Fixture: AFC Wimbledon v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/kick-off time: Saturday, February 10, 3pm kick-off
Weather forecast: 8C, showers
Outs and doubts: Dons: Will Nightingale (knee), Dean Parrett (groin), Barry Fuller (calf). Cobblers: Shay Facey (hamstring), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Aaron Pierre (thigh)
Betting: Wimbledon 10/11, draw 12/5, Northampton 16/5
Form guide: Dons LWWDLW, Cobblers LDWWWL
Possible line-ups: Wimbledon (3-5-2): Long; Robinson, Oshilaja, Charles; Francomb, Trotter, Abdou, Soares, Barcham; Taylor, McDonald. Northampton (4-4-1-1): O’Donnell; Moloney, Taylor, Turnbull, Bunney; Ariyibi, O’Toole, Grimes, Foley; Van Veen; Long.
Man in the middle: Carl Boyeson
Last time out: Bury 2 (Miller, Bunn) AFC Wimbledon 1 (Edwards OG); Northampton 0 Rochdale 1 (Andrew)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, October 14, 2017 – Northampton 0 AFC Wimbledon 1 (Forrester)
Record v AFC Wimbledon: P13 W6 D6 L1
Opposition view: “Jimmy has recruited really well, and they have done some good business,” said Dons manager Neal Ardley this week. “They have brought nine in, reshaped the team and had some good results, although they were disappointed last weekend.
“This is a game that both teams in their position are desperate to get something from, they don’t want the other team getting away from them, or overtaking them, so there is that element mentally.
Having beaten Southend, Bradford and MK Dons and then drawn at Blackburn Rovers, the limp defeat to Rochdale was a reminder that there’s a lot of work to be done before the Cobblers can rest easy.
“But there are plenty of games to go and plenty of points to put on the board, and we have to go out and approach it the same as any other game, and if we play like we did in January, we will be a hard team to play against.”
James Heneghan’s preview: This game at Kingsmeadow brings together two sides who have a couple of things in common: firstly a determination to bounce back from losing to a relegation rival last time out and secondly an equal desperation to register points and wins sooner rather than later.
Three days after the Cobblers were deservedly beaten at home to second-bottom Rochdale, AFC Wimbledon lost 2-1 at basement boys Bury after a performance which manager Neal Ardley described as their worst of the campaign do date, just a day before he was nominated for the League One Manager of the Month award having guided his side to three wins from five games in January.
The same description could well be applied to Town for their limp and lacklustre efforts against Dale as they missed a golden opportunity to put breathing space between themselves and immediate danger.
The last time the Cobblers went four unbeaten – back in October and November – they failed to win any of their next six. Having beaten Southend, Bradford and MK Dons and then drawn at Blackburn Rovers, the defeat to Rochdale was a reminder that there’s a lot of work to be done before they can rest easy.
Wimbledon’s win in the reverse fixture, courtesy of Harry Forrester’s fine low strike, was their first ever in 13 meetings against Northampton since reforming in 2002 and it came seven days after Town were thumped 6-0 by Bristol Rovers.
Thankfully, the Cobblers have, by and large, significantly improved in the intervening four months, so much so that victory at Kingsmeadow on Saturday followed by three points over Gillingham at Sixfields three days later would put them well on course for survival.
Alternatively, failure to win both – or worse, lose both – would leave them in a whole heap of trouble, so while describing this period of the season as ‘season-defining’ may be going a touch too far, there’s no doubt that how the Cobblers fare in these two eminently winnable games could well be the difference between relegation and salvation come the season’s end.
Manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has confirmed this week that, unsurprisingly, he will be tinkering with his team following their ‘flat’ display against Rochdale. Kevin van Veen is an obvious option to bring in, and perhaps his first full Cobblers start will pave the way for John-Joe O’Toole to drop into midfield where he was so effective under Chris Wilder.
O’Toole would provide bite and aggression in a midfield that lacked exactly that against Dale, and with van Veen behind Chris Long and the likes of Daniel Powell, Gboly Ariyibi and others to call upon in wide areas, Town should have all the tools required to cause Wimbledon problems this weekend. Then again, that was supposed to be the case against Rochdale, too.
Prediction: AFC Wimbledon 1 Northampton Town 1