Fixture: Exeter City v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, April 16, 3pm kick-off
Venue: St James Park
Forecast: 9C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Exeter: Will Hoskins (back), Matt Oakley (back), Clinton Morrison (groin). Cobblers: Marc Richards (Achilles), Paul Corry (knee)
Betting: Exeter 6/4, draw 23/10, Northampton 9/5
Form guide: Exeter WWWDWD, Cobblers DDDWWD
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Exeter 1.4/1.3, Northampton 1.8/1.0
Likely line-ups: Exeter (4-4-2): Olejnik; Ribeiro, Brown, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Watkins, Noble, Harley, Holmes; Stockley, Wheeler. Northampton (4-2-3-1): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan; O’Toole, Rose; Holmes, Hoskins, Adams; Marquis.
Man in the middle: Oliver Langford
Last time out: Yeovil 0 Exeter 2 (Watkins, Taylor); Northampton 2 (Adams, Hoskins) Bristol Rovers 2 (Taylor, Harrison)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, August 15, 2015 – Northampton Town 3 (Taylor, Cresswell, Richards) Exeter City 0
Record v Exeter: P112 W51 D32 L29
Opposition view: Exeter boss Paul Tisdale told the club’s website: “I can’t speculate on Northampton – they’ve got promoted, but that could make them more confident or more relaxed. They haven’t lost a game for goodness-knows how long, and they still have the league title to win. We just have to assume that they’ll be at their best; that’s all we can do.”
Cobblers connection: With just five appearances to his name in 1992, current Grecians boss Paul Tisdale won’t exactly go down in Cobblers folklore. His whole playing career was a struggle, in truth, as he managed just 81 first-team games across more than 10 years, even spending some of that time globe-trotting in Finland, where he played for FinnPa, and Greece. Injury forced an early retirement and after six years coaching at Team Bath, Tisdale was appointed manager of Exeter City in June 2006 and he remains at St James Park to this day having cemented himself as one of the club’s most successful managers, taking them from non-league to as high as eighth in League One.
James Heneghan’s preview: For the second successive Saturday table-topping Northampton come face-to-face with League Two’s most in-form team.
Last Saturday it was Bristol Rovers who went into their clash against Cobblers as the division’s hottest side but while they could only come away from Sixfields with a 2-2 draw, Exeter City were notching a ninth straight game unbeaten with a 2-0 win at Yeovil, enough to see them leap to the top of the form table having taken 14 points from the last 18 available.
Northampton have found themselves in that position more than anyone else this season and with promotion now in the bag, the Cobblers are eyeing up the League Two title.
Three consecutive 2-2 draws have somewhat stalled Town’s charge towards 100 points, a target which now seems unlikely, but with rivals continuing to trip over themselves, they still boast a 12-point lead at the top and with only 15 points left available this season, the title should be a matter of time.
It could be achieved as early as Saturday but even if Chris Wilder and his players come away from St James Park with all three points, they will need a helping hand from elsewhere.
The permutations are simple: go one better than how Oxford fare against Luton Town and Northampton will be League Two champions come 5pm Saturday.
But as previously mentioned, beating an in-form and play-off hunting Exeter side will be no easy task irrespective of the 19 game unbeaten run which the Cobblers currently boast.
Six weeks ago, the Grecians appeared destined for a mid-table finish but a run of six wins and three draws in their next nine matches has taken them from 14th and nine points adrift of the play-offs to ninth and level with seventh-placed AFC Wimbledon.
Exeter are famed for their neat and tidy football under Tisdale, which this weekend could play into the hands of Northampton who have recently been frustrated by defensive-minded teams and only looked more of a force against an open, attack-minded Rovers outfit on Saturday.
After producing their best performance in some time in that game against Rovers, it only seems logical for Wilder to stick with 4-2-3-1 for the trip to the south west this weekend.
Danny Rose, Sam Hoskins and John Marquis all impressed and all should have done enough to retain their place in the starting XI, even if that does come at the expense of Joel Byrom and James Collins.
Avoid defeat tomorrow and the Cobblers will make it 14 straight away games unbeaten which would break yet another club record in this history-making season.
It’s a remarkable run of form on the road, one that stretches all the way back to Cambridge United in mid-October, and while some teams might ease up after securing promotion, that wouldn’t comply with the unrelenting nature of this Cobblers team.
Prediction: Exeter City 1 Northampton Town 2