Match Preview: Luton Town v Lincoln City
Arguably the biggest game of our season to date pits us against the clear League 2 leaders Luton Town down at Kenilworth Road on New Year's Day; they have amassed 51 points so far, are 4 points in front of Notts County in second place and now 8 points ahead of the Imps in third. They have scored an astonishing 58 goals in their 25 games to date, 37 of those being scored at home which is over three goals per game! Following a surprise and heavy 4-0 defeat at Port Vale today they have now conceded 23 goals, three more as the Imps. The last time they failed to score at Kenilworth Road was on 28 October when Coventry went home with a 0-3 win. Crawley, Morecambe, Swindon, Barnet and Lincoln are the only other sides not to have conceded a goal against them in a league game. Could we become the first to stop them twice?
Luton have gone from strength to strength since they were promoted from the Conference Premier League in 2014 after five years outside the Football League; they also lost two play-off finals in that time. In 2014-15 they finished in 8th place with 68 points; 2015-16 it was 11th on 66 points and last season they finished 4th but were knocked out of the play-offs by Blackpool at the semi-final stage. They are surely strong favourites to win the title this year, although maybe the Cowleys will have something to say about that and stopping them from winning on Monday would be an excellent start. It's a bit like the FGR game in November 2016 insofar as we could be 5 points behind them or we could be 11 points behind them, depending upon the outcome. A draw would keep us 8 points behind, of course.
Our first ever meeting with them came in League Two (second tier) in December 1897 as City ran out winners at home by 4-2. Both of our last two meetings in the Football League came in League Two (fourth tier) and both finished 0-0 at Sincil Bank in April 2009 and then earlier this season. Our six games in the Conference saw two 0-0 draws and four Luton wins and you have to go back to April 1999 for City's last victory over them, 0-1 at Kenilworth Road. Is that a sign?
I began writing this review on Friday so as to save a bit of time, and I am now happy to tell you that we managed to defeat a stubborn Forest Green Rovers side today and, as mentioned above, with Luton suffering a surprise and heavy defeat at in form Port Vale (who have gone five games without defeat since we beat them 3-1 at Sincil Bank on 25 November, with four wins and a draw) we now find ourselves just eight points behind them with an outstanding chance to reduce that to five. Notts, County, our next opponents in the League, are now just four points ahead of us following their 1-0 loss at Swindon. As Danny Cowley said in his post-match interview, we have been running almost on empty this last week and yet have still managed two wins and a creditable draw at Newport. I just hope and pray that the team can recover more between now and 3pm on Monday.
I predict that we will not be beaten Monday, that wouldn't be a good send off for Sean Raggett. Indeed, I foresee a bit of the 'Roy of the Rovers' stuff here, with Raggett claiming the winning goal à la Burnley! You'd get very good odds for that one, I'm sure.
Thank you to Graham Burrell and Lincoln City FC for the photographs.