JOHN LOMAS’ CHAD STAGS BLOG: Stags are favourites at last in a Luton clash

John Lomas. Mansfield chad.
John Lomas. Mansfield chad.
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This may backfire on me, but I have to say this coming weekend must be the first time I can remember going into a game with Luton Town when Stags must actually be favourites to win.

The two clubs have established a great rivalry down the years from the League days, through the Conference years and back into the League again.

There have been some great matches and special moments for both sides.

For the Stags there was the Louis Briscoe penalty kick that knocked the Hatters out of the FA Trophy in the semi-finals at Luton, and there was that late Lindon Meikle winner securing a memorable 3-2 victory, also at Kenwilworth Road.

But more often than not the Hatters have had the upper hand and I can remember sitting watch Lars Elstrup grab a hat-trick in a 7-2 drubbing of the Stags on the old plastic pitch at Kenilworth Road after he scored twice in a 4-3 first leg success at Field Mill – an amazing two-legged tie.

Let’s not forget it wasn’t so long ago that Luton were a top flight club. I can remember sitting watching them play Forest at Wembley in the 1989 League Cup final as holders, 12 months after they had beaten Arsenal on the same hallowed turf.

So it was a spectacular fall from grace with relegation from the top flight in 1991/92 season before financial problems between 2007 and 2009 saw them suffer three relegations in as many seasons.

The last of those also saw them start 2008/09 on minus 30 points for financial irregularities after having 10 points deducted during the previous season.

These were harsh, unprecedented penalties from the Football League and left Luton swimming with the minnows of the Conference and, like Mansfield, finding out it wasn’t that easy to escape from.

But they were back last season and, although hopes were high down there, again the Hatters found their past glories and their large crowds counted for little at League Two level.

However, I did fancy them to make an impact this time around.

Instead they have had a dire season and of their last nine League games, have lost five of them and won only once.

No surprise then that John Still – a manager highly rated by Stags boss Adam Murray – was sacked.

Like Notts County up the road, Luton have taken a chance on giving a newcomer his first managerial opening with Brighton first team coach Nathan Jones taking the reins last week.

So he may be surprised by what is often a highly-charged, almost local derby atmosphere these games produce on the back of past hostilities between the clubs.

But, given Luton’s recent record and the positions the two clubs occupy in the League, most bookies would make Luton underdogs for once on Saturday.

The new manager syndrome is always a factor that can upset the applecart. But Stags will go into the game confident after results so far this season against many of the sides below them.

Whatever happens, let’s hope we get another rip-roaring clash with one of the old enemies.