Luton’s unbeaten run ends here

Yes, they are top of the league by eight points.

Yes, they are unbeaten in the league since mid October - 28 games, of which they have won 21.

OK, they have scored more goals (80) than any other team bar Manchester City and Norwich and have a goal difference (+46) only bettered by City and Liverpool.

All right, we know they have failed to score in only 4 of their 41 games so far.

And they came back to get a draw with Blackpool last week with only ten men.

All well and good, BUT

When did Luton last win at The Valley?

Nearly 40 years ago, that's when.

You have to go back to 1980 when a Charlton side doomed to relegation were beaten 1-4 by Luton on a dismal Good Friday at The Valley. We accept that The Hatters did also manage to win 1-0 at Selhurst Park in May 1987, but that is their only success away from home against Charlton in twelve attempts at three different grounds. Hardly impressive is it?

And, although they may have only lost four games this season, let's have a closer look at those defeats. They have lost 2-3 at Barnsley; 1-2 at Doncaster; 1-3 at Peterborough and 0-1 at Portsmouth. Additionally, they only drew 1-1 at Sunderland. See the pattern? They have failed to win away to any of their top six rivals. We have to ask the question: when they come up against quality opposition away from home, have they really got what it takes?

Plus, they will be taking the field on Saturday without their leading goal scorer - James Collins - who was sent off in the Blackpool match last week. So we can discount his 22 goals for a start. This will put more responsibility on the shoulders of Elliott (son of Robert) Lee, Danny Hylton and Kazenga Lua-Lua (who, according to Wikipedia at least, is Yann Kermorgant's brother -in-law)

But, most importantly, they will be coming up against a Charlton side unbeaten in ten games and with only one defeat this calendar year. A Charlton side who haven't conceded a goal for a month and who have the best 2019 defensive record in the whole League (8 in 16 matches). A Charlton side who have scored in 22 of their last 26 matches.

And what do long unbeaten records mean to us anyway? Remember Huddersfield in 2011? Arriving at The Valley in November claiming not to have been beaten for 43 games and leaving on the wrong end of a 2-0 score line? And Blackburn? It was almost a year ago that Blackburn came to SE7 with an unbeaten record of 33 games dating back to the previous October. Few will ever forget the sumptuous Jason Pearce goal which sent them home pointless. Do Luton really believe they can do any better?

There is another interesting parallel emerging. There were seven games left in the season when Charlton won 1-0 at Swindon on 4th April 1997. As the promotion push continued the team didn't concede any goals in the remaining six games. They achieved another shut-out in the first leg of the play-off semi-final at Ipswich and, when they won the second leg 1-0 at The Valley, Sasa Ilic had kept his ninth consecutive clean sheet - equalling the 74 year old club record.  Step forward Dillon Phillips, who started his run a little earlier on 16th March. Four down and five to go, with a chance to beat the record if the play-offs are needed.

Lee Bowyer - nominated along with Mick Harford (and Karl Robinson) for the March Manager of the Month award - has the luxury of six quality defenders to choose from. He can shuffle his midfield as he sees fit. His options are only a bit limited up front but, if Lyle Taylor stays fit and Igor Vetokele continues to look sharper with each game, there is every reason to expect that Luton's record will come to a sticky end on Saturday.