Fixture: Bury v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, April 14, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Gigg Lane
Forecast: 15C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Bury: Jermaine Beckford (knee), Craig Jones (thigh), Eoghan O’Connell (ligaments). Cobblers: Brendan Moloney (knee), Matt Crooks (hamstring), Shay Facey (ankle), Kevin Luckassen (back), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Aaron Pierre (thigh)
Betting: Bury 11/10, draw 23/10, Northampton 5/2
Form guide: Bury LLLLLL, Cobblers LLLLDL
Possible line-ups: Bury (4-5-1): Murphy; Cooney, Clarke, Thompson, Edwards; Ismail, Styles, Ince, Danns, Bunn; Hanson. Northampton (4-4-2): O’Donnell; Facey, Taylor, Poole, Buchanan; Powell, O’Toole, Crooks, Bridge; Long, van Veen
Man in the middle: Trevor Kettle
Last time out: Walsall 1 Bury 0; Blackpool 3 Northampton 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, November 25, 2017 – Northampton Town 0 Bury 0
Record v Bury: P56 W22 D16 L24
Cobblers connection: Now at Premier League chasing Sheffield United, Alan Knill’s role in steering the Cobblers from League Two to League One while under Chris Wilder should not be underestimated. As a manager in his own right, however, the 53-year-old never quite had it sussed despite taking charge of four different clubs, though his most successful spell was at Gigg Lane between 2008 and 2011 when, assisted by Wilder, the Shakers narrowly missed out on promotion under his guidance, denied by one goal on goal difference and then beaten on penalties in the play-offs. Following unsuccessful stints at Torquay and Scunthorpe, it was then roles reversed at Sixfields when he teamed up with Wilder again and the rest, as they say, is history.
James Heneghan’s preview: Almost 12 months on to the day since surviving their flirt with relegation thanks to the outcome of this very fixture, it’s highly unlikely that either Bury or Northampton will get a second successive reprieve irrespective of who wins Saturday’s game at Gigg Lane, with both teams looking destined for League Two.
The form guide doesn’t exactly suggest we’re in for a thriller on Saturday. Between them, these two have combined for just one victory since mid-February with Bury losing every one of their previous six games and the Cobblers not managing a win in 10.
Already 15 points adrift of safety, the doomed Shakers will have their relegation rubber-stamped if they do not win – even then they could go down depending on results elsewhere – and while the Cobblers can’t mathematically join them on the same afternoon, failure to come away with anything other than three points would as good as confirmation.
Right from the end of last season through to now, there are so many similarities to be drawn between these two clubs. Both drastically transformed their squads in the summer, both started out with high hopes following difficult campaigns last term and both have gone through numerous managers and are now stuck with their previous assistants until the end of the season.
Since meeting last April, Bury have had Lee Clark, Chris Lucketti and now Ryan Lowe at the helm while Justin Edinburgh, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and current caretaker Dean Austin have all been charged with stopping Town’s seemingly irreversible slide towards League Two. But it doesn’t seem to matter who’s in charge or which players they sign, Bury and Northampton look consigned to relegation.
The form guide doesn’t exactly suggest we’re in for a thriller on Saturday. Between them, these two have combined for just one victory since mid-February with Bury losing every one of their previous six games and the Cobblers not managing a win in 10. No wonder they take up the bottom two spots in League One.
It all points to a draw at Gigg Lane but that does neither side much good. For Northampton, it is as must-win as they come given that they are five points from safety and only have three games remaining after this one.
They are, at least, boosted by the expected returns of Ash Taylor and Matt Crooks. Centre-back Taylor served his one-game suspension in midweek while midfielder Crooks continues to struggle with his troublesome hamstring problem but it should not keep him out of Saturday.
The Cobblers need both to be at their best but what they require more than anything is to score the first goal. Their most recent game at Blackpool on Tuesday was just one of several examples this season of how they are competitive when the score is 0-0 but the minute they go behind, everything falls apart.
Confidence is brittle and the momentum is against them but the players must believe. After all, if they cannot beat a team bottom of the league and virtually relegated, a team who have lost their last six games and are heading to League Two with a whimper, then they will get everything they deserve.
Prediction: Bury 1 Northampton 2