PREVIEW: Luton Town v Cambridge United
Cambridge appear to finally be hitting some kind of form after what has been an inconsistent start to the season at the Cambs Glass Stadium.
Shaun Derry’s side began the campaign with three straight defeats, before getting their tally up and running by winning 1-0 at Crawley.
That led to a run of five wins out of eight in the league, propelling the U’s up the table, but they then followed that by going four games without tasting success once more, until beating Yeovil 2-1 at home in October.
Since then, the U’s have remained unbeaten in the league, five games now, to sit 12 place, just two points adrift of Wycombe in seventh though.
They have made progress in the FA Cup too, knocking out National League side Sutton United to reach round two and a trip to Newport County.
The precious commodity that is goals have proved the main issue for Cambridge though, managing to ripple the opposition’s net just 16 times in 17 games making them the third poorest scorers in the league behind Crawley and Morecambe.
They have only notched four on their travels this term too, with none in their last three league outings on the road, U’s fans unable to celebrate a goal since the 2-1 defeat at Mansfield in September.
Although their defensive record is better than any of the top five, with just 16 conceded, a stat only bettered by Coventry and Lincoln, Derry has called upon his midfielders to start taking the pressure of strikers Jabo Ibehre and Uche Ikpeazu.
The two forwards have contributed 10 to their cause so far, with centre half Leon Legge notching twice, making it just four shared around the engine room as U’s chief told the Cambridge Evening News: “You’re looking at Mingoia, Maris, Jevani – they’ve been the main players – Elito has come in, and we’ve got Dunk in the ranks as well, and we’re expecting them to contribute more than what they are at this moment in time.
“We’re working on it day in day out. We are creating a lot of chances, but it’s that final ball or final finish which has just caught us short this year.
“They’re the key moments in games, and if we’re to be self critical, which we are, we’re not demonstrating our ruthlessness at the right times.
“If we can start doing that we can start turning those 0-0s into 1-0s in our advantage.
“We’ve spoken about Luton putting seven past one team and eight past another, but they’re the only team who have actually done it.
“If you look at the results throughout the season, there’s been a lot of one-goal swings, which highlights the tightness of this league.
“I think the league will stay as tight this year as it was last year, and if it does, two points off the play-offs is a pretty decent position to be in with two thirds still to play.”
Team news: Luton have doubts over striker James Collins after he went off against Cheltenham last weekend.
However, Johnny Mullins and Alan McCormack are now fit as Town are virtually at full strength.
Cambridge are hindered by top scorer Uche Ikpeazu missing out after picking up his fifth booking of the season in the goalless draw with Accrington.
Ade Azeez is absent with a ligament injury, but George Maris is back from suspension
Top scorers: Hatters – James Collins (9). United – Uche Ikpeazu (7).
Man in the middle: Nick Kinseley - referee has taken 13 games so far, mainly in League One, with 50 yellows and three reds.
Officiated Luton twice last term, the 1-1 home draws against Crewe and Yeovil, while also had two Luton games the previous year, when Town beat Crawley 2-1 in the FA Cup and Leyton Orient 2-1 in the Football League Trophy, sending off striker Jack Marriott for a gesture made towards the away fans.
Kinseley also had the whistle in eight more Luton fixtures during their Conference years, including the 6-0 win over Kidderminster and 5-0 thumping of Kettering, plus a 4-3 victory over Halifax too.
He oversaw four draws, dismissing Alex Lawless against Forest Green Rovers in February 2013, and a 3-1 defeat to Woking.
Assistant referees are Michael Webb and Ian Rathbone, with the fourth official Adrian Waters
In charge: Shaun Derry - 39-year-old, who enjoyed an long playing career, making over 550 first team appearances for Notts County, Sheffield United, Portsmouth, Crystal Palace and QPR, before hanging his boots up in 2013.
Appointed Notts County chief in November 2013 and saved the Magpies from relegation, but was sacked in March 2015.
Was named Cambridge United manager in November 2015 on a two-and-a-half year contract, replacing former Luton boss Richard Money and led the club to a ninth place in his first season, while finishing 11th last term.
View from the opposition: United boss Shaun Derry speaking to the club’s official website: “It’s a stand out fixture for us it really is, both home and away it has that little bit more spice on the game.
