James Heneghan’s Northampton Town v AFC Wimbledon preview

John-Joe O'Toole run of 22 consecutive league starts began at Wimbledon in September
John-Joe O'Toole run of 22 consecutive league starts began at Wimbledon in September

Fixture: Northampton Town v AFC Wimbledon, Sky Bet League Two

Date/time: Tuesday, March 1, 7.45pm kick-off

Venue: Sixfields

Forecast: 8C, cloudy

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Rod McDonald (ill), Marc Richards (Achilles), Paul Corry (knee). Wimbledon: Karleigh Osborne (knee), Will Nightingale (knee), Tom Elliott (knock), Andy Barcham (knock)

Betting: Northampton 13/10, draw 23/10, Dons 21/10

Form guide: Cobblers DWWWWW, Dons LWWWLW

Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Northampton 1.8/1.0, Wimbledon 1.6/1.2

Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, Prosser, Buchanan; Holmes, O’Toole, Byrom, Adams; Marquis, Collins. Wimbledon (4-4-2): Roos; Fuller, Robinson, Sweeney, Meades; Rigg, Reeves, Bulman, Barcham; Azeez, Taylor.

Man in the middle: Phil Gibbs

Last time out: Northampton 0 Hartlepool 0; AFC Wimbledon 1 (Barcham) Oxford 2 (Hylton, Bowery)

Most recent meeting: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 – AFC Wimbledon 1 (Azeez) Northampton 1 (O’Toole)

Record v AFC Wimbledon: P9, W5 D4 L0

Opposition view: Dons boss Neal Ardley on tonight’s game: “We’re looking forward to it and it’s an exciting game. Northampton have a great pitch and they’ve got a very good team that’s on a great run of form so the expectation is less from the outside but not in our dressing room.

“We’ve got to look forward to these games and momentum and mindset is a big thing in football. We’ve managed to find a way of winning games in recent weeks but it’s about how we turn up and the approach we have because we won’t turn up and be defensive.”

Cobblers connection: As the 10th leading scorer in Northampton’s history, Adebayor Akinfenwa needs no introduction and he’s sure to receive a warm reception from the Sixfields faithful this evening, although that might have to be as a substitute. The former Cobblers hero has had to make do with a place on the bench in recent weeks due to the form of fellow strikers Lyle Taylor and namesake Ade Azeez who have 20 goals between them this season which has kept Akinfenwa away from the starting line-up since mid January.

James Heneghan’s preview: While it would be an exaggeration to describe Saturday’s goalless draw at Hartlepool United as anything other than a inconvenient blip on the promotion path, the Cobblers will nevertheless be keen to get straight back on the winning trail when they welcome play-off chasing AFC Wimbledon for a tantalising League Two clash this evening.

Since their rebirth in 2002, the Dons are yet to taste success in nine meetings against Northampton, suffering five defeats to go with four draws, but given their impressive sequence of recent results, they’ll fancy their chances tonight in a game that pits the division’s most in-form sides against each other.

Northampton’s run speaks for itself despite Saturday’s ‘blip’, but Wimbledon’s climb up the table has gone somewhat under the radar with the Dons collecting 22 points from their last 10 fixtures, two more than Accrington in the form guide.

Much of that good form is thanks to the in-form Lyle Taylor, who gave Northampton a few headaches with his pace and directness as a second half substitute in September’s fixture between the two, and with eight goals in his last 11 games, the fleet-floored striker is again one to watch tonight.

On paper, that reverse fixture earlier in the season might seem insignificant but when the dust settles on this memorable campaign, it could well be the moment which many people pinpoint as the major turning point and the catalyst for Cobblers’ promotion charge.

Not for the game itself, which ended in a hard-fought 1-1 draw, but for the fact it was the day which John-Joe O’Toole returned to the team.

On just his second start of the season, the first coming on the opening day of the season, the midfielder both scored and impressed during the 90 minutes and has never looked back since.

He proceeded to start every one of the next 21 league games, only recently coming out of the side due to injury, during which time he played an influential role in the team’s rise to the League Two summit to such an extent where he could potentially end up being voted as the club’s player of the season.

O’Toole should return tonight having missed out on the trip to Hartlepool and Luke Prosser is set to step in and make his full Cobblers debut with Rod McDonald suffering from a sickness bug.

Long-term absentees Karleigh Osborne and Will Nightingale aside, Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley has a strong fit squad to pick from as the Dons look to hit back themselves following a first defeat in four against Oxford United on Saturday.

They do, however, have doubts over striker Tom Elliott and winger Andy Barcham who both picked up knocks at the weekend.

Anyone who was in attendance at Kingsmeadow Stadium in September would have been impressed by what they saw from Wimbledon – who were unfortunate not to come away with all three points having shaded an entertaining contest – and will be well aware that tonight’s game is certainly no walkover.

Prediction: Northampton 2 AFC Wimbledon 1