LUTON 2ND LEG PREVIEWS
Connor relishing hostile atmosphere at Luton
CHAD.co.uk, Thursday 17 March 2011
STAGS goal ace Paul Connor is relishing playing in the hostile atmosphere at Kenilworth Road as Stags attempt to defend their 1-0 FA Trophy semi-final first leg lead on Saturday (3pm).
“It is up there with places like Millwall the way the fans are really 'anti' the opposition,” he said. “When you come out of the tunnel you don't half get some stick. It is a horrible place. But I don't mind that personally, I quite enjoy it as it gets me going and I hope I can use that.
“It is still tight and it will be a tight game down there. But we have to go there positive.
“We played there earlier this season and it was a hard game with their crowd behind them.
“We have to go and believe we can get something. I spoke to a couple of their lads after the first leg and they fancy their chances now. We are still the underdogs.
“But the pressure is on them to come and attack us and hopefully that will leave us gaps we can exploit.”
Connor is under no illusions how important the game is to the club and his own career.
He added: “We know what it means to the club and fans and we will be giving it our all. And it means a lot to me personally as it could be my last chance to get to play at Wembley.
“I went there at 19 as part of a squad and went up to collect a medal but never got to play. I haven't even played at the Millennium Stadium in the meantime. I might never get this close again.
“As a kid you dream of playing at Wembley so we have come this close it would be a real shame not to go on now and win it.
“The league table doesn't lie, though there are a lot of games left. But this is a real chance to achieve something this sesaon. There is no hiding this is a massive game.”
Assistant manager Paul Hall added: “It is an advantage, but it's a slender one so we have just got to approach the game as if it's still 0-0.
We can't go there to protect it or they will be knocking at our door for 90 minutes.”
Stags look set to take a four-figure following to Luton in contrast to the surprising 422 the Hatters brought to Field Mill last week, returning most of their 1,800 allocation
Hall said: “With respect to Luton I don't think that was the best thing for them as it showed little interest in the FA Trophy. It suggested they were not taking it that seriously. You should respect the competition.”
With the initial alloaction of 1,000 looking likely to be sold out today after going on general sale, Mansfield have been allocated an additional 500 tickets.
The club are opening their ticket office until 6.30pm tonight (Thursday), and fans have until 5pm tomorrow night to buy their ticket. The club would like to remind all fans that Luton Town Football Club will not be operating cash turnstiles on the day of the match. Tickets are priced £10 Adults, £7 Seniors (65-74) & Young Adults (17-21), £5 Golden Seniors (75+) & Youths (10-16), and £5 Juniors (under 10) or free if accompanied by a full paying adult.
After 'resting' six of the side that started against Luton in the midweek 2-1 defeat at York, Mansfield are likely to start with the same 11 from the first leg with on-loan Stoke striker Louis Moult highly unlikely to be fit
Spotlight on Luton Town v Mansfield Town
Luton (from): K. Pilkington, Tyler, Gleeson, Murray, Keane, G. Pilkington, Barnes-Homer, Keane, Kroca, Lawless, Howells, Gnakpa, Owusu, Walker, Crow, Morgan-Smith, Graham, Poku, O'Donnell, Asafu-Adjaye.
Mansfield (from): Grof, Marriott, Silk, Naylor, Sandwith, Foster, Spence, Stonehouse, Cain, Istead, Nix, Thompson, Briscoe, Smith, Connor, Mitchley.
Team news: Luton are likely to shake things up, having made five changes for their midweek 0-0 draw at Cambridge.
Adam Newton (calf) was back in the side against the Us and could come into contention.
But Charlie Henry (ankle) and Shane Blackett (groin) are unlikely to figure and Robbie Willmott and Paul Carden remain cup tied.
Mansfield also made six changes for their Tuesday's 2-1 defeat at York and are likely to do so again for what is undoubtedly their most important 90 minutes of the season.
They are waiting on the fitness of loan striker Louis Moult (back), while Adam Murray cannot play as part of the agreement that saw him move to Mansfield from Luton earlier this season.
One to watch: Alex Lawless. The former York midfielder has recently returned from a hip injury and is a creative spark in the Luton midfield.
Manager: Richard Money. The former Liverpool defender has won 44 of his 81 games since taking charge of Luton in October 2009
Hall believes Trophy run points to Mansfield's progress
ASSISTANT manager Paul Hall is proud he and boss Duncan Russell alone have overseen Mansfield Town's FA Trophy progress to the cusp of Wembley.
The pair's third game in charge following the exit of David Holdsworth was the club's first involvement in the FA Trophy for the season – a 5-0 success over Worksop Town.
And after failing to win either of their previous games in the competition, losing 2-1 at Wrexham in 2008-09 and 2-0 to Tamworth last season, Hall has been pleased with the team's response this time.
"It really means something that Russ and myself have been in charge. It shows we have had a positive effect on the players," he said.
"At the moment we haven't completed anything unless we can do a job in the second leg – that would give us something to be very proud about."
