Luton are making a much better job of their second season back in the Championship than in their first campaign, and will arrive in west London on Wednesday firmly in mid-table.
The Hatters have played two more games than Brentford – 24 in total – and have won nine, lost nine and drawn six to put them 12th before Tuesday evening’s games.
Last season was very much a relegation struggle rescued by the reappointment of manager Nathan Jones while the season was paused.
They were six points from safety when Jones was appointed, to replace namesake Graeme, but he led them to a run of four wins, four draws and only one defeat after the restart and they finished three points clear of trouble.
The Hatters have been stronger at home than away this season, although they did pick up a notable 1-0 win at Bournemouth on Saturday. It was their fourth 1-0 victory on the road this season, following three in South Yorkshire at Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham.
Luton have done well in the cups this season. They reached the third round of the Carabao by beating Norwich (3-1) and Reading (1-0) in the first two rounds, before losing 3-0 at home to Manchester United.
They also beat Reading 1-0 in the FA Cup to set up a fourth round trip to Chelsea at midday on Sunday (live on BBC1), just before we play Leicester.
One area where the Hatters have struggled so far this season is in front of goals. They have only scored 21 goals so far in the league – the lowest total in the top half of the table – and James Collins is the only player to have found the net more than twice, with six to his name so far in the Championship and three in the Carabao Cup.
Luton have had a troubled time since their last spell in the Championship.
They suffered three successive relegations to plunge from the second tier into non-league football from 2006 to 2009, although they were deducted 30 points for financial irregularities at the start of their League Two season – making survival almost impossible.
The Hatters spent five years in the National League – losing in one play-off semi-final and two finals – before finally returning to the Football League by winning the title with 101 points in 2013/14.
They then spent four seasons in League Two – losing in the play-offs in the third, before clinching promotion in second place in 2017/18.
The Hatters made it back-to-back promotions the following season by winning the League One title.
Luton have had some cup success in the not too distant past – winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in their relegation season from the league, and famously the Littlewoods Cup in 1987/88 with a 3-2 win over Arsenal in the final.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
As mentioned, above, Nathan Jones was reappointed as Luton manager in May.
Nathan originally become Luton boss in January 2016, after leaving his post as first-team coach at Brighton, and in his first full season led the Hatters to the League Two play-offs, where they lost to Blackpool in the semi-finals.
However, they made no mistake the following season, winning automatic promotion as runners-up behind Accrington, before he left midway through the next 2018/19 season to move to Stoke.
Things did not go well with the Potters though, and after a string of poor results he was sacked after less than a year in the job.
Nathan played more than 500 senior games in a 21-year career in defence or midfield for Merthyr, Luton, Numancia (Spain), Badajoz (Spain), Southend, Brighton and Yeovil, where he became player/assistant manager.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
The home game at the end of November was Josh Dasilva’s day as the midfielder, who will miss this week’s match through suspension, claimed the first hat-trick of his career.
We were 5-0 up at half-time after a ruthless first-half display.
Bryan Mbeumo capitalised on a defensive mix-up to give us a sixth-minute lead, before two goals in four minutes around the half-hour mark – first when Dasilva set up a goal for Ollie Watkins, who in turn created an opportunity for Mathias Jensen, and suddenly it was 3-0.
Dasilva scored his first two just before the break – the first was one of his trademark curling left-foot shots from the edge of the area, and then a rare right-footed goal after being set up by Said Benrahma.
Two penalties completed the scoring in the second half, with Benrahma tucking away the first before handing the ball to Dasilva to complete his treble with the second in the 87th minute.
It was our biggest win since beating Plymouth 7-0 in December 1994, and took us up to seventh in the table – one point outside the play-off zone – but left Luton in 21st, one point above the relegation places.
The return in late February – the last midweek game we played before the season was halted – was rather different, as we slumped to defeat.
An own goal by Shandon Baptiste gave the Hatters a ninth-minute lead, which was doubled by Martin Cranie in first-half injury-time, when we failed to clear a free-kick.
Ollie Watkins gave us late hope as he pulled one back with his 22nd goal of the season in the 83rd minute, but we couldn’t find the equaliser as our five-match unbeaten run ended, and our fans had to trudge away in falling show at full-time.
We dropped to fifth in the table, but three points clear of seventh-placed Bristol City, while Luton’s third win in four games moved them off bottom place and two points above Barnsley.
We gained revenge for that defeat when we went back to Kenilworth Road in October and came away with a 3-0 win.
Rico Henry put us ahead with a low shot in the 20th minute, with only his second goal for the club and his first since January 2019.
Nine minutes later it was 2-0 as Bryam Mbeumo burst into the area and pulled the ball across for Ivan Toney to score his ninth goal of the season from close range – four of which had been made by the Bees’ French winger.
Substitute Marcus Forss sealed the points in the 76th minute as he ran through to score with his first touch, after being put through by fellow replacement Mathias Jensen.
We moved up to ninth in the table, while Luton dropped to 13th.
Last season’s home game was our first meeting with Luton for 10-and-a-half years.
Their previous trip to TW8 was the final game of the 2008/09 season, when we were celebrating winning the League Two title and they had already been relegated – after being deducted 30 points before the start of the campaign.
Goals in the final 18 minutes from Karleigh Osborne, his fourth of the season, and Adam Newton, his first for the club in what proved to be his final Bees appearance, gave us a 2-0 win and kicked off the title celebrations in style in front of more than 10,000 fans.
It completed the double over the Hatters, following our midweek 1-0 win at Kenilworth Road the previous November, which was settled by a first half Nathan Elder goal. Luton had Keith Keane sent off late on.
