Fixture: Grimsby Town v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, March 16, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Blundell Park
Forecast: 13C, showers
Outs and doubts: Grimsby: John Welsh. Cobblers: George Cox.
Betting: Grimsby 13/8, draw 21/10, Northampton 13/8
Form guide: Mariners LLLDWW, Cobblers WWWWDD
Possible line-ups: Grimsby (3-5-2): McKeown; Davis, Ohman, Hall-Johnson; Hendrie, Clifton, Hessenthaler, Woolford, Whitmore; Cook, Thomas. Northampton (4-4-1-1): Cornell; Goode, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Hoskins, Turnbull, Foley, J Powell; O’Toole; Sordell.
Man in the middle: Ollie Yates
Last time out: Tranmere 4 Grimsby 1 (Wooldford); Northampton 1 (J Powell) Newport 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, November 24, 2018 – Northampton 2 (A Williams, van Veen) Grimsby 2 (Vernam, Cardwell)
Record v Grimsby: P37 W16 D8 L13
Opposition view: “It’s going to be another tough match,” said Mariners boss Michael Jolley. “They’ve won four games in a row and they’ve got a really experienced manager at this level. He’s got the team playing how he wants them to play.
“They’re probably one of the tallest teams in League Two, and are very strong on set plays, so we’ll need to be aware of that when we select our team. It’ll be a tough challenge for us, but these are often the kinds of challenges that we like.”
James Heneghan’s preview: A four-game winning run has given the Cobblers an outside chance of sneaking into the play-offs, but only with victory at Grimsby Town on Saturday will they truly move into contention for a top-seven berth.
Six points adrift in 11th, Town have gone from the fringes of a relegation fight at one end to the edges of a play-off battle at the other in just five weeks, and given fixtures elsewhere this weekend, another three points at Blundell Park are guaranteed to make further inroads into the teams above them.
That’s because sixth-placed Forest Green Rovers entertain eighth-placed Carlisle United while ninth-placed Exeter welcome seventh-placed Colchester United. Beat Grimsby and there’s a strong possibility the Cobblers could be in the top 10 and within four points of seventh by 5pm tomorrow evening.
And beating Grimsby, on paper at least, looks an eminently feasible task. Two separate four-game winning runs of their own, first either side of Christmas and then again in February, had Grimsby dreaming of the play-offs themselves, but their current poor form – three defeats in a row – has taken them out of the top half and down to 16th place.
They were 4-1 down inside 44 minutes at Tranmere Rovers in midweek and yet manager Michael Jolley was not too disheartened by the performance. “Tranmere’s goalkeeper won man of the match and we had a number of good chances,” he said.
“People may choose to think that sounds like an excuse, but my job as a manager is to try and illicit performances from these players, and Tuesday night was ironically an improvement on Saturday’s performance (when Grimsby lost 2-1 at Crawley Town).”
Jolley has been warning his side of Town’s set-piece threat ahead of tomorrow’s fixture but the Cobblers pose a threat from open play too, as Joe Powell’s screaming volley against Newport County on Tuesday showed.
Powell will now want a starting place and few would begrudge him it after his heroics in midweek. But after a fourth straight victory and with his team high on confidence, will Keith Curle be tempted to stick with the same XI again?
Prediction: Grimsby Town 1 Northampton Town 2