Luton Town vs Reading preview: Can the Hatters pull away from the bottom?
Leeds United v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship
LEEDS, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Luton Town manager Nathan Jones reacts to going 1-0 up during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Luton Town at Elland Road on June 30, 2020 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Nathan Jones' Luton Town side sit bottom of the table and four points adrift, as the league enter's its final six matches.

Unbeaten in five matches, Harry Cornick gave the Bedfordshire-based side a point at Elland Road on Tuesday in a 1-1 with table-toppers Leeds United.

Reading, meanwhile, have failed to win since the restart.

Mark Bowen's side were resoundingly beaten 3-0 by Brentford at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night, and now sit just six points clear of the bottom three.

Key Battle

Since returning from lockdown, both Luton and Reading have scored few goals, with Jones' side having scored three and the away side just two.

With this in mind, there’s no doubt the key battle will be in the midfield and carving out chances for the two sets of forwards.

John Swift, Ovie Ejaria and Michael Olise all have the ability to unpick defences, with Swift registering 10 assists. 

Similarly Izzy Brown has seven with full-back James Bree on three.

With few goals in the two sides, the first goal will be crucial.

Having conceded the most goals in the league, at 73 compared to just 48 for the visitors, the Royals will get chances and will just hope to put them away.

Previous Meetings

In November, Reading recorded a comfortable 3-0 win against Saturday's hosts.

Michael Morrison's header; Ejaria's strike and a smart finish from Garath McCleary, punished Luton for a poor away performance, in which they registered just a single shot on target.

It left Graeme Jones' men without a win in four and sat just a point above the relegation places.

Going further back, the two sides have played out some classic matches.

In 1988, Ian Branfoot's Reading beat Luton Town 4-1 at Wembley in the final of the Simod Cup, with the Berkshire side taking over 40,000 fans for the club's first trip to the national stadium.

Michael Gilkes, now Reading First Team Coach, scored as well as Neil Smilie, Mick Tait and Stuart Beavon following Luton icon Mick Harford's opener.

The first ever visitors to the new Madejski Stadium in 1998 were Luton, who lost 3-0 through goals from Grant Brebner, Jim McIntyre and Robert Fleck in the Second Division (now Sky Bet League One).

Also, hosts Luton were just the second, and final, team to beat Steve Coppell's legendary 2005/06 team in which Reading accumulated a record 106 points.

An opening minute goal from Irishman Kevin Doyle looked set to extend their unbeaten run to 34 matches, but was cancelled out by a quick double by Rowan Vine.

Dean Morgan made it 3-1 before a final minute consolation goal from Doyle saw Reading run out 3-2 losers at Kenilworth Road.

They would not lose again that season.

Team News

Luton midfielder Kazenga LuaLua is nearing fitness, but it is expected to be too much for him to start on Saturday.

Luke Berry is fit, but is in need of match fitness

Reading will still be without USA international Matt Miazga, who will be sitting out the second of his three game suspension.

Omar Richards was rested for the defeat to Brentford and so is in  contention to start on Saturday.

Lucas Joao will be out for at least the next two weeks following an injury sustained against Stoke City during the first game back.

Andy Yiadom is expected to be pushing for a start following his recent recovering from a hamstring issue.

Managers Views

Returning Luton boss Jones is unbeaten since in his second spell, having won one and drawn two of his opening three matches.

He fully expects it to be a tight match up, but says it is all about focusing on themselves, he told the club website:

"It’s another Championship game which is always very, very difficult.

"We’ll prepare the best we can for Reading, I’m sure Reading will do exactly the same for us and then we’ll go head to head on Saturday.

"But we can’t second guess anyone, all we can do is prepare ourselves and that’s at the moment what we can really focus on, as all we are doing is focusing on us and how we play, how we can approach and come out of games. That’s the main thing for us.”

Yet to win since the restart of matches, Bowen is preparing his team for a battle, he told the club website:

“When we put things together, and when our mentality is right, then we’ll be more than a match for Luton Town on Saturday.

“We have to get points on the board. That’s the name of the game. 

“When we’ve had poor nights or poor afternoons, we have got a group of players that can bounce back. But I’ve got to get the preparation right for Saturday, and the selection right as well.

The Reading boss is keen to ensure those players who are given the opportunity to play are up for the fight. 

"I need to make sure the players who are stepping onto the pitch have the desire and aptitude to get three points for this football club.

“I’ll go into Saturday’s game with options. We’ll take a good look at the starting line-up and the players involved, and make sure we get a reaction.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re fully prepared for a difficult away trip to Luton, who are fighting for their lives, on Saturday. And we will be.”