One more fixture before the respite of an international weekend. And for the first time since Mark Bowen has taken charge, the Royals are – on paper at least – favourites going into the game.
The Royals have returned two wins and a draw from their underdog status in the last three games. Manager Mark Bowen is fully aware that this game provides a different kind of test against a Luton side which, in spite of their place in the table, have outscored a lot of the promotion contenders so far.
“Luton are a dangerous side – they’re one of the top scoring sides, belying their position in the table, and at the same time they have let in a number of goals,” Bowen said. ”We have to give them the respect that they deserve.
“I know Graeme Jones very well, and I dare say his career path is not unlike mine. He spent many years coaching with Roberto Martinez, so I know he’ll have them well organised and he’ll have a gameplan coming to our place.
“In my first few games here, it was about preparing 100 per cent and looking at the opposition as well – which we will still do. But I see Saturday’s game, certainly mentally, is about us. It’s about what we do and how we carry on the way we have been doing, going one more game forward to get over the mini finishing line of the international break.
“In the first couple of games, we were perhaps the underdogs. We were against Preston and QPR who had had good starts, and it is a different mentality in the build-up to a game where you’re seen as the favourites.
“I certainly see that this weekend. That’s no disrespect to Luton at all. It’s our home patch, we’re on a good run, and we’ll go into the game as favourites. It is a different mentality; you have to prepare yourself mentally a little bit differently for the challenge ahead.
“It’s an old cliché in the game, but you can’t pat yourself on the back too much and you can’t look too far ahead. We have to make sure we’re focused at 3pm on Saturday, because it won’t happen unless we put all the effort in again.”
Indeed, there will be no let-up until that final whistle sounds on Saturday afternoon – there’ll be a chance to get the breath back, but not until the job is done.
“Right since I came in, this international break has always looked like the first cut-off point,” he continued. “We have done well up until now, but we have to make sure we’re all focused mentally to get the right result on Saturday so that we can have that well-deserved break.
“Some players will go away with their countries, and the ones who stay back here will step off the gas a little bit – and hopefully we’ll be able to look back on a productive month.”