James Heneghan’s Bradford City v Northampton Town preview

Tony McMahons controversial free-kick separated the sides back in September
Tony McMahons controversial free-kick separated the sides back in September

Fixture: Bradford City v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One

Date/time: Saturday, January 13, 3pm kick-off

Venue: Valley Parade

Forecast: 4C, cloudy

Outs and doubts: Bradford: Nathaniel Knight-Percival (hamstring), Matt Kilgallon (shin), Tony McMahon (thigh), Adam Chicksen (thigh), Omari Patrick (knee), Jake Reeves (groin). Cobblers: Aaron Pierre (thigh), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Daniel Powell (hip), George Smith (ankle), Leon Barnett (Achilles)

Betting: Bradford 8/13, draw 3/1, Northampton 17/4

Form guide: Bantams LWWLLW, Cobblers WLLLDW

Possible line-ups: Bradford (4-4-2): Sattelmaier; Tony, Vincelot, Knight-Percival, Robinson; Gilliead, Dieng, Law, Taylor; Wyke, McCartan. Northampton (4-4-1-1): O’Donnell; Facey, Poole, Taylor, Buchanan; Foley, Grimes, Crooks, Powell; O’Toole; Long

Man in the middle: Craig Hicks

Last time out: Yeovil Town 2 (Barnes, Green) Bradford City 0; Northampton Town 3 (O’Toole, Grimes, Revell) Southend United 1 (Demetriou)

Richard O'Donnell, pictured in action for Rotherham, looks set to make his Cobblers debut at Bradford. Picture by Joe Dent

Richard O'Donnell, pictured in action for Rotherham, looks set to make his Cobblers debut at Bradford. Picture by Joe Dent

Most recent meeting: Saturday, September 23, 2017 – Northampton Town 0 Bradford City 1 (McMahon)

Record v Bradford: P32 W6 D6 L20

Opposition view: The Bantams were beaten 2-0 by League Two Yeovil in the FA Cup last time out and manager Stuart McCall is eager for a response this weekend, saying: “We know the Yeovil performance was unacceptable. It was the first real poor one from us this season but the only way to move on from it now is by putting in a good performance against Northampton on Saturday. The lads are aware they let everyone down last weekend, but there is no better way to respond that coming back with a strong display at home in front of your own supporters.”

Cobblers connection: Full-back Adam Chicksen never actually played a competitive game for the Cobblers but he did have a short trial at Sixfields prior to the 2016-17 season. The former Brighton and MK Dons man was looked at as possible competition for David Buchanan at left-back by then-manager Rob Page but, after a 90-minute outing against Wolves in a pre-season friendly, Chicksen was instead snapped up by Charlton Athletic and now finds himself at Bradford, though injury could rule him out of Saturday’s game.

While Valley Parade has not been the fortress it was last season when not a single away team came away with a league victory, three points would still represent Town’s finest win of the campaign to date

James Heneghan’s preview: The challenge for the Cobblers this weekend is not necessarily to come away from Bradford City with a win – though that would be handy – rather, it is to produce a performance of sufficient promise that does not fritter away the good work achieved against Southend United last time out.

It has been the recurring theme this season; that Northampton provide moments of encouragement and build up a semblance of momentum, such as Saturday’s win over Southend, and then immediately undo it with a feeble performance and poor result in the following game, bar a three-match winning run in November.

With only 19 games left and every point crucial, all the more so as other teams near the bottom start finding form, they cannot afford for that pattern to continue over remaining four months of the campaign, though that said, any points picked up from this weekend, and also the upcoming trip to Blackburn Rovers, should be viewed as a bonus. It’s the game in-between, when struggling MK Dons come to Sixfields, when Town must cash in.

Bradford is a difficult place to go at the best of times let alone when they are 22 points and 17 places above you in the table, and while Valley Parade has not been the fortress it was last season when not a single away team came away with a league victory, three points would still represent Town’s finest win of the campaign to date. After not once losing on their own patch last time round, this term City have already suffered home league defeats to Blackburn, Fleetwood, Charlton, Plymouth, Scunthorpe and Peterborough .

But if Northampton are to follow suit, they will have to do something they have only done once since returning to League One at the start of last season: beat a top-six club. Of the 20 games they’ve played against last year’s top six and the current top six, the Cobblers have won just one and lost 16.

But spirits around Sixfields are currently as high as they have been at any other point of the season. Partly that owes to those three precious points gained against Southend but there’s renewed sense of optimism as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink reshapes his squad.

Hildeberto Pereira could be in from the start

Hildeberto Pereira could be in from the start

Just 12 days into the transfer window, five new players have already come through the Sixfields gates with three, including Billy Waters earlier today, heading the other way.

Of those players to come in, at least two should start tomorrow. Shay Facey was impressive on debut against Southend United and will likely start at right-back again and goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell, in for the recalled Matt Ingram, will bring experience and know-how to the back line.

Hasselbaink’s most recent recruit Jordan Turnbull may need to bide his time given Regan Poole’s impressive performance at centre-back last weekend and Jack Bridge and Hildeberto Pereira are also in contention to make the squad. The duo, who can both play wide, will at last provide different options off the bench should the Cobblers require a goal.

Ultimately, games like this one at Valley Parade will not make or break Northampton’s season, but a good performance, if not result, will go a long way to showing they’re finally on the right path.

Prediction: Bradford City 2 Northampton Town 1