PREVIEW: Luton Town v Nottingham Forest

Luton are back at home this weekend
Luton are back at home this weekend

Back-to-back defeats for Nottingham Forest has highlighted even further just how competitive the Championship is this season.

Everything had looked rosy for Sabri Lamouchi's side after a 1-0 win over Brentford saw them second in the table, as they made it 10 league matches without defeat since an opening day 2-1 reverse to WBA.

They had won four out of five as well including triumphs at Stoke City and Swansea before going down to an unexpected 1-0 reverse at Wigan after the international break.

That was then followed by another surprising result, the Reds beaten 2-1 at the City Ground by Hull City.

With their home clash against Reading postponed due to a waterlogged pitch last Saturday, it means Forest have now tumbled eight places in the blink of eye, sitting 10th in the table.

It's far too early to get worried if you're of a Forest persuasion though, as a win at Kenilworth Road could see them back into the automatic promotion places, while they do now have that game in hand too.

During the summer, there was an almost record breaking turnaround in managers at the club, with Martin O'Neill sacked on June 28 and replaced just 18 minutes later by former France international Lamouchi

He was able to shape the squad in the manner he wanted to, making seven permanent signings, with five of them coming from aboard, Tiago Silva (Feirense), Yuri Ribeiro (Benfica), Samba Sow (Dinamo Moscow), Brice Samba (Caen) and Chema (Levante) all arriving for undisclosed fees.

He did raid these shores for Arsenal's Carl Jenkinson and Aston Villa's Albert Adomah, while managed get some big hitters off the budget too, including Arvin Appiah to Almeria for £8m.

Another four were snapped on loan, Arijanet Muric (Manchester) City, the mecurial John Bostock (Toulouse), Alfa Semedo (Benfica) and Rafa Mir (Wolves), although none of the quartet have fully forced their way in as first choice yet.

Team news: Luton have only striker Danny Hylton on the injured list, as he won't be back from his knee problem after the international break.

Forest have a number out, including Tendayi Darikwa (anterior cruciate ligament), Yohan Benalouane (hip) and Michael Dawson (hamstring), while Alfa Semedo, Samba Sow and Carl Jenkinson aren't expected to feature either.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins, Harry Cornick (5). Forest: Lewis Grabban (5).

Man in the middle: Gavin Ward - will be his second Luton game of the season, having refereed Town in their 2-1 win at Blackburn in September.

Taken nine games this season, already showing 31 yellow cards and three reds in that time.

Last season, he sent off Town's Andrew Shinnie in the 3-1 defeat at Charlton, while also took the opening day game at Portsmouth as well.

Has officiate plenty of Hatters matches over the years, including the 8-2 win over Yeovil, 5-0 triumph at Swindon and 2-1 win at AFC Wimbledon in the Checkatrade Trophy during the 2017-18 campaign.

Robert Hyde and Adam Crysell are the assistant referees, with Nigel Lugg the fourth official.

In charge: Sabri Lamouchi - started his professional career with Alès in France, while also played for Auxerre, Monaco, Parma and Inter Milan.

Spent time with Genoa, Marseille, Al-Rayyan in the Qatar Stars League, Umm-Salal and Al-Kharitiyath.

Earned 12 caps for France, before on retiring, became manager of the Ivory Coast national team in May 2012, managing the Elephants in the 2014 World Cup.

Took over at French side Rennes in November 2017, leaving in December 2018, before named head coach of Nottingham Forest in June 2019, winning the Manager of the Month award in September.

View from the opposition: Boss Sabri Lamouchi talking to the club's official website: “It will not be an easy game at all, of course.

"Luton are not easy to play against away; they won against Bristol City 3-0 and they have made some great performances.

“But we need to focus on ourselves, go there and try and disturb them and put in a good performance.

"We need to be compact, aggressive and show our personality. With this, it will be difficult for them to win.

“We have Luton and Derby before the international break and we need to focus on these. It is not quite like two finals, but they are two important games for us.

“Every game is a new story, of course Wigan and Hull were two wrong results so now we need to focus on us and to start the game with more determination.

One to watch: Lewis Grabban - 31-year-old striker who has been a regular on the scoresheet throughout his career.

Started at Crystal Palace, he was signed by Millwall for £150,000 in January 2008.

Left the Lions for Rotherham, having a decent season with the Millers, as Bournemouth snapped him up for £300,000 in May 2012.

Impressed for the Cherries with 35 goals in 86 league games, going to Norwich in June 2014 and then back to Dean Court for £7m in January 2016.

Didn't find the net in his second spell, but did have prolific loan stints with Reading, Sunderland and Aston Villa, before Forest paid £6m for his services in June 2018.

Proved a good move as he has netted 22 times in 54 matches, including five already this term.

Friendly faces: Town head of recruitment Mick Harford moved from his role as director of football at Kenilworth Road to become Joe Kinnear's assistant at the City Ground in November 2004.

When Kinnear left a few weeks later, Harford was named caretaker manager for a month, leaving once Gary Megson was appointed in January 2005.

Played for both: Garry Parker - came through the ranks at Kenilworth Road, making his debut aged 17 against Manchester United in May 1983.

Played in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Everton in 1985 as a 19-year-old, before moving to Second Division Hull City, managed by his former Luton captain Brian Horton, the following season, after 54 games and four goals for Town.

Signed by Forest manager Brian Clough for £260,000 in March 1988, he went on to win two League Cups, one when beating the Hatters 3-1, plus the Simod Cup too, reaching the FA Cup final in 1991, losing out to Tottenham.

Left the City Ground after 1991, heading to Aston Villa for £650,000 and then Leicester City in 1995, winning the League Cup for the third time in 1997.

Played for England at U21 and B level, had his last game for the Foxes on January 30, 1999 at Middlesbrough.

Was appointed first team coach at Celtic by former Leicester team-mate Neil Lennon in July 2010, moving to Bolton Wanderers with the manager in October 2014.

Appointed assistant coach under Lennon at Hibernian in June 2016, leaving in January this year and headed to Oxford United as a performance analyst in August.

We've got form: Luton have definitely had the better of things since Nottingham Forest first visited Kenilworth Road for a 2-2 Division Two in April 1938.

Town were unbeaten in the first seven fixtures, until a 1-0 defeat in 1953, before going on a four game winning run, including a 5-1 triumph that saw Allan Brown score four times.

A 2-2 draw in 1974 started a run of seven games without a win for Luton, until Mark Stein (2), Steve Foster and Brian Stein netted in a 4-3 Division One win in 1986.

Since then, Town have had the upper hand once more, losing just twice in their last eight meetings, winning the last two as they are unbeaten since a 2-1 reverse in 1993, some 25 years ago.

In total, the two sides have met 30 times at Kenilworth Road, Hatters winning 15, Forest seven, with the other eight draws, Town scoring 57, only shut out twice in that time, conceding 41.

Last time out: Calvin Andrew scored a 54th minute winner for the Hatters as they beat Forest 1-0 in the FA Cup second round back in December 2007.

That set up a third round tie against the mighty Liverpool, as Luton drew 1-1 at home, beaten 5-0 in the replay at Anfield.

Hatters: Dean Brill, Richard Jackson, Janoslaw Fojut, Chris Coyne, Chris Perry, Matthew Spring, Steve Robinson, Dave Edwards, David Bell (A Grant 81), Calvin Andrew, Darren Currie.

Subs not used: Alan Goodall, Drew Talbot, Keith Keane, Paul McVeigh.

Referee: Scott Mathieson.

Attendance: 5,758.