenilworth Road in the 2008-09 season after joining on loan from Leicester, playing 10 times in total.
Since then, the 26-year-old has had spells at Crewe, Oxford, Newport County and Stevenage before signing for Pools in the summer, playing five times so far.
Hatters goalkeeping coach Kevin Dearden had a loan spell at Victoria Park back in 1989 when at Spurs, as he featured 10 times for the club.
Played for both: Striker Steve Howard started his career at Hartlepool, before moving to Northampton and then joining Hatters for a fee of £50,000.
Turned out to be one of the best buys the club has made in recent times, achieving legendary status by scoring over 100 goals, before heading to Derby County for £1m.
Did return to Victoria Park in the 2012-13 season before ending his career with Sheffield Wednesday.
We’ve got form: Hatters have enjoyed a decent record at Victoria Park in recent years, recording four wins and just two defeats from their last six meetings since the 2-1 FA Cup win in 1988 with goals from Micky Weir and Darron McDonough.
Before that though, a run of four straight defeats makes Hatters’ overall record four wins and six defeats from their 10 visits, scoring 14 times and conceding 20.
Last time out: Luton enjoyed an excellent 2-1 win at Hartlepool last season as the visitors went ahead when Mark Cullen netted from Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu’s pass moments before half time.
Jim Stevenson made it 2-0 in the second period before Neil Austin converted a last minute consolation penalty.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Luke Wilkinson, Steve McNulty, Jonathan Smith, Nathan Doyle, Andy Drury, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Jim Stevenson 80), Mark Cullen (Paul Benson 71), Ricky Miller (Luke Guttridge 89).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Lacey, Alex Wall, Charlie Walker.
Referee: Paul Tierney.