Cards' big TV test
8:43pm, Fri 14th Mar 2014
Luton Town v Woking
7.45pm on Monday 17 March 2014
The toughest away trip of the season is in prospect for Garry Hillâ€™s side as they take on runaway leaders, the Hatters, at Kenilworth Road on Monday evening. It may look a forlorn hope on paper but Woking have beaten some top sides away from home (Barnet, Gateshead and FC Halifax Town) and are talented enough to cause a surprise if they reproduce the form shown at those grounds. The game will be televised and, while Garry has urged Cards fans to travel if at all possible to provide vocal support on the night, the match will be shown in the Cardinals Bar for those who are not able to make it to Luton. (The Bar opens at 5.30pm, with draught beers at only Â£2 a pint before kick-off while stocks last. There is also a 20% food discount from Striker Bites.)
The Cards are in good shape after successive victories away at Barnet and at home to Southport, results which all but removed any lingering fear of relegation â€“ something which Garry Hill was always absolutely confident would be avoided.
Wokingâ€™s talented midfield of Kevin Betsy, Keiran Murtagh, Josh Payne and the emerging John Goddard are good enough to cause problems for any team in this league, whilst, up front, Scott Rendell â€“ who would no doubt relish scoring a goal or two at his former club â€“ and Jack Marriott provide the striking prowess which the Cards lacked earlier in the season. Jack had a slightly frustrating game against Southport, but letâ€™s hope that the opportunity to shine on a big stage on Monday brings the best out of him.
A lot will turn on whether the Cardsâ€™ defence can provide a solid enough platform to give Woking a foothold in the game against a Luton strike force which has frequently shredded the opposition of late. The Cards will perhaps miss Mike Cestorâ€™s strength and speed of recovery but the ever-dependable Mark Ricketts has formed an effective central defensive partnership with Joe McNerney in recent games.
The Hatters look destined at last to recover the Football League place theyâ€™ve been striving to regain ever since they were demoted to the Conference at the end of the 2008-09 season. The campaign began inauspiciously with an away defeat at Southport but Luton soon began picking up wins and a scattering of draws, their momentum ever increasing as the season progressed. December saw four straight wins over promotion rivals Alfreton, Barnet, Kidderminster and Gateshead, while in February it was goals galore as the Hatters beat Hereford 7-0 at home, Nuneaton 5-0 away and Wrexham 5-0 at home. Their last three games have seen them beat Alfreton 3-0, draw 0-0 at Salisbury and draw 1-1 at Cambridge United, the early season pace-setters, whose form has dipped as Lutonâ€™s has soared. Apart from their opening day defeat at Southport, Lutonâ€™s only other league defeat was way back in September when they lost 2-0 at Wrexham.
Going into the weekend, the Hatters have a 15 point lead over Cambridge United, having played one game more.
The appointment of the hugely-experienced John Still back in February last year seems to have been the critical move by Luton. He brought in several former Daggers including striker Paul Benson, on loan from Swindon Town, and defender Scott Griffiths. Other additions included Anthony Charles, a Conference title-winner with Barnet and Aldershot; Luke Guttridge, a midfielder from Northampton with over 400 League appearances to his name; Jim Stevenson, a midfielder from Histon; and defender Danny Fitzsimons, another capture from Histon. More recent arrivals include former Welling defender Fraser Franks, whilst loan players include midfielder Cameron McGeehan from Norwich. Other well-known members of the Luton squad include defender Jake Howells, striker Jon Shaw, keeper Mark Tyler, midfielder Alex Lawless and, of course, top scorer Andre Gray.
Kenilworth Road Stadium
1 Maple Road
The Cards Trust coach leaves Kingfield at 4pm. The cost is Â£16 for members and Â£21 for non-members. Ring the Club Shop on 01483 772470 to book a place or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Exit the M1 at Junction 11, and join the A505 towards Luton. Follow the A505 for approximately 1.5 miles and Kenilworth Road is on your right as you leave the one-way system along Dunstable Road. Lutonâ€™s website offers the following advice re parking: To park, follow the one-way around, turning left, right and right again all in about 100 yards so that you do a complete U-turn and then take the second left into Ash Road. Continue down to the bottom, turn left at the end and the club is in front of you. Continue straight past the club and the road bends immediately over a dual carriageway bridge. Beyond this is plenty of street parking (and a great fish shop) if you are early.
There are frequent Midland Mainline trains from St Pancras International to Luton, taking roughly half an hour. There are also frequent, but slower, First Capital Connect services from Blackfriars, London Bridge, Farringdon and Kings Cross. The station is a 10-minute walk from the ground. From the station, turn right into Station Road, which runs into Mill Street. At the junction, turn left into Telford Way and right into Dunstable Road. Oak Road (the away end) is the fifth on the left about a third of a mile along.
Adults (22-64) Â£18, Young Adults (17-21) and Seniors (65-75) Â£13, Golden Seniors (over 75s) Â£10, Youths (10-16) Â£8, Juniors (under 10s) Â£5.
Woking fans will be seated in the Oak Road Stand at one end of the ground.
LAST TIME OUT
Woking 0 Luton Town 1
26 October 2013
The Cards avoided a repeat of the heavy home defeat in the league against the Hatters but could not do enough to dispel their miserable recent record in the FA Cup.
The Cards brought in Gez Sole to replace Scott Rendell, who was not permitted to play against his parent club. There was little to choose between the two sides in an even first half but, crucially, Sole missed a great chance on the half-hour mark when one-on-one with the keeper, blasting high and wide, whereas a few minutes later Mark Cullen, scorer of two headed goals in the Cardsâ€™ 4-0 home league defeat, got on the end of another corner to head home. Woking put the Luton defence under considerable pressure before half-time, with a Josh Payne pile-driver bringing an excellent save from the Hattersâ€™ keeper, but still found themselves going into the break a goal down.
The Cards had their full share of the game in the second half but, despite throwing Joe McNerney forward towards the end, could not break down a solid Luton defence, marshalled by the formidable Steve McNulty.
Woking: Sam Beasant, Adam Newton, John Nutter, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Jack Parkinson, Josh Payne, John Goddard (Anthony McNamee 67), Giuseppe Sole (George Frith 80), Gavin Williams (Craig Sutherland 72), Kevin Betsy.
Unused subs: Aaron Howe, Will Salmon, Niall Wright, Reece Beckles
Luton Town: Elliot Justham, Jonathon Smith, Steve McNulty, Anthony Charles, Jake Howells, Dave Martin (Andre Gray 72), Mark Cullen, Shaun Whalley, Matt Robinson (Andy Parry 77), Ronnie Henry, Paul Benson
Unused subs: Solomon Taiwo, Mark Tyler, Alex Wall, James Stevenson
Cautions: Anthony Charles, Shaun Whalley, Paul Benson
The postponement of the Cardsâ€™ home game against Cambridge United on 22 March, due to the Uâ€™s FA Trophy Final engagement with Gosport Borough, means that Garry Hillâ€™s side arenâ€™t in action again till the home game v Wrexham on Saturday 29 March.
Come on, you Cards!