PREVIEW: Luton Town v Crewe Alexandra
Crewe Alexandra have made a solid start to their return to League Two after dropping out of League One following four seasons spent in the third tier of English football last term.
The Railwaymen enjoyed the perfect beginning with a 2-1 win at Stevenage on the opening day and then knocked Sheffield United out of the EFL Cup with victory at Bramall Lane.
Three draws then followed, before an extra time defeat at Blackburn Rover ended Crewe’s EFL Cup interest, as they suffered a first league defeat at Cheltenham but bounced back in some style, reeling off four straight victories.
First, Accrington were beaten 3-0 away in the EFL Tropny, with back to back home wins over Doncaster and Exeter, while Grimsby were seen off 2-0 at Blundell Park too.
Alex were then held to a 1-1 draw by Blackpool, stretching the unbeaten run to five, but it was ended in unceremonious fashion, with Steve Davis’ side humbled 5-1 at Wycombe.
They recovered with a 1-1 draw at Mansfield, before losing 3-2 to Wolves U23s in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday, meaning Crewe have now gone four games without a win.
Boss Davis believes Saturday will be a good examination of his own side’s promotion credentials this term too, with Crewe just a point behind Luton in the table, telling the club’s official website: “We are looking forward to a really good game.
“We have to be ready because it will be a tough game. It will be a tough examination of where we are.
“There is a point dividing us in the table and it is still very tight, so we know it is a big game and the three points would be massive at this stage of the season.
“The players know what three points would mean to our position.”
Despite going down, Crewe didn’t bring a host of players in, preferring to promote from within once more, although experienced forward duo Chris Dagnall and Ryan Lowe signed as did Marcus Posha from Bury, with ex-Portsmouth midfielder Danny Hollands following in mid-August too.
There were departures too, Anthony Stewart heading to Wcyombe as Brad Inman joined Petebrouigh, while David Fox moving to Plymouth as well.
Davs did use the loan market, bringing in Newcastle’s Liam Smith and Chelsea’s Alex Kiwomya, who made a flying start to his Crewe career, netting four goals in his opening 10 games until injury struck.
Team news: Luton should have Johnny Mullins back in contention after he recovered from a hamstring injury.
Glen Rea (knee) is out, while Craig Mackail-Smith won’t be considered just yet, leaving just Danny Green and Nathan Doyle as the absentees.
For Crewe, James Jones is away on international duty with Scotland U21s, while striker Ryan Lowe is expected to return the starting line-up.
Defender Harry Davis has shaken off the dead leg sustained against Mansfield, although the game comes too soon for on-loan Chelsea winger Alex Kiwoyma as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder.
Top scorers: Hatters - Cameron McGeehan, Danny Hylton (6). Railwaymen - Ryan Lowe (6).
Milestones: Scott Cuthbert is in line for his 50th appearances in a Luton shirt should he play against Crewe on Saturday.
Midfielder Jonathan Smith made it to 150 games against Cheltenham in the league last weekend when coming on as a second half substitute.
Man in the middle: Nicolas Kinseley - has taken nine games this season, showing just 28 yellows and one red.
Officiated Luton’s 1-1 draw against Yeovil earlier this term, while took two Luton games last year, the 2-1 FA Cup win at Crawley, plus the 2-1 Football League Trophy triumph against Leyton Orient, sending off striker Jack Marriott for a gesture made towards the away fans.
Kinseley also refereed eight more Luton games 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.
Also had the whistle for four draws too, sending off Alex Lawless against Forest Green Rovers in February 2013, plus a 3-1 defeat to Woking, with Town yet to lose a game under his command.
Referee assistants are Sian Massey-Ellis and Wayne Barratt with the fourth official Stephen Finch.
In charge: Steve Davis - 51-year-old was a defender in his playing days, starting as a youngster at Stoke City, before long spells with Crewe and Barnsley, while also represented York, Oxford, Macclesfield, Northwich Victoria and Nantwich Town.
Was appointed player manager at Northwich in June 2003, resigning three months later and then taking over at Nantwich Town, where an impressive stint alerted the attentions of former club Crewe as he was appointed assistant boss in May 2009.
Named manager of the Railwaymen in November 2011 and has remained there ever since, winning promotion to League One in 2012 and also winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2013, although couldn’t avoid relegation back to the League Two last season.
Has two sons, Harry and Joe, who are both professional footballers, with Joe spending a loan spell at Luton Town in December 2013.
View from the opposition: Chris Dagnall, speaking to the club’s official website: “Luton is always a tough place to go but it is a good atmosphere there.
“There are always plenty of fans and they are vocal, so it should make for a good game.
“We are all looking forward to it and it will be a great experience for those ones who perhaps have never played there before.”
Friendly faces: Hatters defender Alan Sheehan spent two months on loan at Crewe Alexandra from Leeds United in the 2008-09 campaign, playing three times for the club.
Played for both: Defender Efe Sodje joined Luton on a free transfer in August 1999, playing 14 times for the club in total until being loaned to Colchester and then signed for Crewe in July 2000, going on to play over 100 times for the Railwaymen.
Lengthy career saw him make over 500 professional appearances, with spells at the likes of Huddersfield, Yeovil and Bury, before finishing his career at Macclesfield in 2013.
One to watch: Ryan Lowe - veteran striker who despite being 38 years old, still knows exactly where the goal is, having netted six already this term during his second stint at Gresty Road, forming a good partnership with Chris Dagnall.
Made his name at Shrewsbury when starting out in July 2000 and has scored over 200 goals in a lengthy career that has included spells at Chester, MK Dons, Tranmere and Bury to name a few.
We’ve got form: Luton have a superb record over Crewe at Kenilworth during their 12 matches since meetings began back 1963.
Hatters have picked up nine wins, with two draws and just one defeat, including an impressive 6-0 hammering back in December 1996, courtesy of Tony Thorpe’s treble, as they have scored 33 times, conceding just 13.
Their one defeat was quite a comprehensive one at that though, as the Railwaymen netted a 4-0 victory back in March 2003
Last time out: Luton enjoyed a 2-1 win over Crewe in their last meeting at Kenilworth Road, that League One clash in March 2008.
Matthew Spring put the hosts ahead after four minutes, only for Nicky Maynard to level just before the hour mark.
However, Luton won a penalty, awarded by now Premier League referee Michael Oliver with 12 minutes remaining and Spring was on target to ensure victory.
Hatters: Dean Brill, Ed Asafu-Adjaye, Lewis Emanuel, Sol Davis, Don Hutchison, Steven O’Leary, Matthew Spring, Keith Keane, Paul McVeigh (Calvin Andrew 66), Sam Parkin, Ryan Charles.
Subs not used: Alan Goodall, George Beaven, Steve Robinson, Darren Currie.
Referee: Michael Oliver.