PREVIEW: Luton Town v Lincoln City

Lincoln City can approach their trip to Kenilworth Road with real confidence after a decent start to the season, writes Mike Simmonds.

A goalless draw at Woking started the campaign, before the Imps earned successive home wins over Macclesfield and Forest Green Rovers.

Defeats then followed at Cambridge United, but City bounced back to beat Wrexham 2-0 and then won at Dartford too.

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A home loss to Salisbury took some of the gloss off the bright opening, before Lincoln then drew at Barnet and got back to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Southport on Tuesday night.

Their form this campaign is in stark contract to last year where they finished a hugely disappointing 16th, just six points above the drop as they constantly flirted with relegation.

That included a 3-0 defeat at Luton late on in the season, but defender Tom Miller insists the Imps are a much different side this term.

He told the Lincolnshire Echo: “Last season’s match there was one I would like to forget.

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“However, we don’t look like we did last year at all. There is no comparison in our personnel.

“I think people are already looking at us to be competitors and I don’t see why not.

“We’ve got the players to be up there. We don’t want to get carried away, but I think that the gaffer has brought in players who can do a job.

“We are going to Luton confident. I’m confident and the boys know that if they perform well then we can get a good result. We can beat Luton.”

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A wind of change has certainly swept through Sincil Bank over the summer with no less than 10 players on their way including the likes of Josh Gowling, Peter Bore, Jamie Taylor and Nicky Nicolau, while a host of others including Rob Duffy, Conal Platt and Peter Gilbert were released

Boss Gary Simpson went back to former club Macclesfield for Nat Brown, Ben Tomlinson and Waide Fairhurst, while Danny Rowe and Sean Newton amongst other were all snapped up too.

There was a change in the backroom staff too, with Grant Brown, who has had three spells in charge as caretaker, becoming Simpson’s assistant.

Although Imps have moved into fourth with their start, boss Simpson has his eyes on his points target first and foremost.

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He said: “We are getting closer to the 50 points and the sooner you get there the better.

“I have always said if you get to 50 points by January that’s fantastic, if you get there in February then fair enough, but let’s get there.

“We don’t want to go through what this club has been through in the past two seasons. A club of our size and stature, an ex-Football League club, we shouldn’t be at the bottom of the table.”

Team news: Hatters should have defensive duo Alex Lacey and Anthony Charles available for selection after the pair both recovered from injuries.

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Jon Shaw is still out after undergoing a hernia operation, while Danny Fitzsimons (knee) is unavailable, with Alex Wall serving the second game of his three match suspension.

Lincoln haven’t reported any major concerns as Adi Yussuf (hamstring) and Nick Wright (hamstring) both returned recently.

Top Skrill scorer - Hatters: Luke Guttridge (3). Imps: Ben Tomlinson (3)

Man in the middle: Adam Bromley - has officiated three games so far this season, showing three yellow cards and one red, in his first game that saw Forest Green hammer Hyde 8-0.

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Last season, he helped clear snow off the Kenilworth Road pitch before Town took on Tamworth in blizzard-like conditions, and was by far one of the best referees seen all term.

Brandished 39 cautions and one red during the campaign, taking charge of Lincoln once, a 1-1 draw with Woking.

In charge: Gary Simpson - 52-year-old who started his playing career with Stoke City before moving to Boston United in 1980.

Skippered the club to the 1985 FA Trophy final, before leaving to join Stafford Rangers, Weymouth and Altrincham.

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Took up his first managerial role at Gainsborough Trinity, where he was player/manager, but resigned in October 1993.

Signed as a player again for Arnold Town, before joining Hyde United in September 1994.

Became assistant boss to Keith Alexander at Ilkeston Town and the pair moved to Northwich Victoria, Lincoln City, Peterborough United and Macclesfield Town.

Took over at Macclesfield as caretaker when Alexander tragically died in March 2010, before being appointed permanently, but left in March 2012.

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Was appointed as Lincoln boss on February 27 this year following the departure of David Holdsworth and ensured the club stayed in the Conference, signing a three year deal in the summer.

View from the oppostion: Jake Sheridan (speaking to the Lincolnshire Echo): “You know what to expect when you go to Luton.

“They are a big team who have been in this league for a few years now. They are always expected to be in or around the play-offs. There will be a lot of fans there and they will be under pressure to win.

“But we don’t need to change much. We will go there confident and I think they will be just as worried about us as we are of them.

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“But people should be wary of Lincoln. We are a big team in this division, we are a former league club and it’s one of the teams that other clubs will look forward to playing.

“As a player you would probably focus on the fact it’s a brilliant ground to play at and it’s a chance to play in front of six or seven thousand people.

“I think that can only inspire you to do better.

“We will be confident and we will go there and try and win. I love it (big crowd), it just gives you a little bit more of a lift. If you are feeling tired it can give you that extra five or ten per cent.

Average home crowd: Luton: 6,363. Imps: 2,362.

Ones to watch: Ben Tomlinson - 23-year-old striker, who began at Worksop, before moving to Macclesfield, where he played under Imps boss Gary Simpson.

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Moved to Alfreton and scored 11 league goals last season, before leaving in the summer where he was quickly reunited with Simpson in July.

Didn’t score in the first four fixtures this season, before netting three in two matches, but has now gone three games without scoring again.

Friendly faces: Hatters boss John Still spent a spell at Sincil Bank as a coach after he was sacked as manager of Peterborough in October 1995.

Eventually left the Imps when becoming Barnet boss in June 1997.

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We’ve got form: Hatters have a superb record at Kenilworth Road against the Imps, winning 13 of their 18 matches, drawing three and losing just two, scoring 47 and conceding 16.

They’re unbeaten for over a decade on home soil, triumphing in three and drawing two of the last five matches.

They last lost in a Division Two clash back in April 1999, a 1-0 defeat courtesy of Lee Thorpe’s winner on 61 minutes.

Town’s biggest win was a huge 9-3 triumph in Division Two, way back on December 18, 1897, with goals from Edwin Birch (3), Tom McInnnes (2), William Stewart, James Couper, Tommy Little and W Gallacher.

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In more recent times, they won 6-0 in 1949 with Jimmy Mulvaney (2), Bobby Brennan (2) Charlie Burtenshaw and Jack Taylor on target.

Town’s biggest defeat was a 2-0 reverse back in April 1900.

Last time out: Hatters enjoyed a 3-0 win over Lincoln towards the back end of last season as Dave Martin opened the scoring on 41 minutes, quickly followed by Andre Gray’s strike.

Martin could have had a hat-trick only to see two goals disallowed for offside, though he did net again on 72 to seal the victory.

Hatters: Dean Brill, Steve McNulty, Simon Ainge, Ronnie Henry, Scott Griffiths, Alex Lawless (Scott Rendell 76), Jon Shaw (Alex Wall 81), David Martin, Matt Robinson, Jonathan Smith, Andre Gray (Dan Walker 89).

Subs not used: Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Ben Barnes.

Attendance: 5,393.

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