Fixture: Northampton Town v Mansfield Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, November 14, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 9C, showers
Outs and doubts: Cobbers: Paul Corry (knee), Ricky Holmes (back)
Betting: Northampton 11/10, draw 12/5, Mansfield 12/5
Form guide: Cobblers WDWWLW, Mansfield DLDWLW
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Cobblers 1.6/1.3, Mansfield 1.4/0.8
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-4-1-1): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan; D’Ath, Byrom, O’Toole, Adams; Hoskins; Richards. Mansfield (4-4-1-1): Jenson; Hunt, Collins, Tafazolli, Adams; Rose, Clements, Chapman, Lambe; Westcarr; Green.
Man in the middle: Usually seen reffing in League One or the Championship, Darren Bond will this weekend take charge of his first Cobblers game since they beat Hartlepool 2-0 in February of 2014. In 13 games this season, Bond has handed out 41 yellow cards and one red.
Last time out: Coventry 1 (Murphy) Northampton 2 (Diamond, Richards); Mansfield 0 Oldham 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 14, 2015 – Mansfield Town 1 (Oliver), Northampton Town 1 (Richards)
Record v Mansfield: P71, W23, D12, L36
Opposition view: Mansfield boss Adam Murray told the Mansfield Chad: “Northampton are an excellent side. They were exceptional at Coventry with a really disciplined performance and they are flying at the minute.
“They are a team in form and deserve to be where they are in the league. They are a very attacking team and create a lot of chances. They have a lot of very good players, so it will be a tough test for us.
“I know their manager very well. I had him as a manager and he is a good guy. He is someone I speak to quite regularly and I enjoyed playing for him as a manager. His teams are always organised and play in exciting ways.”
Cobblers connection: Lee Collins is looking forward to his first return to Sixfields following his departure from the Cobblers to Mansfield in the summer. Wilder’s decision to release Collins came as a surprise to many after the defender spent two years at the club, playing 86 times. After initially struggling to break into the Stags side, Collins has been in excellent form recently, playing a big role in Town’s fine defensive record this season.
James Heneghan’s preview: Once again we head into a Northampton game with events away from the pitch casting a dark cloud over what should be exciting times for Cobblers fans.
The performances of players, coaches and supporters certainly do not give the impression of a club in crisis, and in normal circumstances, this weekend’s game would bring a sense of excitement with sixth-placed Mansfield in town to face fifth-placed Northampton.
It still remains quite extraordinary and almost beyond belief that this could conceivably be Northampton’s final ever match in their current form, with an appearance in the high court to come on Monday. For that reason alone, it promises to be an emotional afternoon with a sizeable crowd expected at Sixfields as fans continue to display their unwavering support for the club they love.
Even without the off-field problems, this weekend’s game would have been far from straightforward with the Cobblers playing host to a Mansfield side who have performed above expectations so far this season.
Having finished mid-table last season, the Stags find themselves well positioned in fifth after 16 games of this campaign, just two points adrift of tomorrow’s opponents.
Much of this season’s success is down to their defence with just 13 goals conceded this term – the second fewest in League Two.
They have suffered somewhat of a blip lately, though, with one win in their last four, but did manage a draw with League One side Oldham in the FA Cup last time out.
Mansfield are currently managed by the Football League’s third youngest boss in Adam Murray, who played under Cobblers manager Chris Wilder at Oxford United, and the 34-year-old isn’t taking Northampton lightly despite their problems, describing tomorrow’s game as “probably the worst time” to face the Cobblers.
The last time these two sides met was, of course, known as ‘John-Joe O’Toole Day’, however Northampton fans’ plans to celebrate their cult hero didn’t quite go to plan when the midfielder was sent off for violent conduct before half-time. The game eventually ended level after Marc Richards rescued a point for Town with a last-minute penalty.
Focussing back on this weekend’s clash, the outstanding performance of right-back Brendan Moloney on his first appearance of the season at Coventry was a big boost for Wilder and he could well start his first league game tomorrow.
Rod McDonald was another to impress at the Ricoh Arena and he could also keep his place although Ryan Cresswell should be fit again.
Ricky Holmes is edging closer to a return to first-team action but tomorrow’s game will come too quickly, while Joel Byrom is fit again following a minor hip injury.
Ultimately, the result tomorrow is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. All fans want is a club to support.
Prediction: Northampton 2 Mansfield 1