Harford in confident mood as Luton look for a first win at Preston in almost 50 years

Town's last success at Deepdale came thanks to an Alan Slough winner in 1972

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 8:57 am
Updated Saturday, 20th March 2021, 8:58 am
Hatters assistant Mick Harford with first team coach Paul Hart

Luton will be heading to Preston North End this afternoon in confident mood of picking up a first win at Deepdale since 1972, according to assistant boss Mick Harford.

The Hatters’ goalscorer that day was Alan Slough in a 1-0 Division Two triumph, as since then Town have visited 12 times, losing nine, and are currently on a run of eight straight defeats.

Under Nathan Jones, Luton aren’t adverse to ending such waits for a win though, as in his very first away game back in January 2016, Luton won at Mansfield for the first time in their history, while earlier this month, recorded a first success at Nottingham Forest since 1983.

On the trip to Preston, Harford said: “We obviously look at the opposition, look how they play, look how they set up and Preston over the last two or three games have changed shape quite a few times.

“They have made numerous substitutions and a lot at half time, just trying to find a way to get a result, but we believe we’ll pick the right system and the right shape to counteract them, stop them.

“The last game we played them was a fantastic win (3-0), Collo (James Collins) was amazing, he did great getting his hat-trick and that was buoyed with the fans being in the stadium which was a big help.

“But we’ll set up with a way of trying to win the game, we approach every game trying to win the game.”

Lilywhites boss Alex Neil has seen his side fall away from a play-off push in recent weeks, a run of seven defeats in 11 matches ending any realistic hopes, as they are now 16th, three points below Town.

They have lost nine on home soil too this season, but despite that, Harford knows they are a difficult proposition, continuing: “The’re always a big test.

"I think Preston was the first game when Nathan came back in the nine games to the end of the season, and they played a certain way, really tough to play against, really good senior pros, good professional club who are really hard to play against at certain times.

"They’ve had a few ups and downs of late, but they pose a real threat to any team in the league on their day.”

The hosts will be without captain Alan Browne though who was sent off during the 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough on Tuesday night, which was a boost for the Hatters according to Harford, who said: “Irish international, good player – probably their talisman in midfield, so yes, unfortunately he got sent off and it’s bad news for them but good news for us.

“They’ve got threats from elsewhere.

"I think the manager has been changing the team around trying to find the right formula over the three or four weeks.

"They’ve got good players in certain positions – (Tom) Barkhuizen and (Scott) Sinclair are a big threat in wide areas – so we’ll be wary of their strengths, and obviously their weaknesses.”

While Preston were being beaten at the Riverside, Luton were sending 20 shots at Coventry's way in midweek in a 2-0 win, the second best tally on the day, only behind leaders Norwich, which is something Harford, a striker of some repute in his paying days, was pleased to see.

With Luton having scored just eight times on the road all term and never more than once, he hopes that Town can continue their attacking nature this afternoon, saying: “If you don’t score goals, you don’t win games. If you don’t keep clean sheets, you don’t win games.

“We play a certain way, we believe we get ourselves into great areas of the pitch, and the other night I thought we were excellent.

"We play a more attacking style, getting people into certain positions, getting bodies forward, getting players around the strikers where the second balls and knock-downs are, and basically creating more chances and opportunities in the final third

“We obviously need to score more goals to win games and that’s part of the evolution of going forward.

"In terms of where we want to be, where we want to get to, we want to improve as a coaching staff, as a club and our players, by doing that and by giving them different solutions.

“We have to respect the teams that we’re playing.

"We’re playing, in my opinion, some really good teams in the Championship and we have to set up in certain ways in certain games and I think everyone understands that.”

Meanwhile, Harford also hopes that Town get what they deserve at Deepdale as well, following last weekend;s harsh 1-0 defeat to Swansea in which they fully merited a point at the very least.

He added “We believe some of the performances haven’t warranted some of the points we’ve amassed.

"Swansea was an excellent performance and the other night was an excellent performance.

"I could name a few where the performances have been excellent and have warranted more points than we’ve got.

“When we played Swansea the other day, that normally happens once a season, where you play really well, dominate the ball, create chance after chance but you get done with a sucker punch.

"That normally happens once a season, but we believe it’s happened to us three or four times this season, so it shows where we are.

“We’re growing into the league, its a really tough, hard league.

"To get to 50 points will be massive to us and then hopefully we can kick on.”