Fixture: Blackpool v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Venue: Bloomfield Road
Forecast: 9C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Blackpool: Kelvin Mellor (ankle), Kyle Vassell (knock). Cobblers: Ash Taylor (suspended - 1/1), Aaron Pierre (calf), Aaron Phillips (calf)
Betting: Blackpool 7/10, draw 13/5, Northampton 4/1
Form guide: Tangerines WLLDDW, Cobblers LLLDLD
Possible line-ups: Blackpool (4-2-3-1): Lumley, Turton, Tilt, Robertson, Daniel; Ryan, Spearing; Delfouneso, Longstaff, Solomon-Otabor; Vassell. Northampton (4-4-1-1): O’Donnell; Facey, Barnett, Turnbull, Buchanan; Powell, Crooks, Grimes, Hoskins; O’Toole; Long
Man in the middle: Christopher Sarginson
Last time out: Blackpool 5 (Delfouneso 3, Solomon-Otabor, Longstaff) Bradford 0; Peterborough 2 (Baldwin, Marriott) Northampton 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, October 28, 2017 – Northampton 1 (Hoskins) Blackpool 0
Record v Blackpool: P34 W10 D7 L17
James Heneghan’s preview: Recent events have offered a renewed sense of hope around Sixfields but if the Cobblers are to achieve something miraculous and complete the great escape this season, it will have to start at Bloomfield Road this evening.
Three points adrift of safety having played more games than six of the seven teams immediately above them in the Sky Bet League One table, Northampton’s hopes of staying in the division rest squarely on the outcome of two long treks north over the next few days, first to Blackpool tonight and then Bury on Saturday.
Fifty points has often been enough to guarantee League One safety in recent seasons but given the current points-per-game ratios of most teams at the bottom combined with their improving form and it seems certain that the Cobblers will need a minimum of 11 points from their final five fixtures.
Win both and the great escape is on. Fail to win either, however, and their relegation to League Two will be all but confirmed.
They can at least go into both games with a little hope. Sure, the odds remain firmly stacked against Northampton given the fact they haven’t won a game in exactly two months but the sacking of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and the temporary appointment of Dean Austin, followed by a favourable set of results over the weekend, has all helped raise optimism levels bit by bit.
Austin spoke well in his first press conference. He stressed the importance of his players showing the desire and the determination to ‘have a go’ in these final five games and that will go down well with fans. It might not be enough but a little bit of fight is the least supporters ask for.
His first team selection will be an indication as to how much he agreed with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s decisions and how much he didn’t. It will also reveal the players he trusts to get the results Town need to have any chance of staying up.
Fifty points has often not been enough to guarantee League One safety in recent seasons but given the current points-per-game ratios of most teams at the bottom combined with their improving form and it seems certain that the Cobblers will need a minimum of 11 points from their final five fixtures. That’s a tough ask for a side who have compiled eight points from their previous 13 outings.
How they must envy the current situation of tonight’s opponents.
Just as it appeared Blackpool were about to be dragged into the relegation scrap, they went on a five-game unbeaten run, including wins at Wigan and Portsmouth, to return to relative safety before Saturday’s 5-0 thumping of Bradford City virtually ensured their place in this division for another 12 months.
Promoted via the play-offs last season, dramatically beating Luton Town in the process, Blackpool made an excellent start to life in League One, losing one of their first eight games, but defeat at Sixfields sent them on a downward spiral from which they’ve only recently recovered.
After going down to Sam Hoskins’ first-half goal in a low key encounter in late October, Pool conspired to win just two of their following 17 league games, a run that dropped them from ninth and from play-off contention – a point off sixth place – before arriving at Sixfields all the way down to 19th, two points above the bottom four, at the start of February.
But Blackpool’s curious season is only slightly easier to make sense of than Town’s and following their dreadful run of form, they then upset all the odds to win at long-time title favourites Wigan Athletic 2-0 and immediately backed that up by defeating another promotion-chasing side in Portsmouth by the same margin in their next away game.
Now on 50 points, Gary Bowyer’s side will head into tonight’s game against the Cobblers motivated by the fact that victory will quash all relegation fears – which comes despite not winning a home game for five whole months earlier in the campaign.
In team news, Ash Taylor’s baffling red card against Peterborough and the FA’s even more baffling decision not to overturn the subsequent suspension means he will miss his first game of the season this evening, but that loss is offset by the timely return of John-Joe O’Toole, who’s been sorely missed in recent weeks.
Prediction: Blackpool 1 Northampton Town 1