Cheltenham v Luton Preview: goals expected

Collins already on nine goals – bbc.co.uk

Luton Town have a far bigger budget than their Gloucestershire hosts, but that didn’t show when this fixture was played at a similar stage last season. Cheltenham dominated at Whaddon Road yet due to profligate finishing, they only drew 1-1 with the Hatters, who left somewhat grateful for a point.

Last season, the Robins didn’t always capitalize on good performances: it felt like they were relying on Billy Waters to help them tread water until Dan Holman got back fit. This year, neither of those players are in the squad yet the Robins look a more ruthless beast.

They are averaging 1.44 goals per game this term, improving their 16/17 output by 35%. Target man Danny Wright has benefited from a year to acclimatize to this level, often making an impact from the bench. Brian Graham has scored five goals in his last eight and is starting to settle after his move from Scotland, while Mo Eisa, although not in his best form, remains top scorer with eight.

Bearing in mind that they have also seen 12 goals from non-strikers this term, with Kevin Dawson and Carl Winchester also impressing, we can see a team that threatens from all angles.

Luton are themselves top scorers with 34 and their performances against Yeovil and Stevenage show they are capable of an attacking wonder-show. The one concern is that, oddly, they have also failed to score six times – only seven teams have done so more often. If they want to get automatic promotion, Nathan Jones’ side may need to offer more going forward when games aren’t played on their terms.

In those types of matches, often away from home, their saviour has been goalkeeper Marek Stech, who was outstanding at Kenilworth Road against Portsmouth last week. Luton deserved that win, with former Birmingham teammates Andrew Shinnie and Olly Lee impressing in midfield.

The pros of playing two up top in Danny Hylton and James Collins normally outweighs the cons, because it allows them to occupy centre-backs for 90 minutes. The duo have scored 17 goals between them in all competitions and should cause problems going forward for Cheltenham, who have conceded 13 goals in their last five games.

Both teams can be a real menace going forward. If Luton produce their A-game, goals shouldn’t be in short supply.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-2