Mansfield's loan striker Louis Moult (back) looks unlikely to win his race to be fit to face Luton – but the Stags are not giving up hope.
Hall said: "We would love to have him back, but we have to see what Stoke say. If he was, it would be a massive boost."
Connor warns Mansfield to keep their heads in FA Trophy semi-final second leg
PAUL Connor says Mansfield Town must keep their discipline in the cauldron of Luton's Kenilworth Road tomorrow if they are to reach Wembley in the FA Trophy final.
The Stags striker has scored five goals in the competition as the team has seen off Worksop, Newport, Alfreton and Chasetown.
He also played up front alongside goalscorer Danny Mitchley as the Stags recorded a 1-0 victory in the home leg on Sunday.
But having experienced what it is like to play at Luton in Mansfield's 2-0 league defeat in September, Connor is warning his team-mates will have to keep their cool to finish the job.
The Stags had Steve Foster sent off in that game and Scott Gardner last season in a 4-1 defeat.
"Speaking to a couple of the Luton lads, they fancy their chances and we are still the underdogs," he said.
"I have played there a couple of times and it is up there with Millwall in terms of how hostile it is.
"When you are coming out of the tunnel, you don't half get some stick.
"We have to have that siege mentality and keep our heads."
Mansfield's Cain dreaming of Wembley – just like the fans
ASHLEY Cain was not even born the last time Mansfield Town reached Wembley for the Freight Rover Trophy final of 1987, but he is just as excited as any of the club's supporters about a possible day out there.
The winger played his part in the Stags' first leg 1-0 triumph over semi-final opponents Luton Town at Field Mill on Sunday.
And with just one more favourable result over 90 minutes at Kenilworth Road tomorrow now standing between the club and a trip down the M1, he admits daring to share the same dreams as the fans.
The former Coventry winger rarely featured under former boss David Holdsworth, but has been a regular since breaking into the team following Duncan Russell's appointment.
And even though the 20-year-old is only at the beginning of what he hopes will be a long and successful career, he knows he may never have a better chance of playing under the famous arch.
As he leans forward, staring into the distance, you can see Cain imagining what it would be like to be walking out at the most famous football venue in the world.
"As a young boy I remember all the big international games and all the best players from your country and in the world playing at Wembley," he said.
"It is somewhere that every young lad wants to play and I didn't think as a young lad I would ever get the chance myself.
"But now suddenly it is only one game away, only 90 minutes from gracing that pitch like all those great players, and I want to take the opportunity while I have it.
"It is crazy to think I wasn't even alive the last time Mansfield played at Wembley, but it would be a massive for the club to get there and a massive buzz.
"It would be unbelievable to go down in the club's history. Winning the FA Trophy would give the club a fantastic lift going into next season.
"But we know we still have a big job to do down at Luton to even get to Wembley because they will come out fighting strongly."
Some heroics from Mansfield goalkeeper David Grof helped them keep what has been a rare clean sheet this season.
Cain is hoping the defence can once again stand firm in Bedfordshire, but insists the onus is on the team to be positive and try to add another goal that would make the Hatters' task that much harder.
He said: "The clean sheet at home was huge for us, but we know Luton will be a different team at home than they were away.
"They will push and drive hard at us, really come at us, so it's important we are ready for that test.
"It could be massively important to get goals and it would certainly be naive of us to go and think we can hang on to a one-goal advantage.
"We can't just go there to play for a draw. If we don't go for things then we will leave ourselves vulnerable.
"The good thing is the defence has been playing better of late than earlier in the year.
"But it may be that we have to score a goal there to go through and the good thing is that is what we are best at.
"They say attack is the best form of defence and that is certainly true with us, so we will go to look to win the game."
Mansfield wasted some decent openings in Tuesday night's 2-1 league defeat against in-form York City at Bootham Crescent.
Cain insists the Stags may well rue doing the same at Luton where their opportunities may be fleeting.
"It's always the case that taking your chances as a team is crucial. It was the case on Tuesday when I missed a good chance that could have changed the game," said Cain.
"I think we will get chances and all the lads know that they have to make them count."
But Cain does not just have a trip to Wembley in mind, he is desperate to be on a winning side there.
And by disposing of Luton, he believes Mansfield would have the confidence to go on and beat either Gateshead or Darlington, who lead 3-2 after their first leg semi-final clash.
Cain said: "I think if we can overcome the Luton hurdle then we have a great chance of winning it.
"They are the biggest side left in the competition and have some players of real pedigree.
"But we can't let chances like this slip and I think there is a lot of determination in the camp. There is certainly a massive buzz."
A buzz matched by the army of Mansfield fans travelling south with the hope there could finally be something to celebrate after years of hurt
Owusu aiming for Final
Luton Town striker Lloyd Owusu believes his side has the measure of Saturday's FA Trophy Semi-Final opponents Mansfield.
The first leg at Field Mill ended with a narrow 1-0 victory for Duncan Russell's side but Luton's Ghanaian frontman is confident of turning that around on Saturday.
