PREVIEW: Luton Town v Coventry City

Hatters host Doncaster this weekend
Hatters host Doncaster this weekend

Matters off the field are taking centre stage at Coventry once more with real worries the club could be expelled from the Football League unless they can provide more clarity over where they will play home games next season.

The Sky Blues’ rental agreement at the Ricoh Arena, boughy by Wasps in 2014, runs out in the summer, with City’s owners Sisu in a legal battle with the Premiership rugby union club over the sale.

The two clubs remain at loggerheads over agreeing a new tenancy after Sisu saw their call for a judicial review into the 2014 sale of the Ricoh Arena rejected in October.

London-based hedge fund Sisu claimed Coventry City Council undervalued the stadium by £27m, stating their intention to appeal in November.

Wasps have previously stated they will not discuss a new tenancy while legal proceedings continue, meaning this week, the EFL board requested Coventry provide more details by March 5 over their intentions for next season.

A Sky Blues statement said: “The football club wants to do a deal with Wasps Rugby Club as soon as possible, to resolve this impasse.”

Former Luton and Coventry striker Paul Furlong in action the Hatters - pic: Getty Images

Former Luton and Coventry striker Paul Furlong in action the Hatters - pic: Getty Images

However, the EFL board has informed Coventry that unless a satisfactory solution can be found within the next two months, it will need to call an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on April 25 of all 72 clubs to consider City’s expulsion from the league and any future membership.

The City statement continued: “These dates show how stark the situation facing the football club now is and that time is running out.”

Looking at matters on the pitch, Coventry have got over another mini slump recently, when they lost three out of four matches, also drawing at home to AFC Wimbledon, with back-to-back wins.

Rochdale were defeated 1-0 on the road, with Walsall then seen off 3-0 last weekend, to earn Mark Robins’ side their biggest margin of victory this term.

The club were handily placed at one stage until a terrible run of five defeats from seven in the league during November and December, including a 2-1 home reverse to Luton.

They ended that with three straight wins and now sit eight in the table, eight points away from the final play-off berth.

The transfer window saw stalwart Michael Doye depart the Ricoh, along with Abu Ogogo, but Robins did strengthen, winger Charlie Wakefield joining following his release by Premier League Chelsea, as well as Reading’s Republic of Ireland midfielder David Meyler on loan.

Team news: Luton are still without Glen Rea (knee) and on-loan Brighton attacker Aaron Connolly (hamstring), but have no injury concerns over the rest of the squad.

For Coventry, keeper Lee Burge could be fit again, but Jodi Jones and Max Biamou remain out for the long term.

Top scorers: Hatters - James Collins (19). Sky Blues – Jordy Hiwula (8).

Man in the middle: Ross Joyce - Taken 33 games this season, showing 119 yellows and three reds, at an average of over three cautions per match.

One Luton fixture so far, the 3-2 away defeat at Barnsley in October 13, Town’s last defeat in the league, some 20 games ago.

Had Hatters just the once last year, a 2-2 draw at Mansfield, where he controversially awarded a last minute penalty against Scott Cuthbert for handball, which was saved by Marek Stech.

Officiated Luton once in the 2015-16 season, sending off Ryan Hall in a 2-1 home defeat to Plymouth.

Refereed Town a fair bit in their Conference days, eight times in total, with the Hatters unbeaten, winning three and drawing five.

Assistant referees are Joe Clark and Anthony Da Costa, with the fourth official Andy Woolmer.

In charge: Mark Robins – 49-year-old, who had a fine career as a striker.

Came through the ranks at Manchester United, leaving the Red Devils to join 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 during his spell with the Millers and caretaker boss in Match 2007, given the reins permanently in April.

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

Became Coventry manager in September 2012, staying less than a year, as he was unveiled as Huddersfield boss in February 2013, parting company with the Terriers after the first game of the 2014–15 season.

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

After 12 months out of work, returned to Coventry on March 6, 2017, and will complete two years at the helm next month.

View from the opposition: Mark Robins - “When we played them in the home game, it was evident they work really well out of possession as well as in it. They’ll throw bodies forward and make it difficult.

“It’s a game we can relish and look forward to against a team who are on an unbeaten run.

“When you watch Luton you can’t help but admire what they’re doing.

“I look back at Bournemouth when they got promoted to the Premier League, they have a similar look to them.

“Mick (Harford) knows his way around the game especially at Luton, the players know what they were doing, they’ve had nearly two seasons together and last season they were a worthy team to go up.”

Friendly faces: Hatters manager Mick Harford was with Luton as a player between 1984-90, heading to Derby, back to Kenilworth Road, Chelsea and Sunderland, then joining Coventry in July 1993, snapped up for £200,00 from Wearside.

Despite being at the club for 13 months, Harford only made one league appearance as a substitute against Newcastle, scoring the winning goal.

Headed to Wimbledon for £50,000 in August 1994 where he eventually finished his playing career becoming Town chief recruitment officer in January 2016 and now manager until the end of the season after Nathan Jones left.

Played for both: Paul Furlong – Striker started his career with Enfield before a £130,000 move to Coventry in July 1991.

Scored five goals in 44 matches for the Sky Blues, before prolific stints with Watford, Chelsea and Birmingham, moving for fees totalling over £4m.

Loan moves to QPR and Sheffield United followed, before he then headed to Luton a free in the August 2007, scoring 12 goals in 39 games.

Left the following August, going to Southend, Barnet, Kettering and also St Albans before his retirement.

One to watch: Jordy Hiwula – 24-year-old striker who started his career at Manchester City, but left without playing after loans at Yeovil and Walsall.

Joined Huddersfield in July 2015, with temporary stays at Wigan, Walsall, Bradford and Fleetwood before heading to Coventry in the summer.

Had a slow start as he took eight games to get off the mark, but then netted four in five games.

Another barren run of seven matches followed, as he scored in successive wins over Charlton and Southend.

When six games without scoring, but is now back in the goals with two in two, up to eight for the season.

We’ve got form: Luton haven’t had it their own way against Coventry in their past 42 meetings at Kenilworth Road.

Although Hatters have won 21 times, they have lost 14 with the other seven finishing all square, scoring 84 times and conceding 62.

The hosts started off in fine style with a 6-1 victory during a Southern League encounter in 1908.

They did endure five straight defeats between September 1963 and December 1984,ending with a 2-0 Division One win goals from Brian Stein and Ray Daniel scored.

Last time out: Luton were defeated 3-0 when the Sky Blues visited Kenilworth Road last season.

Marc McNulty’s expert header put the visitors in front on 17 minutes, before Glen Rea was dismissed in the closing stages.

That was the cue for City to add two more, through Jordan Shipley’s free kick and Duckens Nazon’s goal.

Hatters: Marek Stech, Jack Stacey, Dan Potts, Johnny Mullins (Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu 58), Scott Cuthbert, Glen Rea, Olly Lee, Luke Berry, Danny Hylton, Harry Cornick (Andrew Shinnie 74), James Collins (Elliot Lee 80).

Subs not used: James Shea, James Justin, Luke Gambin, Lawson D’Ath.

Referee: Robert Jones.

Attendance: 9,670