Fixture: Cambridge United v Northampton Town, Checkatrade Trophy
Date/time: Tuesday, December 4, 7.45pm kick-off
Venue: Abbey Stadium
Forecast: 4C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cambridge: Jake Carroll. Cobblers: Matt Crooks, Dean Bowditch
Betting: Cambridge 5/4, draw 12/5, Northampton 21/10
Form guide: Cambridge LDLWLW, Cobblers LDDLWW
Possible Cobblers line-up: Ward, Facey, Turnbull, Pierre, Buchanan, Waters, Foley, O’Toole, Bridge, Powell, Williams.
Last time out: Crewe 2 Cambridge 0; Newport 3 Northampton 1 (Williams)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, August 18, 2018 – Northampton 2 (van Veen 2) Cambridge 2 (Maris, Deegan)
With the two teams currently occupying a place in the bottom eight of League Two and already out of the FA Cup, the Checkatrade Trophy might present the only opportunity for success this season.
Record v Cambridge: P38 W14 D11 L13
Opposition view: “We’ve got one or two ideas in terms of how to change things to improve results,” said United’s newly-installed caretaker boss Mark Bonner. “Our performances haven’t always been rewarded this season but we’ve got an almost fully fit squad to pick from and we have a real focus to get back to work.
“It doesn’t matter what the competition is – we’ve got a job to do and we’ll be fully focused on trying to deliver a result on Tuesday. We want a committed, hard-working performance that shows the values of this club.”
James Heneghan’s preview: In need of some light relief following an uneasy first half of the season, tomorrow’s Checkatrade Trophy tie at the Abbey Stadium has perhaps come at a good time for both the Cobblers and their managerless opponents.
This competition is rarely viewed as anything more than a minor distraction from the serious business of league matters, but with the two teams occupying a place in the bottom eight of League Two and already out of the FA Cup, the Checkatrade Trophy might present the only opportunity for success this season.
Northampton have failed to win any of their last four games and currently sit 17th, but that still represents an improvement on Cambridge United who sacked manager Joe Dunne last week after their 2-0 loss against fellow strugglers Crewe Alexandra, which followed a draw with Bury and defeat at Oldham.
That result at Gresty Road was the last straw for Dunne, who leaves United floundering a disappointing 21st in League Two and three points above the bottom two. With seemingly no permanent appointment planned in the short-term, Mark Bonner is set to start his caretaker reign against the Cobblers.
Without a win in any of their previous four games, Town’s season has hit another slight stumbling block – the first one since Keith Curle walked through the door – and they will be desperate to pounce upon any sniff of weakness at the Abbey Stadium and regain their previous momentum, even if it comes via an unwanted midweek game in a heavily-criticised cup competition.
Cambridge and Northampton picked a similar route to this stage. Defeated in their first group game, victories in the next two fixtures was enough to qualify. The only difference was that Cambridge topped their group, meaning they play at home tomorrow night.
Judging by his previous selections in the Checkatrade Trophy, it’s likely that Curle will go strong on Tuesday. Such is the strength in depth of the options available though, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t make wholesale changes.
Among those short on recent game-time include Lewis Ward, Shay Facey, Jack Bridge, Billy Waters and Daniel Powell while Junior Morias, back from suspension, might finally have an opportunity to kick-start his hugely-frustrating season to date.
Matt Crooks and Dean Bowditch are also in contention to get some minutes under their belts ahead of the crucial festive programme that sees the Cobblers play six league games in just 21 days. Tomorrow’s fixture might not register on the same scale in terms of importance, but victory could well provide a useful launchpad.
Prediction: Cambridge United 1 Northampton Town 2