James Heneghan’s Crawley Town v Northampton Town preview

John-Joe O'Toole scored the decisive goal when these two last met, adding to Ricky Holmes' penalty in Town's 2-1 victory in 2016
John-Joe O'Toole scored the decisive goal when these two last met, adding to Ricky Holmes' penalty in Town's 2-1 victory in 2016

Fixture: Crawley Town v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two

Date/time: Saturday, December 8, 3pm kick-off

Venue: Broadfield Stadium

Forecast: 11C, showers

Outs and doubts: Crawley: Jimmy Smith (knee) Cobblers: Matt Crooks (ankle)

Betting: Crawley 11/5, draw 12/5, Northampton 6/5

Form guide: Red Devils WDLLDL, Cobblers DLDDLW

Possible line-ups: Crawley (4-4-2): Morris; Maguire, McNerney, N’Gala, Francomb; Nathaniel-Geroge, Bulham, Payne, Gambin; Poleon, Camra. Northampton (4-4-2): Cornell; Odoffin, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Foley, McWilliams, O’Toole, Hoskins; van Veen, Williams.

Man in the middle: Craig Hicks – last refereed the Cobblers when they won at Bradford City last season. Had handed out 73 yellows and four reds in 22 games this season.

Last time out: Crawley Town 3 (Payne, McNerney, Bulman) Crewe Alexandra 0; Cambridge United 1 (Maris) Northampton Town 1 (van Veen)

Most recent meeting: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 – Northampton Town 2 (Holmes, O’Toole) Crawley Town 1 (Edwards)

Record v Crawley: P5 W2 D0 L3

James Heneghan’s preview: From the Checkatrade Trophy to the Checkatrade.com Stadium in the space of four days, Cobblers will be hoping Tuesday’s shoot-out win at Cambridge United is just the shot in the arm they need going into the traditionally busy Christmas programme.

Town were four without a win heading to the Abbey Stadium in midweek and while that game technically ended in a draw courtesy of Kevin van Veen’s last-minute equaliser, their subsequent success on spot-kicks might be the kick-start they require following their first mini-blip under Keith Curle.

Eight points currently separates the Cobblers from the play-offs, but that could all change by the time 2019 rolls around should they stumble upon some good form with games coming thick and fast in these next weeks.

The festive schedule offers them an opportunity to make up ground on teams above them. Crawley, whose 3-0 win over Crewe last time out – a flattering scoreline by all accounts – was their first victory in eight, are first up tomorrow followed by fixtures against Stevenage, Yeovil and Swindon before leaders MK Dons come to town.

Eight points currently separates the Cobblers from the play-offs in Sky Bet League Two, but that could all change by the time 2019 rolls around should they stumble upon some good form with games coming thick and fast in these next weeks. The imminent return to fitness of Matt Crooks – Town’s only injury doubt at present – will be key to that.

It’s been two weeks since Saturday’s opponents Crawley last played. Already out of the Checkateade Trophy and without a game last weekend having departed the FA Cup, their scheduled League Two encounter with Mansfield Town the previous midweek was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

That could both work in their favour or go against them against the Cobblers; they should be refreshed and raring to go but, by the same token, they may have some rust to shake off.

The Red Devils are currently managed by the relatively unknown Gabriele Cioffi, who replaced Notts County-bound Harry Kewell in September.

Cioffi had only managed abroad previously, spending one season at Italian side Gavorrano in 2013, and it’s been a mixed start to life in England for the 43-year-old, winning six and losing eight of his 17 games in charge with his side currently 14th in League Two, three places and three points above the Cobblers.

Crawley boss Gabriele Cioffi

Crawley boss Gabriele Cioffi

Crawley do, however, boast a strong record at the Broadfield Stadium with 20 of their 26 points this season coming on home turf, although two of their last three games at home ended in 6-2 (Southend in the FA Cup) and 4-0 (MK Dons) defeats before the 3-0 win over Crewe.

There are question marks over the fitness of Crooks but otherwise Curle has a strong and competitive squad to pick from this weekend, with Junior Morias gaining valuable game-time in mid-week and Dean Bowditch also back from injury.

Given his fondness for tinkering and rotating, it’s barely worth predicting Curle’s line-up and formation but it would be a surprise if van Veen, top scorer with nine goals, does not return and if Crooks, providing he’s fit, does not play some part. Otherwise, it’s a case of waiting until 2pm tomorrow.

Prediction: Crawley Town 1 Northampton Town 2