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05/06: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 02/01/06, 12.00pm
Luton Town
Oh, bloody hell
By Mike Peter

That about sums it up. No faffing around with analogies today. After all, I'd only be avoiding the fact that we're playing Luton on Monday and it's going to be nasty.

A significant amount of Watford fans may be looking forward to this fixture - hopefully because they want to put one over an old enemy, rather than any other reason - but one can easily see this game being remembered not for the football that was played, but the events surrounding it. It's odd that whilst many rivalries have become less violent, the Watford-Luton tie has got significantly nastier recently. Maybe its intensity is due to length of time between each derby - perhaps two league games each season will bring it down to heated words alone.

Anyway, to the football. Luton, aside from Watford, of course, were very much the surprise package of this season. A mid-table position was likely, but no doubt Hatters fans weren't expecting the heights they reached in the autumn. Whilst they may have slumped recently, Mike Newell - to think he was a joke appointment - has a side that is efficient and organised.

The experienced Marlon Beresford should be in goal. After spending six years of his career as the perennial understudy Beresford finally found a starting position at Kenilworth Road in 2004, and has been doing rather well. Dean Brill currently holds the reserve spot over fellow academy product Rob Beckwith.

Luton's defence is fairly settled; the highly-rated Kevin Foley will be at right-back, with Paul Underwood on the left. Underwood played on the left of midfield last season, but has since ousted Sol Davis from this position after the arrival of winger Carlos Edwards. In the centre, Luton seemed to have survived the departure of star-player Curtis Davies pretty well. The Finn Markus Heikkinen has filled his place in the side, whilst alongside him is Chris Coyne, a regular since 2001 and consistent performer. Youngster Leon Barnett is currently preferred over veteran Russell Perrett as first-reserve.

In the midfield, Ahmet Brkovic and Kevin Nicholls have a fairly formidable scoring record - they notched up twenty-seven goals between them last term. Nicholls, the captain, is a bit of a leg-breaker and hugely popular with the Luton faithful. Brkovic (a case of "where's the vowel"?), meanwhile, plays on the right. Partnering Nicholls in the middle should be Steve Robinson, who brings the creativity to the pairing. On the left, Carlos Edwards is heading to the World Cup with Trinidad and Tobago, and has generally impressed at Kenilworth Road since his arrival in the summer. Ex-Reading man Dean Morgan should be hanging around the bench as a midfield utility replacement, whilst Peter Holmes is out with a twisted knee.

Up front, Steve Howard is the terrace hero - firing eighteen goals in the promotion campaign. No Premiership clubs came a'sniffing though, to the surprise and delight of Hatters fans. He's scored steadily this term too, with eight so far. Warren Feeney was scoring a goal every other game for Stockport when Luton signed him in March, he's got seven thus far, but for some reason drops in and out of the starting line-up. The two other striking options are less dangerous, and are easily out-scored by Nicholls and Brkovic. Rowan Vine, Feeney's rival for a starting position, has only marked his card twice thus far, whilst the magnificently named Enoch Showunmi has one less.

What's evident from all of this is that Luton have a settled, well-organised team with a decent goal-threat. Away from home, I don't fancy that at all, especially when we're facing a volley of abuse from three quarters of the ground. Millwall and Southampton showed two very different Watfords. One was very good. I just hope the right one walks out at Luton.