PREVIEW: Luton Town v Charlton Athletic
If you want a League One team in form at the moment then you just can't look past Charlton Athletic.
A below par start to the season with one win, two draws and two defeats from the opening five games has been instantly transformed with four wins on the bounce.
The Addicks started the run going with a 2-1 at Southend before seeing off Wycombe Wanderers 3-2 at home.
Boss Lee Bowyer took his side to Bradford, winning 2-0 and then beat bottom side Plymouth 2-1 last weekend to shoot the Addicks up to sixth in the table, just five points off the automatic promotion spots, with strikers Lyle Taylor and Karlan Grant both hitting top form.
Although things are finally looking up on the pitch for a side who were in the Premier League just 10 years ago, dropping out of the Championship in 2016 and now in their third season in League One, off the field, it is still turbulent to say the very least.
Owner Roland Duchatelet remains universally unliked by supporters, who have protested against him for much of his four and a half years in charge, setting up a Campaign Against Roland Duchatelet (CARD) group.
To make matters worse, a dispute over bonus payments has come to light, which appears to have hindered the long-awaited sale of the club, as in June it was announced a takeover was expected by a select group of investors linked to The Australian Football Consortium.
Supporters recently staged protests outside offices of the EFL claiming its inaction is failing to push through changes in ownership, with two fans meeting EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey, who assured them he try to speak with Duchatelet as soon as possible.
There was finally a semblance of stability when Bowyer was announced as manager until the end of the season earlier this month.
He had been at the helm as caretaker since March after former boss Karl Robinson was sacked, leading them to the League One play-offs, defeated by Shrewsbury over two legs.
Bowyer did well to bring in Taylor from AFC Wimbledon in the summer, plus experienced midfielder Darren Pratley, strengthening what was already on paper, a strong squad.
He did lose Josh Magennis to Bolton and Ezri Konsa Ngoyo to Brentford, but has used the loan market to acquire Aston Villa’s Jed Steer, Josh Cullen from West Ham, Arsenal’s Krystian Bielik and Jamie Ward from Forest.
Team news: Luton still have a major doubt over Danny Hylton after manager Nathan Jones admitted he has a neural injury which is taking time to heal.
Luke Berry is out, but Jones confirmed he will have a stronger bench than that at Blackpool last week, with Alan McCormack expected to be available.
For the Addicks, Darren Pratley is back training after a hamstring injury, but Krytian Bielik is out with a calf injury, while defender Patrick Bauer will be missing for two months after rupturing a knee ligament.
Top scorers: Hatters: Elliot Lee (3). Addicks: Karlan Grant, Lyle Taylor (5).
Milestones: Harry Cornick will make his 50th appearance for the Hatters if involved on Saturday.
The attacker was signed from Bournemouth in August 2017 and has scored five goals in that time, but is still awaiting his first of this season.
Man in the middle: Antony Coggins - refereed nine games this season, showing just one red card, although 38 yellows make it an average of over four a match.
Had 34 fixtures last season, with 87 yellows and six reds, taking just one Luton match, the 0-0 draw against Peterborough in the Checkatrade Trophy that Posh won on penalties.
Daniel Cook and Danny Gratton are the assistant referees with Marc Wilson the fourth official.
In charge: Lee Bowyer – 41-year-old who had quite a career, which included winning one cap for England, after coming through the ranks at Charlton Athletic, turning pro in 1994
Made over 50 appearances for the Addicks, before moving to Leeds United for £2.8m in 1996, a record for British teenager at the time, as he helped the Whites to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2000 and Champions League in 2001, winning supporters player of the year twice.
Joined West Ham in January 2003, but played just 11 times for the Hammers, heading to Newcastle United in July 2003 and then back to West Ham in June 2006.
Had spells at Birmingham and then Ipswich, before retiring, going on to coach the Watford U21s in 2015, moving back to Charlton, appointed assistant manager to Karl Robinson in July 2017.
Named caretaker when Robinson left in March this year, getting the job on a permanent basis earlier this month.
