PREVIEW: Luton Town v Exeter City

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After play-off heartache last season, Exeter City are becoming increasingly handily placed to make sure they won’t have to go through such disappointment this term.

The Grecians had reached Wembley in May after knocking out Carlisle over two legs, before faced with Blackpool, they lost 2-1 to ensure another season in League Two.

They didn’t appear to be suffering any kind of hangover though, recording seven wins from their opening eight games to become the early season pacesetters, sitting three points clear at the top in mid-September.

A mixed run of results followed though as they won just two from their next eight games, while the inconsistency threatened to derail Exeter’s chances of going automatically, as another sequence of two victories out of nine followed.

A 2-1 home victory over Barnet seemed to have kicked things back into life though, as despite being beaten 2-1 at Newport County and then knocked out of the FA Cup by Premier League West Brom, Exeter have now won three in a row, seeing off Coventry 1-0, triumphing 2-1 at Notts County, before defeating Forest Green 2-0 on Wednesday night.

That has put Paul Tisdale’s side right back into the mix, level on points with third place Notts County and nine off Luton with two games in hand.

The Grecians had a quiet transfer deadline day, although did use the loan market during the month, extending Kyle Edwards and Kane Wilson’s stays at St James’ Park from West Brom.

They did also add Norwich keeper Paul Jones and Spurs striker Ryan Loft to the playing staff, although boss Tisdale admitted to a sense of frustration at not being able to further strengthen his squad.

He told BBC Radio Devon: “We’ve taken the three boys on loan but other than that we’ve missed out on quite a few we’ve tried.

“That’s the way it happens sometimes, but we’ve got a very good squad, and it was only to add something here or there.

“It’s been one of those windows where I’ve looked all over the place, come really close to signing one or two players, but it’s not worked out.

“But I’m philosophical about it because I think we’ve got a really good squad of players.”

Team news: Luton could hand a debut to all three of their new signings, Lloyd Jones, Flynn Downes and Jake Jervis, although there are doubts over Elliot Lee (shoulder) and Johnny Mullins (back).

Danny Hylton is in contention, as is Luke Gambin, while Jordan Cook is available from his suspension, with Alan McCormack and Scott Cuthbert closer from their long-term injuries too.

For Exeter, Ryan Harley is a slight doubt after being withdrawn at half time on Wednesday evening.

Milestones: If fit and selected, Johnny Mullins will make his 50th appearance for the club. The centre half signed in the summer of 2016 from Oxford United and has scored three goals so far.

Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (17). Grecians: Jayden Stockley (15).

Man in the middle: Andy Woolmer - taken just 12 games so far this term, showing 26 yellow cards and two reds.

Last season, had 26 matches, mainly at Championship level, with 58 bookings and one dismissal.

It’s his first Luton fixture since December 2014 when he had the 1-1 draw at Wycombe, also taking the 1-0 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy home defeat to Crawley earlier in the season.

Refereed Luton twice in the 2007-08 League One campaign, the 1-1 home draws with Doncaster and Millwall.

Also officiated Town when they a Championship side, beaten 2-0 at home by Barnsley in 2007 and a 3-3 draw against Cardiff.

Referee’s assistants are Adam Crysell and Michael George, with the fourth official Alan Young.

In charge: Paul Tisdale, 45-year-old, who came through the ranks at Southampton in the 1990s, although only made 16 appearances for the Saints, before spells with Northampton and Huddersfield.

Had stints with Bristol City, Exeter, FinnPa (Finland), Panionios (Greece) and Yeovil, where injury forced him to end his career early.

Took a coaching role with Team Bath in 2000, leaving in 2006, to become Exeter boss, and has stayed at St James’ Park ever since.

Now the second longest-serving manager in English football, only behind Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.

View from the opposition: Exeter boss Paul Tisdale talking to the club’s official website: “They’re top of the table and have been for a while. They have been playing well and must be favourites for the league at the moment, but there is a long way to go.

“We will be confident going into the game and we’ve got nothing to lose really. The Forest Green game was a really important victory for us and Saturday’s game is a bonus.

“We know they’re the top team in the league but I think we should back ourselves to be capable of a result and that’s what we’ll be trying to do.”

One to watch: Jayden Stockley. Striker has become a different player since his loan stint at Kenilworth Road, where he managed just three goals in 13 appearances after joining from Bournemouth in January 2015.

Had a spell at Portsmouth the following campaign, scoring twice in 12 games but it was a loan move to Exeter that really saw him make an impact, with 10 goals in 22 matches in the second half of the 2015-16 campaign.

Moved to Aberdeen on a free, netting six goals in 38 games, as he returned to Exeter at the beginning of this season and is the club’s leading marksman, finding the net 15 times in 28 matches, including eight in his last 11 games.

Friendly faces: Jack Stacey. Full back was loaned to Exeter last season from Reading where he made 38 appearances, scoring once, but what a goal it was, in the final minute of the play-off semi-final against Carlisle to seal a place at Wembley.

Midfielder Lawson D’Ath spent a month on loan at Exeter in the 2012-13 campaign, playing eight times scoring once in a 4-1 win over Bradford.

Meanwhile, Hatters boss Nathan Jones was at Exeter on loan in the 1997-98 season, making six appearances, with one goal.

Grecians striker Jayden Stockley had a three month loan spell at Luton between January 2015 and April 2015, playing 13 times and scoring three goals.

Striker Ryan Brunt is also with Exeter, as he played five times for Luton on loan back in the 2011-12 season after joining from Stoke City.

Has been with Tranmere, Leyton Orient, Bristol Rovers, York, Stevenage and Portsmouth since, before joining Exeter in the summer playing twice, until injury struck once more.

Played for both: Striker Graeme Tomlinson began his career at Bradford City, earning a move to Manchester United in 1994, before a host of loan spells, one which included a stint at Luton Town in the 1996 season.

He played seven times for the Hatters, unfortunately suffering a bad leg break against Port Vale.

Returned to Old Trafford and then headed to Macclesfield in 1998, joining Exeter in June 2000, staying with City for two years, scoring seven times in 63 games until he headed to Stevenage.

Went through the non-league scene in the latter stages of his playing days, appearing for Bedford Town, Stotfold and Dunstable Town.

We’ve got form: Luton have a fine record against Exeter at Kenilworth Road since games started in the Southern League back in 1909.

In total, Hatters have enjoyed 20 successes from their 32 matches, drawing six and losing six, scoring 80 goals and conceding 36.

Luton’s best win was a 6-0 thrashing back in 1923, although the Grecians did humbling their hosts 4-0 just six years later.

The visitors have had the better of recent matches though, with two wins and a draw from the last four meetings.

Last time out: Hatters were held to a 1-1 draw against Exeter in their meeting at Kenilworth Road last season.

The visitors went ahead on 59 minutes when Jake Taylor finished off an incisive move, but Luton equalised eight minutes later as Ollie Palmer crossed for Danny Hylton to head home.

Hatters: Matt Macey, Stephen O’Donnell, Jack Senior, Glen Rea, Alan Sheehan, Jonathan Smith, Jordan Cook (Olly Lee 81), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Luke Gambin (Ollie Palmer 67), Danny Hylton, Jack Marriott (Isaac Vassell 55).

Subs not used: Stuart Moore, James Justin, Akin Famewo, Lawson D’Ath.

Attendance: 7,657.

Referee: Trevor Kettle.