Fixture: Northampton Town v Luton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, April 30, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 11C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Marc Richards (Achilles), Brendan Moloney (knee), Paul Corry (knee). Luton: Magnus Okuonghae (knee), Ryan Hall (foot), Scott Cuthbert (muscle), Paddy McCourt (personal reasons)
Betting: Northampton 4/5, draw 13/5, Luton 7/2
Form guide: Cobblers DWDDDD, Hatters DWWWLL
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Northampton 1.8/1.0; Luton 1.3/1.3
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-2-3-1): Smith; Lelan, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan; O’Toole, Rose; Holmes, Hoskins, Adams; Marquis. Luton (4-2-3-1): Justham; O’Donnell, Sheehan, Rea, Potts; Smith, Lee; McGeehan, McQuoid, Piggott; Marriott.
Man in the middle: Darren Bond
Last time out: Yeovil 1 (Cornick) Northampton 1 (Adams); Luton 1 (Marriott) Newport 1 (Coulibaly)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 12, 2015 – Luton Town 3 (Benson 2, Green) Northampton Town 4 (O’Toole, D’Ath, Richards, Holmes)
Record v Luton: P54 W19 D7 L28
Cobblers connection: While there may be more obvious players who spring to mind when thinking of these two clubs, one lesser-known link set to return to Sixfields this weekend is Luton’s Danny Green. Despite signing his first professional contract with Northampton, the 27-year-old midfielder never actually turned out for the club and instead moved to Nottingham Forest. Green then had spells at Bishop’s Stortford, Dagenham, Charlton and MK Dons prior to his arrival at Luton where he’s played 28 times and could start on Saturday.
James Heneghan’s preview: Bidding to go through the whole second half of the season unbeaten, Northampton will have to be on their guard this weekend when they face a Luton Town side who’ve developed something of a habit of claiming unlikely but impressive results on the road in recent weeks.
While the season as a whole has failed to live up to Luton’s lofty expectations, there have been signs of green shoots of recovery over the past few months and perhaps a more successful campaign beckons next year.
Since the arrival of new boss Nathan Jones in January, the Hatters have beaten Leyton Orient, Plymouth Argyle, Oxford United and Carlisle United, all in their own back yards.
The problem has been at Kenilworth Road.
With defeats to Crawley Town and Stevenage mixed in alongside those impressive victories, it’s their dismal home form which has seriously damaged any lingering hopes of the play-offs – and those hopes have now been extinguished following last Saturday’s draw with Newport County.
Having replaced previous boss John Still, who was sacked four days after Northampton’s 4-3 win in the reverse fixture, Luton is Jones’ first permanent managerial role following three years as coach at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Having inherited a strong squad, Jones has overseen an upturn in results since taking charge and is famed for his neat and tidy, pleasing-on-the-eye football.
That should make for an entertaining, open game on Saturday between two sides who are finishing their respective seasons in decent form despite not having much to play for, albeit in different circumstances.
The reverse fixture back in December – won by Ricky Holmes’ first blockbuster of the season – was arguably the first time that Cobblers’ fans really began to believe that something special was brewing.
Not only because the victory took their team top of League Two for the first time, but it was also the manner of Northampton’s performance that day as they easily outplayed one of League Two’s strongest sides, on paper at least, with a devastating attacking display, with the final 4-3 scoreline flattering Luton.
Northampton relinquished the lead just seven days when losing at home to Portsmouth, but that defeat remains their only loss since November.
If that unbeaten record remains intact after tomorrow, it will mean they’ve gone 23 games unbeaten – half of the entire season.
Whatever the result, a party atmosphere is guaranteed after full-time when Cobblers are presented with the League Two trophy, which will cap off this glorious season.
It’s difficult to envisage Chris Wilder making too many changes but Alfie Potter and Brendan Moloney could both return, and the Northampton manager will be fired up for this game given recent comments by his Luton counterpart.
Jones may be new to the scene but he’s already caused a stir. After Luton’s 3-2 win at Oxford two weeks ago, the Luton boss was quoted as saying Oxford are the strongest team in the league, something which didn’t sit too well with Wilder.
He’s since clarified those comments but with 100 points no longer possible and the unbeaten record broken, it’s something which may just offer Northampton all the motivation they need.
Prediction: Northampton 2 Luton 1