James Heneghan’s Cambridge United v Northampton Town preview

Gary Deegan's late goal grabbed a 2-2 draw for Cambridge in the reverse fixture
Gary Deegan's late goal grabbed a 2-2 draw for Cambridge in the reverse fixture

Fixture: Cambridge United v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two

Date/time: Saturday, January 19, 3pm kick-off

Venue: Abbey Stadium

Forecast: 4C, showers

Outs and doubts: Cambridge: Liam O’Neil, Reggie Lambe. Cobblers: Ash Taylor (groin), John-Joe O’Toole (ankle).

Betting: Cambridge 7/5, draw 9/4, Northampton 19/10

Both Dean Austin and Joe Dunne have lost their jobs this season

Both Dean Austin and Joe Dunne have lost their jobs this season

Form guide: United WWLLWL, Cobblers WLLDDD

Possible line-ups: Cambridge: (4-3-3): Forde; Halliday, Taft, Taylor, Carroll; Deegan, Amoo, Maris; Brown, Hepburn-Murphy, Ibehre. Northampton (3-5-2): Cornell; Williams, Turnbull, Pierre; Facey, Cox, McWilliams, Foley, Bridge; Morias, Williams.

Man in the middle: Martin Coy – 69 yellows and two reds in 24 games for Coy this season. Hasn’t taken charge of the Cobblers since last February, overseeing their 0-0 home draw with Oxford.

Last time out: Northampton Town 3 (Bridge 2, Morias) Carlisle United 0; Notts County 0 Cambridge United 1 (Taylor)

Colin Calderwood. Picture: Pete Norton

Colin Calderwood. Picture: Pete Norton

Most recent meeting: Tuesday, December 4, 2018 – Cambridge 1 (Maris) Northampton 1 (van Veen)

Record v Cambridge: P39 W14 D12 L13

Opposition view: United boss Colin Calderwood: “It’s important that we attack against Northampton with the intention of getting three points, and that’ll make a big dent in us getting to the points tally that we think is towards safety. The quicker we get them the better. I don’t think we’ll need the number that we’re probably looking at at the minute.”

Cobblers connection: Former Northampton boss Colin Calderwood has been drafted in by Cambridge United with the intention of keeping them in Sky Bet League Two this season. The Scotsman spent almost three years at the Cobblers, from October 2003 to May 2006, winning automatic promotion to League One in 2006 before leaving to take over at Nottingham Forest.

He’s spent most of his time since then as the second in command with spells as assistant manager at Newcastle, Birmingham, Norwich, Brighton and Aston Villa. He also briefly took charge of Hibernian in 2010.

Calderwood, appointed by Cambridge before Christmas, still lives in the local area and has been a regular visitor to Sixfields over the years, but he is now aiming to get one over on the club that gave him his first job in management this weekend.

James Heneghan’s preview: Tomorrow’s trip to Colin Calderwood’s Cambridge United marks the first of a three-game stretch that offers Cobblers an opportunity to build on their fine victory over Carlisle United last time out.

Good performances have been even rarer than wins this season but Keith Curle’s men delivered both an excellent display and three important points in their disposing of the Cumbrians at the PTS, reviving hope of a strong finish to the campaign.

That’s not to say talk of a play-off challenge is back on – far from it – but if the Cobblers can reproduce last week’s efforts on a more consistent basis and are able to push for a top-half finish, perhaps even top 10, it will give them a solid foundation going into next season.

Following Saturday’s game at the Abbey Stadium, Town have back-to-back home matches against struggling Morecambe and then promotion-chasing Colchester United. Take nine points from nine – an admittedly tall order – and then maybe we can discuss the play-offs again.

Take away United’s shocking 6-0 thrashing at the hands of MK Dons on New Year’s Day and Calderwood has enjoyed a steady start to his Cambridge reign, winning three and losing three since his appointment shortly before Christmas.

Despite that though, the U’s remain too close to the bottom two for comfort. They are 20th in Sky Bet League Two, five points above the drop and four below tomorrow’s opponents.

Cambridge and Northampton have already met twice this season and both August’s early-season league clash and December’s Checkatrade Trophy encounter ended in draws thanks to late goals, though it was Town celebrating last month after winning the penalty shoot-out.

Curle hasn’t been able to resist fiddling with his team selection since his appointment as Cobblers boss – he’s yet to name an unchanged side – but it would be a surprise if there are many alterations for tomorrow’s game given how his players performed last time out.

Junior Morias could potentially come back into the starting line-up after scoring off the bench against Carlisle but fans will otherwise be hoping to see the same team and same formation at the Abbey Stadium. Hopefully it’ll be the same outcome too.

Prediction: Cambridge United 1 Northampton Town 1