Fresh from picking up their first-ever point in Premier League football, Luton Town seek a safe passage into the fourth round of the EFL Cup when they travel to League One outfit Exeter City on Tuesday.
The Hatters edged past Gillingham 3-2 in the second round to make it this far, while their hosts have already overcome Crawley Town and Stevenage in the 2023-24 edition.
Hitting the ground running at the start of the season, Exeter lost just one of their first eight competitive fixtures across all tournaments and embarked on a four-game winning streak between the end of August and beginning of September, including a penalty-shootout success against Stevenage in EFL Cup round two.
In doing so, the League One outfit advanced to the third round of the tournament for the first time in 34 years, but Gary Caldwell has since overseen a dramatic nosedive in fortunes, including a record-breaking 9-0 home obliteration at the hands of Reading in the EFL Trophy last week.
Redemption was not on the cards when Exeter travelled to meet Oxford United in Saturday's third-tier affair either, as an eighth-minute Ruben Rodrigues effort and pair of Cameron Brannagan penalties in the final 10 minutes subjected Caldwell's men to a comprehensive 3-0 loss.
From being beaten in just one of their eight opening fixtures in 2023-24, the Grecians have now come out on the wrong end of the scoreline in three of their last four contests, but a first EFL Cup third-round appearance since the turn of the millennium is still nothing to be scoffed at.
The visit of Luton will come exactly one week after a rampant Reading put nine unanswered goals past Caldwell's men in the EFL Trophy, and while such a mauling was surely a one-off, their Premier League counterparts were certainly in the mood at the weekend.
Just when the Hatters were beginning to run out of steam against Wolverhampton Wanderers, who managed to quell a barrage of Luton attacks in the opening 25 minutes, Rob Edwards's side received a most opportune fillip when Jean-Ricner Bellegarde kicked out at Tom Lockyer and was banished from the field of play.
Nevertheless, Gary O'Neil's side drew first blood five minutes into the second half thanks to a fine individual goal from Pedro Neto, but Luton would get off the mark in the Premier League in contentious circumstances, as Joao Gomes was penalised for handball inside the area, and Carlton Morris stroked home from 12 yards.
Luton threw the kitchen sink at Wolves in their bid to find a winner, but following a late disallowed goal for Chiedozie Ogbene, the hosts would settle for a draw against the 10 men of Wolves, who could count themselves lucky not to have become the Hatters' first Premier League victims.
Prior to Saturday's well-earned point, Luton only had a narrow 3-2 EFL Cup second-round success over Gillingham to shout about, and Edwards's side remain without a clean sheet since the season commenced, but they will be firm favourites to reach round four of the EFL Cup for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign.
Not since Luton's days in the doldrums of League Two have the Hatters squared off with Exeter in competitive action, but they departed the fourth tier with a seven-game unbeaten run against Exeter, whose most recent triumph over the Premier League new boys came all the way back in 2015.
Exeter and Luton did business in the transfer market with the loan transfer of striker Admiral Muskwe to the Grecians, and while he will therefore not be eligible to face his parent club, he is dealing with a sore calf in any case.
Muskwe joins Ilmari Niskanen, Dion Rankine, Jack Aitchison and Cheick Diabate in a well-stocked Exeter infirmary, while Ryan Trevitt had to come off at the break against Oxford after receiving treatment, and the Brentford loanee has emerged as a doubt for the third-round tie.
Trevitt's withdrawal could lead to a recall for Caleb Watts in the middle, but on a more positive note, both Harry Kite and Vincent Harper battled back from their afflictions to earn some minutes at Oxford, although the latter was only brought off the bench in the dying embers.
Meanwhile, Luton came out of their stalemate with Wolves unscathed on the physical front, leaving a quartet of absentees in Gabriel Osho (knee), Jordan Clark (ankle), Dan Potts (ankle) and Ross Barkley (thigh) in the care of the medical team.
Barkley is the closest of the four to making a full recovery, but Edwards hinted last week that the playmaker would be targeting a return to action against former club Everton next weekend, so a comeback on Tuesday is seemingly off the cards.
A selection of players are in line for promotion from the bench, though, with Tim Krul, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Ryan Giles, Mads Andersen, Tahith Chong and Cauley Woodrow expected to strut their stuff at St James Park.
Exeter City possible starting lineup:
Sinisalo; Sweeney, Aimson, Fitzwater; Kite, Carroll, Cole, Harper; Watts; Scott, Wildschut
Luton Town possible starting lineup:
Krul; Kabore, Mengi, Lockyer, Andersen, Giles; Mpanzu, Berry; Chong; Woodrow, Adebayo
We say: Exeter City 0-3 Luton Town
Even with a wealth of first-team regulars expected to enjoy a night off, Luton should not have to overcome many obstacles to sink an Exeter crop whose morale is surely at an all-time low.
A first clean sheet of the season should be on the menu for the Hatters too, as Edwards's side end the Grecians' EFL Cup adventure with a routine success at St James Park.
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