Luton come into Saturday’s visit to Home Park looking to extend their five point gap at the summit of League One in a dream first season following promotion. Meanwhile, Plymouth Argyle come into the tie fresh off the back of a 2-0 defeat at the hands of fellow promotion chasers Sunderland. Despite a very impressive run of just two defeats in 10 during 2019, the Pilgrims remain just four points clear of the drop zone.
Attacking midfielder George Moncur will be pushing for a return to the side. The January signing from Barnsley was on the bench for last weekend’s 2-0 win over Rochdale but has impressed with four goals in eight appearances for Luton.
Former Pilgrim Sonny Bradley is set for a first return to Home Park following his departure to the newly promoted Hatters last summer after failing to agree a new deal.
Forward duo James Collins and Danny Hylton will continue to lead the line for Luton. The pair have scored 25 goals in League One this season.
Predicted Line-Up (4-3-1-2)
Stacey, Pearson, Bradley, Justin
Shinnie, McCormack, Ruddock
Style of Play
Luton’s 4-3-1-2 formation sacrifices wide-men in favour of midfield dominance in the middle of the park. The quartet of Ruddock, McCormack, Shinnie and Moncur are all technically skilled possession based players, playing generally in a diamond shape with McCormack at the base and Moncur behind the forward duo of Danny Hylton and James Collins. Their possession based style allows them to dominate games. Mick Harford’s side have averaged 54% possession so far this season, providing their creative attackers the platform to attack – contributing to their league high number of goals (69) while also restricting the opponents from having the opportunity to create chances of their own, lending itself to the second best defensive record (29)..
The forward pairing of Hylton and Collins aren’t particularly tall, with Collins the tallest at 6ft 1in. This suits Luton as a possession based side as they like to keep the ball on the surface and pick out passes. When the likes of Shinnie, Ruddock and Moncur aren’t making darting runs through the middle they look to spray passes from the byline on the deck rather than in the air. This was something they did to great effect against Argyle earlier in the season during their 5-1 win at Kennilworth Road.
Because of their midfield dominance, they can afford to play a pure goalscorer like Collins, who contributes little to build up play but is on hand to put away the chances they create. He is League One’s top goalscorer with 20 goals and 12 in his last 14.
Full-backs Jack Stacey and James Justin compensate for the lack of outright wingers, often making driving runs down the flanks or into the box, utilising their speed to cause opposition defences problems. We saw this in the reverse fixture, with Justin picking a goal and two assists. The pair boast a combined 16 goals and assists this season (5G, 11A) highlighting their effectiveness getting forward amongst a side of many creative outlets. Centre-back Matt Pearson has also chipped in with six goals from set-pieces. The 25-year-old is particularly prolific in the air and dangerous from set pieces as demonstrated with recent headed efforts against Coventry and Southend.
James Collins will very much be the man to watch for Luton. The division’s top scorer has already terrorised Argyle once this season with a hat-trick in November’s 5-1 victory. This was not his only three goal haul of the season however with Peterborough his other victims back in January. His positioning is one of his most vital attributes, getting himself into great positions and in front of defenders for often simple finishes. He is the perfect striker to complement Luton’s creative qualities.
With 20 goals to his name, the former Crawley man is League One’s top goalscorer, two ahead of Doncaster’s John Marquis. This is particularly impressive considering he was goalless until his tenth appearance of the season during a 2-2 draw with Charlton.
Defensively, Luton boast the divisions second-best defensive record, conceding just 29 goals from their 35 league games this season. The stability of their backline has seen the quartet of James Stacey, Matt Pearson, Sonny Bradley and James Justin failing to appear in just five league matches between eachother all campaign. They’re currently on a 22-match unbeaten run, having lost just four times all season, keeping a very impressive 16 clean sheets in the process.
To breach this wall, Argyle will need to look to keep the ball on the deck and get out wide to the likes of Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras where they can cause some damage. Luton’s 4-3-1-2 formation lacks any serious width with full-backs predominantly and midfielders being dragged out of position to come in and cover. With Luton dominating midfield and no out-ball apparent, the previous encounter saw a lot of route one football attempted, particularly in the first-half which attributed to the 4-0 onslaught. With a change in formation at half-time, Argyle were able to keep the ball on the deck, allowing them to slow down the pace of the game which benefitted them in both defence and attack.
Despite their 22-match unbeaten run, all four of Luton’s defeats have come on the road this season. They average a very impressive 2.56 points at Kennilworth Road, compared to just 1.71 on their travels. Despite the 4-0 scoreline at half-time in the previous fixture, Luton can be slow starters. They have scored 28 goals in the first-half of games whilst conceding 16, compared to 41 and 13 in the second-half of games, making use of their superior fitness when teams begin to tire from chasing their midfield.
Given Luton’s form this season in terms of both goals scored and conceded, I think it’s unlikely that their 22-match unbeaten run will be coming to an end. Argyle saw the problems Town’s 4-3-1-2 formation can cause and with Freddie Ladapo likely to be starting up front, Derek Adams’ side will be missing the physical, ball-winning forward that will be needed when up against the likes of Sonny Bradley and Matt Pearson. That being said I don’t think it will be anywhere near as embarrassing as when the two sides met in November. I’m going to go with a 2-0 win for Luton.