PREVIEW: Luton Town v Barnet

Andre Gray in action for Luton during Barnet's last visit to Kenilworth Road
Andre Gray in action for Luton during Barnet's last visit to Kenilworth Road

Barnet are starting to get to grips with life back in the Football League after recovering from a difficult start to the season.

The Conference winners had found it tough going to begin with after bouncing back from two years in non-league, with just one league win from their opening seven attempts.

September saw the start of a revival with back to back home wins over Stevenage and Dagenham, although that was halted immediately as three successive defeats followed.

But Martin Allen’s side then finally stopped the rot, with a 3-1 win over York, before drawing at Hartlepool and then enjoying a first away win of the season at high-flying Oxford no less.

The Bees went on to defeat Exeter City, while knocking out League One Blackpool in the FA Cup, making it five games without defeat heading into Saturday’s trip to Kenilworth Road.

Boss Allen took some responsibility for his side’s inconsistent beginning to the campaign though as he told the Barnet & Potters Bar Times: “Obviously supporters don’t come to watch paint dry.

“Some of the teams and games I go and watch, it’s the most boring football I’ve ever watched in my life with 4,000 passes and no shots. I don’t buy into that.

“I believe in getting the ball into the box as many times as possible, making it difficult for the opposition, nullifying their attacking threat.

“With our players we play every game to go out to win.

“Perhaps it’s my fault we’ve been too open and too attacking in some of our away games but we’ve all sharpened our game up – including myself – and I wouldn’t image there would be too many teams looking forward to drawing us or coming here to play us.”

Allen was well backed in the summer as he put together a squad to compete back in the Football League with experienced strikers Aaron McLean, Shaun Batt and Kevin Lisbie coming in.

Midfielder Nicky Bailey rejoined recently too after his release from Millwall, while Jamaican goalkeeper Raven Constable also put pen to paper on a permanent deal this week.

Team news: Luton will be without Nathan Doyle and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu who both have ankle injuries, while Stephen O’Donnell is out after his double hernia operation.

Craig Mackail-Smith is unlikely to feature, but both Sean Long and Paddy McCourt could be in contention despite their involvement for the Republic of Ireland U21s and Northern Ireland this evening.

For Barnet, striker Kevin Lisbie remains a doubt, while centre-back Bira Dembele (knee) and goalkeeper Graham Stack (groin) will both miss out once more.

Top scorers - Hatters: Jack Marriott, Cameron McGeehan (7). Bees: Michael Gash (7).

Man in the middle: Darren England. Official has taken 10 games so far, with 46 bookings and four reds, including two dismissals in his last two games.

Handed out 10 cautions in the Accrington v Mansfield game earlier this season too, as the referee was promoted from the Conference last term, where he had 21 games, showing 56 yellows and two reds.

Alan Dale and Matt Eva are the linesmen with Declan Bourne the fourth official.

In charge: Martin Allen - 50-year-old, nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’, who had a long playing career at QPR, West Ham, Portsmouth and Southend, making almost 400 appearances in total, as he was transferred for fees totalling over £1m.

Became assistant to Alan Pardew at Reading, until taking his first job in management at Barnet, then in non-league in 2003.

Opted to leave for Brentford in March 2004 and took over at MK Dons in 2006, before being appointed Leicester City boss in May 2007, but that lasted for just three months, as he was sacked after only four games in charge.

Became Cheltenham manager in September 2008, leaving in December 2009 as he returned to Barnet for his second spell in March 2011, although quickly appointed Notts County boss in April after just three games.

Sacked by the Magpies in February 2012 and headed back to Barnet as caretaker in April, leaving at the end of the season once more.

This time, he went to Gillingham in July, winning League Two manager of the year for the 2012-13 season, but was released in October 2013.

Returned to Barnet for spell number four in March 2014 and led them back into the Football League last season.

View from the opposition: Martin Allen talking to the Barnet & Potters Bar Times: “They (Luton) were very unlucky last year. They had a lot of injuries which knocked their form.

“But we know John’s teams. They are always honest, always hard working and play some good football. I went to watch them at Dagenham & Redbridge and they have some good players.”

One to watch: Michael Gash - 29-year-old striker who has hit form recently, netting seven goals in 12 matches after failing to score in the opening six matches of the season.

Joined Barnet in January from Kidderminster and bagged three goals in 15 matches for the Bees as they won promotion to the Football League.

Prior to that, had spells with a number of clubs, including York and Cambridge, with the Minstermen splashing out £40,000 for his services back in June 2009.

Friendly faces: Hatters boss John Still was appointed manager of Barnet in June 1997 as he led them to the Third Division play-offs.

Named director of football in November 2000, although returned to lead the side in March 2001 as they were relegated to the Conference.

Switched back to his upstairs role once more and left the Bees in May 2002 when he was named assistant boss at Bristol Rovers.

Luton midfielder Olly Lee was signed by Barnet in July 2012, making 13 appearances in total before leaving for Birmingham City.

First team coach Hakan Hayrettin was with Barnet as a player between 1989-1993, while goalkeeper coach Kevin Dearden had a loan spell at Barnet in 1999, playing once.

Bees’ assistant first team coach Gary Waddock spent four years as a player with Luton in 1994-98 making 178 appearances and scoring three goals.

Had been in charge of QPR, Aldershot, Wycombe, Oxford and Portsmouth before heading to Barnet

Played for both: One of Luton’s all-time greats Brian Stein had a marvellous stint at Luton, scoring 154 goals in 496 games as he is the third on the club’s scoring list.

After his second spell with the club in 1992, he then moved to Barnet, netting eight times in 40 games for the Bees.

Goalkeeper Milija Aleksic spent three years with Luton in 1977-79 after joining from Plymouth. He played 92 times before being snapped up by Spurs and then after returning to Kenilworth Road on loan, dropped back into non-league with Barnet during the 1980s.

We’ve got form: Hatters have never lost to Barnet on home soil, or anywhere for that matter, as they won a League Two clash 3-1 in the 2008-09 season.

Paul McVeigh and Chris Martin put Luton 2-0 up inside 15 minutes, before Abu Ogogo pulled one back for the Bees.

Ogogo was then sent off on the stroke of half time as an own goal from Michael Townsend sealed Luton’s win late on.

In total, Hatters have won three and drawn one from their four meetings with Barnet, both home and away.

Last time out: Luton were 2-1 winners over Barnet at Kenilworth Road during the 2013-14 Conference winning season.

In a game that should never have started due to torrential rain, Luton were in front on two minutes through Andre Gray.

Payl Benson made it 2-0 after 31 minutes, while Barnet pulled one back on 71 through Jake Hyde.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Ronnie Henry, Scott Griffiths, Joe Davis, Steve McNulty, Jake Howells, Alex Lawless, Matt Robinson, Luke Guttridge, Paul Benson, Andre Gray.

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alfie Mawson, Shaun Whalley, Alex Wall, Mark Cullen.

Referee: Kevin Johnson.

Attendance: 7,543.