PREVIEW: Stevenage v Luton Town
Stevenage boss Darren Sarll hasn't enjoyed the start to the season he would have wanted after being appointed as the club's permanent manager in May.
The caretaker boss was handed the number one role after a fine end to the 2015-16 campaign ensured the club stayed in league Two, as he masterminded a run of three wins, including a 1-0 triumph at Luton, four draws, and just one defeat lifting them to 18th in the table, some 14 points clear of relegation in the end.
On being named full time boss, Sarrll opted to bolster his squad, bringing in the likes of former £1.75m man Jobi McAnuff from Leyton Orient, along with York striker Jake Hyde and striker Rowan Liburd for an undisclosed fee from Reading, plus Peterborough defender Andrew Fox and Preston keeper Jamie Jones on a permanent deal after his original loan spell.
A chance was taken on Ebbsfleet striker Matt Godden too, while Sarll also borrowed Shaun Donnellan and Connor Hunte from West Brom and Wolves respectively.
There have been some big name departures though, with Dean Parrett heading to AFC Wimbeldon, along with Chris Whelpdale, while youngster Louis Yamfam was signed by Charlton for an undisclosed fee.
However, Boro have struggled for results, losing their opening home game 2-1 to Crewe, although they did bounce back in style with a 1-0 win at Championship outfit Ipswich in the EFL Cup first round, earning a lucrative tie with Premier League Stoke City.
However, the hope that triumph would transfer to Stevenage’s league form is yet to materialise, with Boro drawing 1-1 at Notts County but then well beaten 3-0 at Leyton Orient in midweek.
Sarll believes that in contrary, Luton have had the better fortune in their opening matches to the season as speaking to the Stevenage Comet, he said: “I’ve watched Luton against Newport, Aston Villa and Yeovil and they’ve been fortuitous at times, not being disrespectful.
“A penalty on 95 minutes the other night, it’s a penalty. If I’m Nathan I’m jumping up and down and if I’m Mr Feeney I’m doing exactly what he’s doing.
“That (fortune) comes and goes, sometimes it’s with you and other times not and I’m not someone who sits here wishing for that luck. You get what you deserve in football.
Team news: Luton will be without Johnny Mullins who is suspended after picking up a red card against Newport in midweek.
Alan Sheehan (calf) and Glen Rea (illness) could come back into contention for the clash, but Craig Mackail-Smith and Danny Green are still out.
Top scorers: Hatters: Cameron McGeehan (3). Boro: Ben Kennedy (2).
Man in the middle: Andy Haines - official has taken four games this term, three in League One, showing 11 yellows in that time.
He took 27 games last season, showing 85 yellows and five reds, including three in one game, Accrington’s 4-1 win over Crawley Town in February.
It’s the first time he has refereed a Luton game since their League Two clash at Grimsby Town back in October 2008, when Tom Craddock’s double, including a last-minute penalty, secured a 2-2 draw.
Haines also had the whistle when Luton travelled to Oldham Athletic in League One the season before, drawing 1-1, with Jaroslaw Fojut on target
Stephen Wade and Garry Maskell are the assistants, with Ben Cooke the fourth official.
In charge: Darren Sarll - 33-year-old who spent his playing days in non-league, where as a midfielder, he turned out for the likes of Hitchin Town, Dunstable Town, Bedford Town and Biggleswade United.
Began his coaching career at Stevenage, in a variety of roles, including managing the youth team, before moving to Brentford as youth team manager at the beginning of the 2008–09 season.
Was promoted to first team coach and also became the reserve team boss in 2009, leaving at the end of the 2010–11 season, joining former Bees boss Andy Scott at Rotherham United in August 2011, where he was named Head of Player Development.
Left at the end of the 2011-12 season and returned to Stevenage as Head of Youth in June 2012 before being promoted to first team coach after the appointment of Teddy Sheringham as manager in June 2015.
Named caretaker manager when Sheringham was sacked February this year, and although losing six of his first nine games, guided Stevenage to 18th in the division, before being appointed as the permanent manager in May.
View from the opposition: Darren Sarll talking to the club’s official website: “I love this game. This is where you see the town unite, this is where you see a lot of pride and we have a lot of existing players from last year and they understand the rivalry, they understand the competition and they understand the importance of getting a win, especially now.
“Luton heightens all of those things. It is going to be a really good game, I am really excited about it and it certainly gets you going.”
One to watch: Charlie Lee - experienced player is known to get on the ball and get Stevenage ticking from midfield.
Started life at Spurs in 2006 and then had a spell with Millwall, before a long stint at Peterborough, followed by four years at Gillingham.
Moved to Boro in June 2014 and has played 87 times for the club, scoring 13 goals and is already off the mark this season with a consolation strike during the defeat against Crewe.
Friendly faces: Stevenage skipper Ronnie Henry is well known to Luton fans having led the Hatters to the Conference title, making 87 appearances in total.
Moved back to his former club in the summer of 2013-14 and has gone on to make 76 appearances since.
Popular defender Luke Wilkinson was somewhat surprisingly allowed to move to Stevenage from Luton in January by boss Nathan Jones.
Made 72 appearances for Town, scoring seven goals and has since played 23 times for his new side, scoring twice, and penned a new contract in the close season.
Centre half Fraser Franks played 34 times for Luton, before joining Stevenage in the summer of 2015 and won a host of awards at the club’s end of season presentation night last term.
Featured in all four matches so far this term and has played 46 times for Boro, scoring three goals.
Played for both: Simon Heslop - 29-year-old midfielder who joined Luton on loan from Barnsley in March 2010, making 13 appearances and scoring once.
From there, signed for Oxford and was loan to Stevenage in May 2013, playing 35 times for Boro, scoring once.
Since then, had spells with Mansfield, Torquay and Wrexham before moving to York City following their relegation to the National League.
We’ve got form: Luton have won never lost on their travels to Stevenage, winning four and drawing once.
Hatters started with a 4-3 Football League Trophy victory in 2002, thanks to Ahmet Brkovic’s treble and a Tony Thorpe strike, while another Football League Trophy win followed in 2003, courtesy of Matthew Judge’s last minute winner.
The three league meetings saw Matthew Barnes-Homer bag the only goal of the game in April 2010, while Alex Wall’s wonderful solo goal sealed a 2-1 triumph during the 2014-15 campaign.
Last time out: Luton were held to a goalless draw at Stevenage last season in a game that was overshadowed by crowd trouble in the closing stages.
On the field, clear-cut chances were few and far between for either side as Hatters were reduced to 10 men after 87 minutes when striker Paul Benson was sent off for a rash challenge.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Alex Lawless, Scott Griffiths, Luke Wilkinson, Scott Cuthbert, Jonathan Smith, Cameron McGeehan (Jack Marriott 67), Danny Green (Sean Long 87), Olly Lee (Mark O’Brien 89), Paul Benson, Josh McQuoid.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Paddy McCourt, Luke Guttridge, Craig Mackail-Smith.
Referee: Robert Lewis.