However, the previous month, Luton had knocked us out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in the second round – beating us 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in Bedfordshire. Glenn Poole and Marvin Williams had put us 2-0 up after 37 minutes, but Asa Hall quickly replied and Chris Martin equalised 10 minutes after the break.
We also went out of a cup competition to Luton the previous season, when they ended our FA Cup hopes in the first round. The original tie ended 1-1 at Kenilworth Road, with Calvin Andrew levelling 20 minutes from the end after Charlie Ide had put us ahead 20 minutes into the match.
The Hatters won the Griffin Park replay 2-0 with a goal in each half from Chris Coyne and Jaroslaw Fojut and went on to beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 and draw 1-1 with Liverpool, before losing the replay 5-0 at Anfield.
Luton started the perfect cup hat-trick in 2006/07 when they won 3-0 at Griffin Park in a lively second round Carling Cup tie. Dean Morgan put them ahead early on and Warren Feeney doubled the lead early in the second half. The Bees’ Chris Moore was sent off in the 80th minute and the Hatters’ Leon Barnett followed him down the tunnel late on, before ex-Bee Rowan Vine completed an emphatic Hatters success.
We have highlights of two other Griffin Park meetings below.
The first was a Tuesday night League One match in December 2004 when, after Luton’s Steve Howard was sent off early on, Deon Burton and Ben May struck either side of half-time to give the Bees a 2-0 win.
The other one goes back to August 1996 and saw the Bees earn a 3-2 win in a thriller. A Tony Thorpe penalty on the stroke of half-time put Luton on top, but Carl Asaba equalised midway through the second half. Ceri Hughes quickly restored the Hatters’ lead, but goals from Jamie Bates and Robert Taylor in the closing 11 minutes wrapped up a superb victory for us.
BBC Three Counties Radio’s sports editor Geoff Doyle, analyses Luton’s season so far, explains why Nathan Jones and the Hatters are a perfect match, and also why the Hatters have scored so few goals this season.
Q – How would you assess Luton’s season so far?
A – It’s been very good so far. Last season Luton stayed up by the skin of their teeth needing a final day win to secure their Championship status. They didn’t want a repeat of that and it’s not going to happen with the Hatters comfortably clear of any relegation danger. Results have been mixed, but there have been enough wins to ensure Luton won’t be looking over their shoulder this time round.
Q – What would be a good campaign for the Hatters – promotion challenge, avoiding the drop or mid-table stability and why?
A – Luton would take mid-table stability this season and then reassess ahead of next season. The jump up to the Championship is huge and the Hatters want to consolidate and try and improve each season. Construction work on the new stadium will begin soon and once they move in there and generate extra revenue they could perhaps make the next step.
Q – Why is Nathan Jones so successful at Luton, when his record is less good elsewhere?
A – Luton is a good fit for Nathan Jones and vice-versa. Sometimes these relationships just work and this is the case here. When Nathan arrived the club was on the up after promotion from the National League. He continued the progression of the club, gaining another promotion, and when he left, Mick Harford finished the job off to get them up again.
Jones has only managed at Stoke where it didn’t work out for him and that was a job that would have been a problem for many coaches for many reasons. His return to Luton was controversial, but it’s certainly paid off and as well as keeping Luton up last season, he’s stabilised this season. His players must take just as much credit for that.
Q – Luton are much better at home than in away games – what is the reason for that?
A – I think it’s just typical home and away form. Without fans, home advantage isn’t as strong as normal but it’s still a factor. Luton were brilliant away from home at the end of last season when they needed points. This season hasn’t been as good, but they of course did pick up an excellent away win at certain title contenders Bournemouth on Saturday.
Q – The Hatters are one of the Championship’s lowest-scoring teams with 21 goals from 24 games, what is that down to?
A – The striking options are a bit limited. James Collins is top scorer but if he doesn’t score then there’s a bit of a problem up front. Harry Cornick chipped in last season but can’t seem to find the net this time around. Danny Hylton has missed so much football in the past 18 months due to injury, and he’s struggled to get up and running.
Youngster Sam Nombe was brought in recently, but is more of a project and not up to the level yet. An experienced striker might be required this transfer window to help them out.
Q – How much business – both in and out – do you expect from Luton in this transfer window and has any been done so far?
A – A striker would be the priority but as relegation isn’t going to be an issue, then the need for one isn’t a necessity. The Hatters could wait until the summer and reassess, particularly with so many of the players out of contract.
Kai Naismith has already signed and he will add plenty of versatility. Luton are likely to send some out on loan including Brendan Galloway, who has just returned from a lengthy injury.
Q – Last season’s two games between Brentford and Luton were very different – what do you remember of them?
A – Who could forget the 7-0?! That was a shocker for Luton, and Brentford were on a different level. At that stage of the season, Luton were probably at their lowest point and Brentford capitalised. It was men v boys that day and the Bees were ruthless.
The home game was a different affair and it was as if the Luton players were proving a point that they weren’t as bad as that first game and they could compete at that level with Brentford. It was the start of some solid form which kept Luton up.
The match at Kenilworth Road this season was disappointing from a Luton perspective, where I felt they gave Brentford a bit too much respect.
Q – Which Hatters players should Bees fans watching at home look out for?
A – Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall has been Luton’s stand-out player this season. The midfielder is on loan from Leicester, and he has a massive future ahead of him. He has been Luton’s best player in so many games now. He plays central, is good on the ball, has great awareness, can pick a pass and scores goals – not bad assets to have!
Q – Finally, can you give me a possible Luton line-up and formation for Wednesday’s game please?
A – Similar to Saturday:
CM Ruddock, Dewsbury-Hall, Berry
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME
The match is being played at the Brentford Community Stadium at 7pm on Wednesday, behind closed doors. Season ticket holders have free access to watch the match on iFollow, and others can buy a match pass for £10.