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Opposition in focus: League swap just like in '92, keeping up with the Joneses and two familiar faces

PUBLISHED: 10:00 13 August 2019

Striker James Collins has scored the goals which have lifted Luton from League Two to the Championship. Photo: PA

Striker James Collins has scored the goals which have lifted Luton from League Two to the Championship. Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Ipswich Town take on Luton Town as league underdogs in the Carabao Cup first round tonight (7.45pm). STUART WATSON takes a look at the Hatters.

Luton Town manager Graeme Jones. Photo: PALuton Town manager Graeme Jones. Photo: PA

PHOENIX FROM THE FLAMES

Luton have been on quite the journey since a 5-0 defeat at Portman Road in October 2006 set the wheels in motion for relegation from the Championship.

Financial difficulties and points deductions kicked in. They finished bottom of League One and then bottom of League Two.

They were promoted back to the Football League at the fifth attempt. They were promoted from League Two at the fourth attempt. They then took League One by storm at the very first attempt.

Martin Cranie (second right) celebrates scoring Luton's second goal in a 3-3 thriller against Middlesbrough on the opening day of the season. Photo: PAMartin Cranie (second right) celebrates scoring Luton's second goal in a 3-3 thriller against Middlesbrough on the opening day of the season. Photo: PA

On average, they've won 23 games a season over the last decade.

TOWN THE UNDERDOGS

This is the first time since 1991/92 that Ipswich have played at a lower level than Luton.

Luton have signed Izzy Brown on loan from Chelsea. The forward has previously had spells at Leeds, Brighton and Huddersfield. Photo: PALuton have signed Izzy Brown on loan from Chelsea. The forward has previously had spells at Leeds, Brighton and Huddersfield. Photo: PA

David Pleat's side were relegated from the top-flight that season to miss out on a place in the inaugural Premier League campaign.

John Lyall's Town, of course, won the old Second Division to claim their place among the elite.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

Luton signed former Ipswich loanee Ryan Tunnicliffe on a free transfer from Millwall this summer. Photo: PALuton signed former Ipswich loanee Ryan Tunnicliffe on a free transfer from Millwall this summer. Photo: PA

Having highly-rated young boss Nathan Jones poached by Stoke in January did little to derail Luton's charge towards the title last season.

The vastly experienced Mick Harford stepped in for a 21-game caretaker manager spell that included just two defeats before returning to his role as 'chief recruitment officer'.

MORE: 'I know I can't headbutt people... I assure you it won't happen again' - in-form Downes out to earn Lambert's trust

At the end of the campaign, Luton handed Graeme Jones his first managerial job. The 49-year-old has previously acted as Roberto Martinez's assistant at Swansea, Wigan, Everton and the Belgium national team, as well as No.2 to Darren Moore at West Brom.

START TO SEASON

Started life back in the Championship with a rip-roaring, 3-3, Friday night home draw against Middlesbrough, live on Sky. They were 1-0 down, 2-1 up, 3-2 down and grabbed a late leveller through James Collins.

Looked to have snatched another point at Cardiff on Saturday when Matthew Pearson made it 1-1 in the 86th minute only for Isaac Vassell to score a stoppage-time winner for Neil Warnock's men.

MORE: Town eye move for Colchester full-back Vincent-Young

"I can easily come in here and talk about positives," said Jones. "Because they were a Premier League club two months ago and for 94 minutes we competed, no question about it.

"I think that's the definition of the Championship and how ruthless it can be. That's the level, that's the league and we've had an experience of it today and we need to learn from it."

FAMILIAR FACES

James Bree spent the second half of last season on loan at Ipswich. The Aston Villa right-back is now loan at Luton.

The Hatters signed Ryan Tunnicliffe this summer following the midfielder's release from Millwall. The 26-year-old spent the 2013/14 season on loan at Town from Manchester United before going on to play for Fulham, Wigan and Blackburn.

Luton also have a couple of former Colchester favourites too in George Moncur and Elliot Lee.

OTHER SUMMER BUSINESS

The club's two exciting young full-backs - Jack Stacey and James Justin - were sold to Premier League clubs Bournemouth and Leicester respectively, the fees reported to be £4m and £8m.

The Hatters then paid out a club record fee of £1.4m to sign goalkeeper Simon Sluga from Croatian side HNK Rijeka.

MORE: Stuart Watson's Sunday Verdict: 'A frustrating draw - but the right kind of frustrating'

Experienced trio Martin Cranie (Sheffield United, free), Jacob Butterfield (Derby, free) and Callum McManaman (Wigan, free) were also recruited, as was young defender Brendan Galloway (Everton, loan).

Luton then signed forward Izzy Brown (Chelsea, loan) and winger Luke Bolton (Man City, loan) on deadline day - and the duo could make their debuts tonight.

STAR MAN

James Collins scored 20 goals when Luton got promoted from League Two. He scored 25 times as the Hatters won League One. The 28-year-old is already off the mark in the Championship and looking to get back in Mick McCarthy's Republic of Ireland squad.

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