PREVIEW: AFC Wimbledon v Luton Town
October has been a disastrous month for AFC Wimbledon as they have slipped into real danger at the bottom of the table.
The season hadn’t actually started too badly for Neal Ardley’s side as they won 1-0 at Fleetwood on the opening day.
They then picked up a draw with Coventry, knocked Portsmouth out of the Carabao Cup away from home and then held Barnsley to a goalless stalemate at Oakwell.
However, a 3-1 home defeat against Walsall led to four straight losses, which was finally ended by a 1-0 win at Gillingham.
They then lost the next two, before triumphing 2-1 at Oxford, but that was to prove a small ray of sunshine ahead of a nightmare October.
The Dons began by losing 1-0 at home to Bradford, then went down 1-0 at Plymouth Argyle, both sides who are down at the foot of the table with them.
A 2-1 home loss to Portsmouth wasn’t too disrespectful, but Ardley’s men then suffered back-to-back 2-0 away defeats at Blackpool and Bristol Rovers, making it five straight reverses, with just one goal in that time.
That run has seen AFC drop down to third from bottom in the table, now a single a point off the basement.
Goalscoring has been the huge issue this term, with Dons the lowest scorers so far, notching just 10 goals, as although Joe Pigott has four of them, only four other players have managed to hit the target in a league game.
First team coach Simon Bassey knows it is severely hampering the Dons efforts to climb away from danger, as after the reverse in midweek, he told the club’s official website: “We did ever such a lot right to get the first goal (at Bristol Rovers).
“James Hanson had one come off the post, Kwesi Appiah had one on the line, there was a good save from Jake Jervis and a couple of other good situations we haven’t quite taken or had the ‘rub of the green’ on.
“I thought the boys at the start were excellent and we created some good chances and just our inability to take them at the moment cost us.
“But I’ve been a part of the club for 17 years now, we don’t hide away from our responsibilities, we embrace them, we stand up to what we believe in, we work hard until the end.”
They did lose their main threat from the last few seasons in the summer as Lyle Taylor joined Charlton Athletic, although Ardley moved to replace him with James Hanson, who had enjoyed plenty of good years with Bradford City.
A number of fine servants moved on as well, with Barry Fuller, George Francomb, Dean Parrett, Darius Charles and Paul Robinson all departing the club.
The Dons replaced them by acquiring some experienced league players, Scott Wagstaff (Gillingham), Anthony Wordsworth (Southend) and Rod McDonald (Coventry) all arriving, but at the moment, it looks like another campaign struggling against the drop at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Team news: Hatters will have goalkeeper Marek Stech back in contention for the trip, as he has recovered from his hernia operation.
Dan Potts (groin) and Luke Berry (knee) both remain out though.
For AFC, defender Tyler Garratt (knee), midfielder Anthony Wordsworth (Achilles) and winger Andy Barcham (calf) are sidelined, while on-loan Luton striker Jake Jervis is ineligible.
Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (5). Dons: Joe Pigott (6).
Man in the middle: Andy Davies - official has taken 12 games so far this term, the majority in the Championship, showing 44 yellows and one red.
Had 31 matches last term, once more, mainly in the second tier, with 104 bookings and six reds from 31 fixtures.
Took Luton once in the 2016-17 season, the 2-0 win over West Brom U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Also had the 2-1 triumph over Hartlepool the year before when Craig Mackail-Smith scored a late winner, plus a 3-1 success against Dagenham & Redbridge in October 2014, Mark Cullen bagging a hat-trick.
Assistant referees are Daniel Leach and Timothy Wood with the fourth official David Rock.
In charge: Neal Ardley, 46-year-old who was something of a club legend with Wimbledon, making over 250 appearances for the Dons after coming through the youth ranks in 1991.
Moved to Watford in 2002, where he spent three seasons, while had spells with Cardiff City and Milwall, before retiring after a series of injuries in August 2007.
Appointed manager of the Cardiff City academy, staying for five years before being named manager of AFC Wimbledon on October 10, 2012.
Has now completed six years in charge and is the third longest-serving manager in the top four divisions.
View from the dug out: Dons first team coach Simon Bassey - “They’re a good team, a good club, and have got a good manager.
“Their home form this year has been excellent, not so good away from home, so we know we’ve got to get our home form going and there’s no better place to start than on Saturday.”
One to watch: James Hanson - experienced striker who started out at Bradford, playing over 300 times for the Bantams during his near enough eight years at Valley Parade, scoring 89 goals.
Moved to Sheffield United for an undisclosed fee in January 2017, but played just 15 times, with one goal, loaned to Bury where he didn’t score in 18 matches.
Joined AFC Wimbledon in the summer and has played 14 times, finally off the mark with an excellent strike against Portsmouth recently
Friendly faces: Goalkeeper James Shea joined AFC Wimbledon on a free transfer from Arsenal in July 2014.
Helped the club to promotion from League Two and made over 100 appearances for the Dons before being released in July 2017, quickly signing for the Hatters.
Striker Danny Hylton joined AFC Wimbledon on loan from Rotherham for the end of the 2013-14 season.
Scored on his debut in the 2-1 win over Hartlepool and went on feature 17 times in total, netting three goals.
Forward Jake Jervis is currently on loan with the Dons after joining from Luton in August. Has played 10 times so far, yet to hit the target though.
For the Dons, attacker Joe Pigott joined Luton in January 2016 from Charlton, scoring four goals in 15 games.
Headed to Cambridge on a free and then had a prolific spell with Maidstone before being snapped up by the Dons in January.
Netted 11 goals in 36 games so far and is the leading scorer this term with six.
Meanwhile, former Town forward Stuart Douglas has been AFC Wimbledon’s physiotherapist since July 2013.
Began his career at Hatters in August 1995 and made over 100 appearances, scoring 18 league goals before spells at Oxford and Rushden and then moving to Boston United on a free in August 2002.
Played for both: Defender Jake Goodman signed for Luton on loan from Millwall in March 2013.
Made his debut in a 0-0 draw at Nuneaton and played 11 times for the Hatters in the Conference.
Loaned to Aldershot the following season and then headed to AFC Wimbledon in November 2014, making 16 appearances and scoring once in a 3-2 win at York.
Left the Lions in June 2015 and has been with Margate, Braintree and Maidenhead, signing permanently for National League Premier club Bromley in the summer
We’ve got form: Luton are yet to win a league game during their trips to AFC Wimbledon, as despite the Checkatrade Trophy victory last season, they have two defeats and two draws from four previous visits.
Town did fight back from 2-0 down in the 2014-15 season through goals from Jayden Stockley and Elliot Lee, only for David Connolly to score in stoppage time.
Then, in Nathan Jones’ sixth game in charge, they were hammered 4-1, Jack Marriott notching a consolation for the visitors.
Last time out: Luton emerged as 2-1 victors at AFC Wimbledon in their Checkatrade Trophy encounter last season.
The visitors had gone ahead on 12 minutes through Andrew Shinnie, only for Lyle Taylor to equalise almost immediately.
However, Shinnie struck again with 18 minutes to play, ensuring Luton were triumphant.
Hatters: James Shea, James Justin, Jack Senior, Frankie Musonda, Akin Famewo, Glen Rea, Andrew Shinnie (Luke Berry 79), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Luke Gambin, Lawson D’Ath, Elliot Lee (Aaron Jarvis 83).
Subs not used: Harry Isted, Dan Potts, Alan Sheehan, Olly Lee, Drew Richardson.
Referee: Gavin Ward.