Fixture: Mansfield Town v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Monday, March 28, 3pm kick-off
Venue: One Call Stadium
Forecast: 8C, showers
Outs and doubts: Mansfield: Reggie Lambe (international duty), Adi Yussuf (suspended). Cobblers: Joel Byrom (knock), Lee Martin (knock), Paul Corry (knee)
Betting: Mansfield 9/4, draw 23/10, Northampton 5/4
Form guide: Stags LDLLLW, Cobblers WWDWDD
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Mansfield 1.2/1.2; Northampton 1.8/1.0
Likely line-ups: Mansfield (4-1-3-2): Shearer; Alfei, Tafazolli, Pearce, Benning; Collins; Rose, Clements, Blair; Dieseruvwe, Green. Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan; Holmes, O’Toole, Rose, Adams; Collins, Richards
Man in the middle: Darren Handley
Last time out: Wycombe 1 (Harriman) Mansfield 0; Northampton 1 (Marquis) Newport 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, November 14, 2015 – Northampton Town 1 (Richards) Mansfield Town 0
Record v Mansfield: P71, W24, D12, L34
Opposition view: Mansfield have yet to beat a top half team this season, with Stags boss Adam Murray saying: “The majority of the teams we still have to play are above us. Yes, we know we haven’t managed to pick up points against them this season but what a great opportunity and a great chance if we beat those teams. It is a bit of a monkey on our backs and a pattern we need to break and we want to start as soon as possible as time is running out and games are running out.”
Cobblers connection: From Racing Club Warwick in England’s ninth tier to League One within seven years, Matty Blair’s meteoric rise up England’s football ladder is tantamount to that of Jamie Vardy’s rags-to-riches story. In 2007, Blair was plying his trade in the Midland Football League but gradually worked his way through the ranks, going from Stratford to Fleetwood via Bedworth, Redditch, AFC Telford, Kidderminster and York. He had a brief spell at Northampton in 2014, playing three games while on-loan from Fleetwood, before the winger moved to Mansfield last January and having played 26 times already this season, he looks set to feature against his former club on Easter Monday.
James Heneghan’s preview: The Cobblers steamroller is back on the road this Easter Monday when it heads up north and pulls into Nottinghamshire to face a free-falling Mansfield Town side who’ve gone from play-off contenders to mid-table obscurity in double quick time.
With one point collected from their last 15 available, the Stags have found themselves rapidly tumbling down the League Two table over the past month or so, going from sixth and right in the mix for a play-off spot to 14th, eight points adrift of the top seven.
That downturn in form reached a new low point on Good Friday when they failed to register a single shot in their 1-0 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers.
Incredibly, despite maintaining a promotion push for so long, the Stags are yet to beat a single team in the top half of the table this season.
The signs bode well for their visitors this Monday, then, and the table-topping Cobblers have more records in their sights in a season which has re-written the history books.
Avoid defeat tomorrow and they will make it 13 away league games unbeaten – equalling the club’s all-time record – and it will also be the 17th game unbeaten in all, four short of another record.
Monday would also be an opportune time for Northampton to claim their first win away at Mansfield in almost 12 years, with a 21-year-old Marc Richards on the score sheet the last time they won at Field Mill.
Chris Wilder will look to freshen things up and he has the options to do so with Marc Richards, Nicky Adams, Sam Hoskins and Rod McDonald all pushing for a start, while Danny Rose is likely to come in for Joel Byrom who picked up a knock in Friday’s win over Newport.
The Cobblers looked jaded and weary on Friday – understandably so given the emotions and effort that has been invested into this season – but they managed to grind out three more valuable points.
Few would bet against them repeating the trick on Easter Monday.
Prediction: Mansfield Town 0 Northampton Town 2