Fixture: Mansfield Town v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, September 29, 3pm kick-off
Venue: One Call Stadium
Forecast: 12C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Stags: Craig Davies (hamstring), Hayden White (ankle), Jacob Mellis (suspended), David Mirfin (knee), Zander Diamond (back). Cobblers: Junior Morias (hamstring), Daniel Powell (hamstring).
Betting: Mansfield 5/6, draw 12/5, Northampton 7/2
Form guide: Stags DLWWLD, Cobblers DLLLDW
Possible line-ups: Mansfield (3-4-1-2): Olejnik; Preston, Pearce, Sweeney; Hamilton, Bishop, MacDonald, Benning; Khan; Walker, Rose. Northampton (4-4-2): Cornell; Odoffin, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan; Crooks, O’Toole, Foley, Bridge; Hoskins, van Veen.
Man in the middle: Trevor Kettle
Last time out: Cambridge United 1 Mansfield Town 1 (Rose); Northampton Town 0 Notts County 0
Most recent meeting: Monday, March 28, 2016 - Mansfield Town 2 (Green 2) Northampton Town 2 (Holmes, Marquis).
Record v Mansfield: P72 W24 D13 L35
Opposition view: “There is a lot more football played in League Two and it can be difficult sometimes to acclimatise and adjust,” said Stags boss David Flitcroft this week. “But Northampton have a lot of good players and when they settle and understand the environment they are in they will pick up their form. They are a team full of very good experience right through the heart of the side.”
Cobblers connection: For different reasons, neither Paul Anderson nor Zander Diamond have played a single minute of first-team action for the Stags this season. The duo left Northampton in the same summer and rocked up at the One Call Stadium a few months later, lured by then-manager Steve Evans. Diamond made 23 appearances last term but a back injury has ruled him out of the first two months of this season while Anderson remains at the club after they failed to offload the midfielder during the summer transfer window. Joel Byrom and Alfie Potter, two players who helped Town to the League Two title in 2016, were also on the bookies at Mansfield last season but moved on in the summer.
James Heneghan’s preview: Saturday’s trip to Mansfield marks the first instalment of an important week-long trilogy for the Cobblers who can ill-afford many more slip-ups if their decline is not to become terminal.
Tomorrow’s game against David Flitcroft’s Stags is followed by a home game against Bury at the PTS Academy Stadium on Tuesday and then a visit to Swindon Town next Saturday. If the Cobblers have not added to their one win in eight days’ time, the alarm bells will be ringing.
Mansfield too have made a slow start to the campaign. Since soundly beating Newport County 3-0 on the opening day, the Stags have won just once in seven league games - that a 1-0 win home win over Carlisle United.
They have, though, only lost once in the league and that came in their last home game - beaten narrowly by Exeter City - although five draws is only good enough for 16th place in the current League Two standings, four points better off than the Cobblers.
Austin once again has decisions to make with his team selection. Last Saturday’s goalless home draw with bottom club Notts County hardly appeased frustrated supporters despite a first clean sheet of the campaign.
It’s difficult to read too much into one game but Town produced far more defensive resolve to shut out the Mapgies seven days ago and they will need to reproduce that on a consistent basis while adding goals at the other end.
Matt Crooks has often carried much of the creative burden this season and he did so again against County albeit from the right side of midfield. He could start there again at the One Call Stadium if John-Joe O’Toole and Sam Foley, or maybe even the fit-again Shaun McWilliams, retain their places in midfield.
Junior Morias and Daniel Powell remain long-term absentees but Aaron Pierre is back in the fold following suspension, although Leon Barnett surely deserves another start following his starring role in last weekend’s clean sheet.
Prediction: Mansfield 1 Northampton Town 1