Preview: Luton Town derby clash getting Sarll “fired up and pumping”

Ronnie Henry

Ronnie Henry - Credit: Archant

Derby encounters always get the blood coarsing through the veins and prior to Stevenage’s League Two trip to rivals Luton Town on Saturday, Darren Sarll is feeling the buzz.

Boro head to Kenilworth Road still peering anxiously over their shoulders at the relegation zone, seven points clear of second-bottom York City but with a game in hand over the Minstermen.

A 1-1 draw at promotion-chasing Oxford United on Good Friday ended a five-game losing run and manager Sarll hopes his side can build on that result in the bubbling Bedfordshire cauldron.

Sarll said: “As a supporter myself this is the best game. I love this game.

“This is the best game and it is what gets you really fired up and pumping and you want to go and play against your rivals.

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“I have massive respect for Nathan [Jones - Luton Town manager] and the man and the coach that he is and I’ve got massive respect for the football club, Luton Town Football Club, but as a Stevenage fan, I have that pride and rivalry with the Lutons and the Cambridges.

“I really enjoy these games because they have that edge to them and I think it’s important that the players that aren’t local understand what it does mean to the local people and understand that is is a massive, massive game for the supporters when they go to Kenilworth Road.”

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Boro are helped by the presence of several old Luton insiders in the camp both in the squad and on the bench.

Defensive trio Ronnie Henry, who captained Town back into the Football League in 2014, Fraser Franks and Luke Wilkinson, midfielder Keith Keane, back on loan at Stevenage, and forward Aaron O’Connor have all spent time at the Hatters, while Sarll’s right-hand man, Terry Harris, was assistant to John Still in that promotion-winning side.

He continued: “It was unbelievable in the team meeting this morning (Thursday) because there were a few lads going back to Kenilworth Road who understand what it’s like to be a player and opponent there and it’s a real sense of experience and advice to call upon and use.

“Ronnie had a great spell there under John Still, Luke Wilkinson had the most recent spell there, Keith Keane is a local boy done good-type in the eyes of the Luton supporters so there’s lots of sources of education of what it’s like to go and play there.”

Those calming heads will certainly be required in what will no doubt be another feisty derby.

The pair’s previous meeting, a goalless draw at the Lamex Stadium in November, produced fireworks both on and off the pitch with punches traded on the terraces after the late dismissal of Town striker Paul Benson.

Unsurprisingly the Boro boss does not wish to see similar scenes this weekend.

Sarll said: “Let’s keep football to football. Let’s be passionate and let’s get as close to the line as possible but let’s make sure everyone goes home on Saturday night safe and well.

“It’s a football match and between 3 and 4.45pm it’s the world but let’s leave it to cheering and chanting and enjoying the match.”

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