View from the opposition: Lee Bowyer talking to the club’s official website - “They’re a good side. I’ve watched them against Bristol Rovers and Blackpool.
“They’ve spent wisely this summer. I think they’ve brought in some good players, and I was surprised how good they were really, but it’s going to be tough going there, for sure.
“They move the ball well, they compete, they press high and they get bodies in the box. They’re the team to do that, so they’re dangerous.”
Friendly faces: Luton boss Nathan Jones was appointed U21 professional development coach at Charlton in June 2012 after leaving his position at Yeovil Town.
Stayed for a year, as he moved to become first team coach at Brighton & Hove Albion in July 2013.
Town midfielder Alan McCormack signed for Charlton from Southend for a free transfer in July 2010.
He spent a season at the Valley, playing 31 times and scoring once, heading to Swindon on a free the following July.
Played for both: Dean Kiely. Goalkeeper began his career with Coventry and had lengthy spells at York and Bury, joining Charlton in 1999 for a fee of £1m.
Went on to play over 200 times for the Addicks, before heading to Portsmouth, joining Luton on loan in November 2006, making 11 appearances and keeping three shut outs.
Snapped up by West Bromwich Albion in the January though and finished his career, which included 11 caps for the Republic of Ireland, at the Hawthorns.
One to watch: Lyle Taylor – 28-year-old striker began his career at Millwall, with spells at Eastbourne, Bournemouth, Hereford and then made his name at Falkirk, scoring 29 goals in 42 matches.
Joined Sheffield United for £220k in July 2013, but headed back to Scotland to play for Partick Thistle, a club he rejoined after a brief stay at Scunthorpe.
It was a move to AFC Wimbledon in July 2015 that put him back in in the spotlight again though, netting 55 times for the Dons in 150 games.
Moved to Charlton in the summer, off the mark on his debut in the 2-1 defeat at Sunderland, following that up with a goal against Shrewsbury and three in his last four have made it five from nine so far.
We’ve got form: Luton have definitely had the Indian sign over their opponents during matches at Kenilworth Road, since they began back in 1922 with a Division Three South contest.
In fact, the 36 meetings have seen the points remain in Bedfordshire on 25 occasions, with four draws and just seven defeats, as Luton have scored 68 goals and conceded 32.
At one point they were simply unbeatable, winning six in a row without conceding between 1978 and 1989 until that record was only ended by a 5-2 triumph. Town went on to extended the sequence to 12 straight victories, as it took a Division One fixture in 1995 for Charlton to stop their 27 years of anguish with a 1-0 success.
Hatters also won 11 out of 13 fixtures in their early contests, although Charlton can look to a 6-1 win in Division Two during 1962 as some comfort.
It didn’t take too long for Luton to get their own back though, with a 7-1 Division Two hammering in 1977, courtesy of four goals from Jimmy Husband, Steve Buckley, Ricky Hill and Gary Heale on target as well.
Recent times have seen the Addicks enjoy the better of things, with three wins from four, Luton’s last victory a 3-1 League Cup success in 2007 when Steve Robinson, Matt Spring and Drew Talbot all got on the scoresheet.
Last time out: Luton lost 3-1 to Charlton on the Addicks last visit to Kenilworth Road, that an FA Cup second round replay when the Town were in non-league back in December 2010.
Zdenek Kroca had put the hosts in front on 38 minutes, but Scott Wagstaff levelled on the stroke of half time.
In the second period, goals from Joe Anyinsah (66) and Johnnie Jackson (80) ensured the visitors went through.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Dan Gleeson, Jake Howells, George Pilkington, Zdenek Kroca, Claude Gnakpa, Keith Keane, Andy Drury, Amari Morgan-Smith (Godfrey Poku 70), Matthew Barnes-Homer, Danny Crown (Taiwo Atieno 75).
Subs not used: Lewis Kidd, Craig Hington, Alex Lacey, Pavel Besta, Dan Walker.
Referee: Steve Tanner.