Millwall's first game of 2020 sees Graeme Jones bring his struggling Luton Town make the short trip to South London to face Gary Rowett's Millwall.
The Christmas period has been up and down for the home side, but the recent victory against 3rd place Brentford after an impressive away draw at Cardiff City sees the Lions going into this game with an air of confidence. The Hatters come into this game currently second from bottom and on a dreadful run of only three wins in their last 15 games, losing four of their last five.
The league meetings between the two over the years see the Lions comfortably ahead, with their 26 wins being superior to Luton's 20 and 25 draws between the two. Although this puts Millwall as favourites, the Zampa Road side feel uncomfortable when they are the preferred side, so the Hatters could be another banana skin at The Den.
Haven't we met before?...
Millwall 2-1 Luton Town, Saturday 4th March 2006 – A late goal in second half stoppage time from substitute Marvin Williams was enough for Dave Tuttle's men to be victorious over Luton Town and give them the slightest glimmer of hope that they would survive in the Football League Championship. It was Millwall who took the lead in the 33rd minute when Ben May opened the scoring after some great technical aerial work, but this was soon cancelled out when Chris Coyne scored the equaliser. The game was heading for a score draw until the young Millwall graduate, Williams sprinted through the Hatters' back line to secure the three points.
Ben Thompson is likely to be out for the remainder of the season after his injury he sustained against Derby County at the beginning of December. Ryan Leonard and Tom Elliott remain out of contention.
Simon Sluga, Izzy Brown and Brendan Galloway are all still out of action for the visitors.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
Is he a forward? Is he a wide man? Who knows! But since Gary Rowett has come in, we are starting to see the Aiden O'Brien who was on fire during Millwall's 2016-17 promotion season and their follow-up return season in the Championship. The young Irishman has shown signs of inconsistency over previous years, but his performance and goal against Brentford were both excellent and he has rightly re-established himself in the Millwall starting eleven. Arguably the best poacher and goalscorer at the club, O'Brien has proven that if he is given the service he knows where the back of the net is.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week's 'Who Are Ya?', we sit down with Trondheim Hatter, the co-host of the Luton Town International podcast. This week we ask why Luton seem to be finding their return tough, can they turn it around and stay up, what they think the score will be and who Millwall need to look out for.
1. It’s been a tough return for Luton in the Championship, how do you think the season is going so far?
For us, one of the biggest issues has really been to find a stable starting 11. We lost 3 key players from the promotion season and have struggled with the replacements. Especially at full backs have we been found lacking. Having said that, with two direct promotions in two seasons, this squad was always gonna meet a ceiling and I believe we have done that now.
2. You are currently in the bottom three, but it’s only goal difference that’s keeping you in the drop zone. How do you rate your chances of survival this year?
We are going to struggle, we probably have the smallest budget in this league and we have not been very lucky in finding decent players to reinforce the team before the start of the season. But if there is one thing Luton is quite famous for it is to keep staying up in scrappy relegation battles. I believe its possible, but we gotta have a really successful January transfer-window for that to happen.
3. You have conceded 37 which is respectable compared to those around you, but you’ve only scored 21 goals. What’s the reason for the lack of goals?
We lost both full backs in Jack Stacey and James Justin to Bournemouth and Leicester, both were key players in our side both in keeping the back four solid, but also going forward in creating chances. Also with losing our manager in January last season and Graeme Jones coming in he has yet to find a good formula for creating chances playing against tougher opposition. James Collins have too many times been put on the wing instead of in-front of goal and the change in shape and formation probably have not helped in that we are not getting a proper set system in place. Too much chopping and changing!
4. Your current run shows you losing four of the last five, can you see there being some investment in the transfer window to strengthen the squad?
It is very unlikely that we will see huge investments in the January transfer window. We have a great board of directors that will not leave us in a financial mess like what have happened before, and they see this season more as a bonus season and a season where we get to enjoy championship football against bigger sides. Any investments in the January window will most likely be loan signings of young hungry PL players and not a lot of permanent transfers. I expect us to shed a few players before we get someone in on a permanent transfer too.
5. It was 1-1 when the two sides faced each other back in October. Can you see the score line being similar this time?
It is really hard to tell with the current side. we are fairly decent at home, but our away form has been shocking. It all depends on what team turn up on the day. Expect a solid away following though! My guess is a close fought match with little goals.
6. Who do Millwall need to look out for?
James Collins is always dangerous if he gets the ball in the right position. Kazenga Lua Lua is a tricky winger that can give any fullbacks grief, and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu is a machine in midfield with a dangerous shot on him!
7. What do you think the score will be?
A close fought battle of the midfields will eventually lead to a narrow defeat for the Hatters. Millwall 1 Luton 0
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 2-0 LUTON TOWN
Luton Town have a daunting task when they visit South Bermondsey and I cannot see them breaking their current run of bad form. The Lions will be roaring and too strong for the Hatters and I can see this being a quiet day for the Millwall back line and goalkeeper.
Come on you Lions.