PREVIEW: Luton Town v Exeter City
Exeter City came close to mounting a late challenge for the play-offs, only to suffer a dip in form at just the wrong moment to ensure another season in League Two awaits.
The Grecians pushed themselves into firm contention with an excellent run of six wins and three draws from nine games between February and April, to set themselves up for a final push.
However, two points from their last 12, with draws against Northampton and Morecambe, plus defeats to Bristol Rovers and Mansfield means that they can no longer break into the top seven this term.
It’s still been another impressive season for the St James’ Park club under the guidance of Paul Tisdale though, as they notably took Premier League giants Liverpool to an FA Cup replay, after a 2-2 draw at home, bowing out valiantly 3-0 at Anfield.
On their travels, Exeter have impressed, with 11 of their 17 wins coming away from home, including triumphs at the likes of Plymouth, Cambridge and Notts County this term.
Boss Tisdale is already starting to put his plans into place for next season’s squad, although it’s unlikely to include player-coach Danny Butterfield, 36, who took up a coaching role at St James Park last year, or veteran striker Clinton Morrison.
The boss told the Express and Echo: “As always, you get to the end of the season and this group of players will not be the same for next year. It will change. In a football season every era comes to a clean end.
“That will be what happens this Saturday at Luton. Clinton is a notable one, but we have got other players who for other reasons would be deserving of a selection. I will be very, very pleased to select Clinton if he is available and it if fits into the plan of the game, but I’ve yet to decide.”
Team news: Hatters winger Danny Green is out for at least three months after it was confirmed he had broken two bones in his leg against Northampton on Saturday.
Magnus Okuonghae, Ryan Hall and Craig Mackail-Smith will be missing for the rest of the season too.
For Exeter, Clinton Morrison faces a race against time to see if he can be fit after suffering a groin injury recently.
Top scorers: Hatters: Jack Marriott (14). Grecians: Jayden Stockley, Ollie Watkins (9).
Man in the middle: Carl Boyeson - first Luton game this term for the official from East Yorkshire who has taken 30 matches so far, showing 101 yellows and five reds.
His last visit to Kenilworth Road was back in the FA Cup in December 2009 as Luton beat Rotherham 3-0 with Adam Newton, Alan White and Claude Gnakpa on target.
Did officiate Exeter’s 2-1 win at Luton in March 2009 as Adam Stansfield and Liam Sercombe netted, with Tom Craddick’s reply not enough.
Has had four other matches involving Luton, a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest and 1-0 defeat to Swindon in the 2007-08 campaign, plus a 0-0 draw at Sheffield Wednesday in League One in September 2004, and a 2-1 win at Oldham in October 2002.
Assistant referees are Matthew Buonassisi and David Rock, with fourth official John Busby.
In charge: Paul Tisdale, 43-year-old, who came through the ranks at Southampton in 1991, although only made 16 appearances for the Saints, before spells with Northampton Town and Huddersfield Town.
Spent time at Bristol City, Exeter, FinnPa (Finland) and Panionios (Greece) before returning for a year with Yeovil Town, where injury forced him to end his career early.
Took a coaching role with Team Bath in 2000, leaving in 2006, to become Exeter boss, leading the Grecians back into the Football League. Is currently the second longest-serving manager in English football at nine years and 315 days, only behind Arsenal supremo Arsene Wenger.
View from the opposition: Tom McCready speaking to the Exeter Express & Echo: “We wanted to win both of our last two games. Tis (Paul Tisdale) said that to us before the match against Morecambe. He said we want to get six points from our last two games.
“We can’t get that now, but we are certainly not going to let up at Luton as we want to put on a performance and a win for our fans, so as always we will give it our all for them this Saturday.”
One to watch: Ollie Watkins - 20-year-old striker, who is in a prolific run of form lately, bagging eight goals in just 12 games to draw level with Jayden Stockley at the top of the club’s scoring charts.
The youngster, who came through the ranks with City, was named League Two Player of the Month for April, and impressed on loan at Weston-super-Mare last term, with 10 goals in 25 games.
Friendly faces: Striker Jayden Stockley has had an excellent loan spell at Exeter, scoring nine goals in 21 appearances after joining from Bournemouth in January.
Has been on loan with Portsmouth already this season too, scoring 11 goals in his 33 appearances in total for both clubs.
The 22-year-old had a stint with Luton last campaign on loan from the Cherries, netting three goals in 13 games before returning to the south coast.
Town boss Nathan Jones had a brief stay at Exeter on loan in the 1997-98 season, making six appearances, scoring once.
Played for both: Striker Stuart Fleetwood joined Exeter on loan from Charlton twice, in the 2008-09 season and then 2009-10, making 39 appearances in total and scoring eight goals.regarding Burnely
From there, he joined Hereford before a move to Luton in August 2011, making 88 apperances and scoring 27 goals for the Hatters before joining Eastleigh on his release in 2013.
Been at Forest Green and Sutton since, and is now playing for Rosey Athletic in the Herefordshire Supercraft Sunday League as he looks for a club for next season.
We’ve got form: Luton have had an excellent record against Exeter City at Kenilworth Road since games began in the Southern League back in 1909.
In total, Hatters have triumphed 20 times, drawing five and losing five, scoring 75 times and conceding 34 goals.
Luton’s biggest win was a 6-0 thrashing back in 1923 and the heaviest reverse, a 4-0 humbling in 1929.
Town haven’t tasted victory in their last two outings against the Grecians though, with the hosts’ most recent triumph back in 2002, when Steve Howard (2) and Matthew Taylor settled a Division Three encounter 3-0.
Last time out: Hatters threw away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to Exeter last season.
Luke Guttridge (21) and Mark Cullen (45) put Hatters in front, but Ryan Harley (51) and Jordan Moore-Taylor (76) levelled the match. David Wheeler then stole the points for City with a 90th minute winner.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Michael Harriman, Lewis Kinsella (Alex Lacey 77), Luke Wilkinson, Steve McNulty, Jonathan Smith (Cameron McGeehan 71), Nathan Doyle, Alex Lawless, Luke Guttridge, Paul Benson, Mark Cullen (Jayden Stockley 75).
Subs not used: Craig King, Ryan Hall, Nathan Oduwa, Ricky Miller.
Referee: Robert Lewis.