Fixture: Cambridge United v Northampton Town
Date/time: Saturday, October 17, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Abbey Stadium
Forecast: 12C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cambridge: Mark Roberts (suspended), Elliot Omozusi (tooth infection), Leon Legge (groin), George Taft (knock), Chris Dunn (groin), Keith Keane (groin), Josh Coulson (calf). Cobblers: Alfie Potter (leg), Ricky Holmes (back), Rod McDonald (knee), Paul Corry (knee).
Betting: Cambridge 19/10, draw 12/5, Northampton 7/5
Form guide: United LDLWDD, Cobblers WLWDDW
Possible line-ups: Cambridge (4-4-2): Beasant; Taylor, Taft, Sesay, Demetriou; Donaldson, Hughes, Berry, Dunk; Simpson, Corr. Northampton (4-4-1-1): Smith; Furlong, Brisley, Cresswell, Buchanan; D’Ath, Byrom, O’Toole, Adams; Hoskins; Richards.
Man in the middle: This weekend’s game at the Abbey Stadium will be Darren England’s seventh League Two game this season. He’s handed out 40 yellow cards and two reds and this will be his first time officiating a Northampton match.
Last time out: Cambridge 1 (Simpson) Portsmouth 3 (Legge OG, Tubbs 2); Northampton 2 (Richards, Boyce OG) Hartlepool 1 (Bingham)
Most recent meeting: Northampton Town 0 Cambridge United 1 (Dunk)
Opposition view: Speaking about Northampton’s off-field issues, U’s boss Richard Money told the Cambridge News: “It’s a big issue for the club, but when you’re a manager or player it flies over your head. I guess you get a bit of a siege mentality where it’s almost like the worse the problem, the stronger people get.
“Since the issues have been publicised, they’ve been in very good form. I’m sure Chris will be talking to their chairman and I’m sure he’ll know what the issue is, but day to day he’ll just be concerned with his squad.
“In my opinion, they’ll be one of the teams that will be up there contesting and they’ve got some good players. It’s not too dissimilar to last week’s game against Portsmouth, so it’s going to be another tough challenge for us, especially when we’re going to be weakened significantly.”
Cobblers connection: Northampton keeper Adam Smith is quickly becoming something of a Cobblers hero after a string of impressive performances this season, and Cambridge United fans also have fond memories of the former Leicester shot-stopper. After signing on an emergency loan, Smith featured only four times for the U’s but three of those games came in the Conference play-offs in 2013/14 when he starred against Halifax and Gateshead to help the U’s seal their return to the Football League.
James Heneghan’s preview: It’s difficult for any Northampton supporter to focus on issues on the pitch during these dark and distressing times for the club, but manager Chris Wilder and his players have shown a remarkable amount of resolve and resilience amid the distractions and turmoil behind the scenes.
It goes without saying that these are deeply worrying times for anyone associated with the Cobblers, but at least Wilder and co are giving fans something to shout about, and they go to Cambridge this weekend targeting a seventh successive league game unbeaten.
A win could also see Northampton climb to as high as second in Sky Bet League Two, which only serves to compound the off-pitch frustrations.
In contrast, the U’s have won just one of their last nine games, a run which has seen them tumble down the League Two table to 15th.
Richard Money also has something of a defensive crisis with at least four defenders missing this weekend including influential captain Mark Roberts, who’s suspended following a red card in the defeat against Portsmouth last weekend.
And their lengthy injury list has forced Money into bolstering his defensive options by bringing in youngster Alie Sesay on-loan from Leicester and he goes straight into the squad this weekend.
With regular keeper Chris Dunn out injured, son of former England international David Besant, Sam, will be between the sticks for the U’s.
Northampton’s injury problems have eased this week with full-backs Brendan Moloney and Evan Horwood close to full fitness, while Alfie Potter should be in contention for a place in the squad having recovered from a dead leg.
Given Cambridge’s poor form and growing injury problems, this would usually be seen as a golden opportunity for Northampton to once again reaffirm their promotion credentials and extend their excellent form, but amid the increasingly-worrying problems surrounding the club, it’s anyone’s guess how tomorrow’s game will unfold.
Prediction: Cambridge 1 Northampton 2