“The past three times that we’ve played Luton, we’ve been on the receiving end of a scoreline, which hurts us.
“We’re fully respectful to the players and the management team that they’ve got there and we realise that it’s going to be a very difficult game.
“They are in my opinion the stand out team of League Two and they were last year.
“They’ll be taking all that hurt and frustration (of missing outin the play-offs) into the season and at times they’ve been mightily impressive, so we know we’ve got a tough Saturday afternoon to contend with.”
Friendly faces: United keeper David Forde had a month-long loan stay at Luton from Cardiff in August 2007, playing six times for the club, with one clean sheet in the 3-0 Carling Cup home win over Sunderland.
Had a spell at Bournemouth and then a nine-year stint with Millwall, before spending last season at Portsmouth and then signed for U’s in the summer, playing 18 times so far.
Bedford-born defender Greg Taylor joined Luton from Darlington in November 2011, playing 43 games for Town, scoring once.
Went to Cambridge in June 2013 and has now played over 175 games for the club, scoring three goals.
Former Town stopper Kevin Pilkington is on the coaching staff at the U’s, in the role of first team goalkeeper coach.
He joined Luton from Notts County in November 2009, playing 33 times before moving to Mansfield in October 2010 and then went back to County in 2012 as goalkeeping coach, heading to Cambridge in September.
Midfielder Luke Berry came through the ranks at Cambridge and featured over 100 times before moving to Barnsley for a season in July 2014.
Returned to Cambridge though, and was the club’s top scorer last term, netting 22 times, making it 59 goals in 240 games for the club.
Joined Luton in August this year after the Hatters paid an undisclosed fee for his services.
Town’s goalkeeper coach Kevin Dearden was with Cambridge on loan from Spurs in 1989, playing 15 games.
Played for both: Ben Chenery – came through the ranks at Ipswich Town before moving to Luton in 1994.
Managed three appearances for the Hatters, twice in the Football League, a 3-2 win over Port Vale and 1-0 defeat to Oldham in 1996, plus a 1-0 FA Cup victory at Bristol Rovers the season beforehand.
Headed to Cambridge from Kenilworth Road, racking up almost 100 appearances for the U’s.
Had spells at Kettering Town, Canvey Island and Chelmsford City, before retiring in 2007 and going into management, as he became assistant boss at Chelmsford.
Headed to Bury Town as number two in July 2012, but took charge in July 2014 and has completed three years at the helm now.
One to watch: Jabo Ibehre – 34-year-old hugely experienced forward who made Cambridge his 10th pro club in the summer after joining on a free transfer.
Started at Leyton Orient and has played for Walsall, MK Dons, Southend, Stockport, Colchester, Oldham, Barnsley and Carlisle, notching 14 goals for the Cumbrians last term.
Off the mark early for his new side, with the winner at Crawley on his third appearance.
Managed three in four during September, but has only scored once in his last 10 games, sitting on five for the season.
We’ve got form: Hatters retain the upper hand over Cambridge at Kenilworth Road with eight wins, seven draws and four defeats from their previous 19 meetings, scoring 30 goals and conceding 16.
Luton did begin in magnificent style, thumping the U’s 9-1 win in their first meeting, John Smith scoring four times in an FA Cup quarter-final tie back in 1910, which started a six game unbeaten run against their opponents.
However, Cambridge have improved over the years, with the four victories, although their only one in their last six visits was an FA Trophy replay success against a much weakened home side in January 2014.
The Hatters have won two and drawn once since returning to the Football League on home soil, with the U’s not winning a league encounter against Luton anywhere since September 2011, some 11 games and counting now.
Last time out: Luton ran out 2-0 victors in their League Two clash against Cambridge at Kenilworth Road last season.
The hosts were ahead on 33 minutes when Isaac Vassell raced clear to score, while they sealed victory in the closing stages, Jordan Cook on target from the spot once Leon Legge had fouled Vassell.
Hatters: Christian Walton, James Justin, Jack Senior (Alan Sheehan 87), Scott Cuthbert, Glen Rea, Jonathan Smith, Jordan Cook, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Luke Gambin (Lawson D’Ath 78), Jack Marriott (Craig Mackail-Smith 88), Isaac Vassell.
Subs not used: Craig King, Stephen O’Donnell, Jake Gray, Olly Lee.
Referee: Seb Stockbridge.