"We went into the first leg with high expectations and, to be fair to Mansfield, they beat us to the result on the night," said the former Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford striker.
"We know what they have to offer and they play good football but in the return leg they are coming on to our turf and that will be to our advantage."
Since his arrival from the sunny shores of the Australian A-League, Owusu has struck up a prolific partnership with Matthew Barnes-Homer as they have shown with two goals each in their last three Conference Premier games. The pair were repeatedly thwarted by Mansfield keeper David Grof in the first game, but hopes are they will be able to beat him at the second attempt.
"Their keeper did really well and made three or four great saves but we know what we have to do to beat him and Mansfield now, so it's just down to us really," he added. "We know they won't try to shut up shop.
"Matthew and I have struck up a good partnership and, barring the Mansfield game, have been in great form, hopefully we can return to that at the weekend."
Owusu was withdrawn from the final half-hour with a head injury but there is no chance of him missing Saturday's clash.
"I got caught with a little elbow and was dazed but it's nothing to worry about. Preparations are going well and we are ready to do the job."
Gnakpa eyes final fling to spark double hunt
BY JAMES CUNLIFFE
Claude Gnakpa is desperate for a return to Wembley in the FA Trophy and hopes that a victory over Mansfield on Saturday in the semi-final second leg can be the spark for a cup and promotion-winning season.
The Frenchman wrote himself into Luton folklore in 2009 when he scored the winning goal in a 3-2 extra time Johnstone's Paint Trophy final win over Scunthorpe United at the national stadium, securing the club's first piece of cup silverware for 21 years.
On Saturday Town will have to come from behind to reach a second Wembley showpiece in three years after losing the Trophy first leg 1-0 at Field Mill on Sunday, but the winger is confident the team can use their last visit to the home of English football as motivation.
“I've been to Wembley and I know what it means for the fans,” he said. “They want to go back to Wembley because it would be a fantastic day out. The fans make me remember that day all the time.
"Of course, it was a great feeling and we want to go back there and be successful, so hopefully we can achieve it.” But Gnakpa has a double agenda and the Trophy final on May 7 is merely one piece of the puzzle.
He said: “It will be a successful season if we go to Wembley and if we get promoted. We have the desire and we want to achieve it.”
When Mansfield come to town with a one-goal lead to defend Luton will have to do what they've failed to achieve in 270 minutes of semi-final football and score after drawing a blank in both legs of last season's Conference play-off defeat against York and again on Sunday.
On that occasion Stags keeper David Grof produced an inspired performance to keep Luton out in Nottinghamshire but Gnakpa is confident that it will be a different story at home.
“It was a bit frustrating but we know we have the second leg and at Kenilworth Road it will be a different game,” he said.
“Their goalkeeper was the man-of-thematch and made some great saves but at home it will be different. I think we are going to create a lot of chances and hopefully score the first goal and then go for the second.”
LUTON have called for fans to turn out in their numbers and roar their side to Wembley on Saturday by digging out old club scarves from across the years and waving them with pride against Mansfield, who are expected to sell out their 1,500 away allocation of tickets.
There will also be a special offer of 20 per cent off all scarves at the club shop
Money sets his mind on Wembley
dunstabletoday.co.uk, Thursday 17 March 2011
Hatters plan to be at full strength for Mansfield clash
HATTERS chief Richard Money has insisted his side will be doing everything in their power to book their place at Wembley this weekend, writes Mike Simmonds.
Luton host Mansfield Town in the second leg of their FA Trophy semi-final on Saturday, and trail 1-0 from the first match at Field Mill on Sunday.
The winners will play either Darlington or Gateshead in the final at the home of football and Money said: “The next game is most important. Don't anyone suggest or think that we're not going to turn up on Saturday and want to get to Wembley.
“You'll see a much, much different team than you saw on Sunday, I can tell you that.
“No matter how many chances we create, you'll see a much different Luton Town team.”
Hatters fielded a much-changed side in their 0-0 draw at struggling Cambridge United on Tuesday night which further dented their Blue Square Bet Premier title hopes.
Adam Newton earned his first start since September 25, while Paul Carden, Danny Crow and Robbie Willmott were all restored to the line-up too.
The boss made two substitutions at half time, bringing Alex Lawless and Claude Gnakpa on, while introducing leading scorer Matthew Barnes-Homer later in the game and admitted he had made the selection with the Trophy in mind.
Money added: “The back four pretty much picked itself with (Dan) Gleeson and (Freddie) Murray both injured.
“Newton's been back in training and if he's going to get match fit, he's got to play games.
“So the intention was always to give him 45 minutes or at most an hour. We took the chance to give Gnakpa and Barnes-Homer and Lawless a rest.
“We used Carden because he can't play Saturday, we used Willmott because he can't play Saturday.
“I thought we got the team selection just about right and I thought we got the substitutes just about right.
“It means that Claude has only played 45 minutes, Barnesy has only played 30 minutes and Alex Lawless has only played 45 minutes.
“The others, I'm afraid, will just have to recover as best they can.”
Latest | March 2011