Fixture: Northampton Town v Chesterfield, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, February 11, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 2C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Alex Revell (calf), Brendan Moloney (knee), Sam Hoskins (knee), Gabriel Zakuani (hamstring). Chesterfield: Tommy Lee (shoulder)
Betting: Northampton 17/20, draw 13/5, Chesterfield 3/1
Form guide: Cobblers LWLLLL, Spireites LDWLLD
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Northampton 1.4/1.7, Chesterfield 1.0/1.6
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Eardley, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan; Taylor, O’Toole, Boateng, Williams; Richards, Anderson. Chesterfield (4-4-2): Fulton; El-Fitouri, Evatt, Anderson, Jones; Gardner, Grimshaw, Nolan, Donohue; Evans, Faupala.
Man in the middle: Richard Clark
Last time out: Walsall 2 Northampton 1 (O’Toole); Chesterfield 0 Oldham Athletic 1
Most recent meeting: Saturday, September 17, 2016 – Chesterfield 3 (Wilkinson 2, Dennis) Northampton 1 (Anderson)
Record v Chesterfield: P42 W10 D13 L19
Cobblers connection: Spireites defender Ian Evatt is to make his Sixfields return this weekend. Signed on loan from Derby County in 2001, the 35-year-old made 11 appearances for Northampton before moving Chesterfield on a permanent basis. After subsequent spells at Queens Park Rangers and Blackpool, Evatt returned to Derbyshire in 2013 and remains there to this day, making well over 100 appearances for the club.
Opposition view: Spireites boss Gary Caldwell on this weekend’s crunch clash: “I think like every League One game it’s a difficult fixture, there are no easy games. They are near the bottom and fighting, and they know if we win we’ll close the gap on them and bring them back into it. It’s a big game for both teams.
“They’re a physical team, Justin’s Gillingham teams were always hard to beat and were energetic teams, and he’s got them playing a similar way. We know they’re going to put us under pressure, we’ll need to defend well, but we want to impose ourselves on the game and have quality in the final third that can get that elusive goal.”
James Heneghan’s preview: Languishing in the drop zone, unable to arrest an extended run of poor form and put up for sale just this week, these are uncertain times for struggling Chesterfield who arrive at Sixfields on Saturday with their season on the line.
Beaten by a stoppage-time goal at home to 10-man Oldham Athletic in last week’s relegation six-pointer, defeat to another team in stuttering form on Saturday might just be too much to come back from.
Despite the recent appointment of Gary Caldwell, The Spireites have conspired to find the net just once in their last seven league outings, and with only a solitary win during that period, they find themselves three points adrift of safety and in desperate need of points sooner rather than later.
But such is the speed at which things can change in football, three points at Sixfields this weekend allied to victory in their game in hand would suddenly make for a much more positive outlook, whilst having the added benefit of dragging another team into the dogfight in Northampton.
Although the situation is not quite so pressing for the Cobblers, they can ill-afford to lose either of their next two games, both at home to teams below them, otherwise they too will be in a sticky spot.
With a slight gap appearing between 15th and 16th, it appears the bottom nine in Sky Bet League One have separated away into their own mini-competition to beat the drop, with four of those nine teams certain to be relegated.
Currently top of that mini-league and with six home games against the other eight still to come this season, Northampton look best-placed to pull themselves away from danger and into mid-table, something they can do with two wins over the next four days.
Town, for long spells, played well at Walsall last time out and with better finishing, they’d have left the Bescot Stadium with the point, if not more, they so sorely craved.
But play like that on a consistent basis and the only way is up, providing the finishing improves, because they were more than a match for a strong Walsall side who had thumped both Bristol Rovers and Sheffield United in previous home games.
Aside from Bury, no team in the bottom half can match or better Northampton’s 43 goals this season, so the goals are there; it’s just about scoring them at the right moments whilst not letting so many in at the other end.
There was good news on the injury front this week with key trio Gabriel Zakuani, Brendan Moloney and Alex Revell all nearing a return to full fitness, while Zander Diamond has shaken off a knock picked up at Walsall and will start against Chesterfield.
It cannot be denied that performances have improved under Justin Edinburgh who is slowly but surely transforming the Cobblers into a more front-foot team, one which is playing with greater intensity and more purpose.
The tendency to sit back on 1-0 leads remains, as highlighted at Walsall, but these next two home games represent an excellent opportunity to right recent wrongs and completely eradicate any lingering fears of the drop.
It was Chesterfield who ended Northampton’s record-breaking 31-game unbeaten run back in September. Time for revenge?
Prediction: Northampton Town 2 Chesterfield 0