England League 2: Luton - Wycombe
I was surprised that Luton Town managed to keep hold of all their promising youngsters in the transfer window, that shows great ambition , infact, they strengthened with the good looking additions of winger Alex Gilliead (Newcastle United) and left-back Jack Senior (Huddersfield Town), Gilliead played a full season at L2 last season and should hit the ground running, adding goals and assists. The Hatters now look a very strong squad and anything less than a serious promotion push is going to be viewed as failure. They are a big club at this level and I spoke about that ahead of a trip to Dagenham last season under old boss John Still .........
"Town are a very big club in League 2 terms and simply have to be, at the very least, challenging for promotion, a run of four games without a win ( five in all competitions) has left them down in 15th place and whilst that is "only" six points adrift of the play off spots, this feels very much like draw a line in the sand time and a match the Hatters have to find a way to win.
In comparison, Daggers are tiny, operate on small crowds and a similar sized budget and the fact that they have been a Football League club for nine years and even enjoyed one single season in League 1 is almost solely down to one man and that is Luton boss John Still, who vitually single handedly overhauled the club from top to bottom, saved them from relegation out of the Conference, took them into the FL and then even L1 and did so on a playing budget most managers would have looked at and thought it was the expenses for the ball boys and tea ladies ! Daggers have always stayed within budget, which meant even by Conference standards it is small and they have to sell to even stick to that and what Still did at the club was simply amazing. He knows everyone at Dagenham and I am talking about everyone, including probably half the supporters by name, actually Still knows almost everyove in football, but his heart, or at least a large part of it remains in this corner of East London and speaking about returning this week, it has been almost too painful and he said he just wants to go, play and leave as soon as possible. I guess it is like seeing an old girlfriend you still have feelings for .
It is not his first return, Town took four points from the h2h meetings last year, drawing 0-0 here, where they played an hour with ten men following a hotly disputed sending off and were later denied what looked a stonewall penalty, that and Town's need for all three points will ensure that there is not too much sympathy, at least on the pitch and the visiting supporters who are going to form at least 50% (1,200 advance tickets sold) of the crowd, can make the trip home happy. Team news is not overly important, the Town squad is on another level, but it is worth noting that Craig Mackail-Smith has busted a gut to get fit for this, he was more or less the first signing that Still made at Dagenham, joining from what was basically 8th tier football (!), he went on to make two big money moves and a good living from football and turned down the offer of League 1 football from at least two clubs to play for his former boss once more. CMS is desperate to play one more time at tiny Victoria Road.
Town have been getting into good positions, but not seeing out games well, they have led in two of the last three and were level entering injury time in the other and yet only took one point from those games and that has to stop, a free midweek and the extra day to prepare solely for this will have helped after six games inside 21 days previously and I feel we will see a very focused performance from the visitors today."
Town won that 2-0 ,but Still didn't see the season out and is now back at Daggers, his replacement Nathan Jones had the second half of 15-16 to sort things out and has had plenty of time to build, he has two years left on his contract, but probably knows it has to be this season he makes his mark and he has been given big support by the board.
Wycombe are struggling financially and have not been done andy favours by a massive injury crisis, despite winning in the EPL Trophy in midweek, the squad named highlighted their issues, they could not fill the bench, it included two players they dare not risk and their 43 yo head coach Gareth Ainsworth, who was one of two substituions made.They have around a third of their squad unavailable and they will struggle to take anything from this fixture.
Luton Town -0.5 ball 1.98 asian line/Sportmarket
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