Fixture: Newport County v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Tuesday, November 27, 7.45pm kick-off
Venue: Rodney Parade
Forecast: 8C, showers
Outs and doubts: Newport: Robbie Willmott, Joss Labadie, Tyler Forbes, Scot Bennett, Keanu Marsh-Brow. Cobblers: Junior Morias (suspended – 3/3), Matt Crooks, Dean Bowditch.
Betting: County 7/5, draw 13/5, Northampton 2/1
Form guide: Exiles LWWWLD, Cobblers DDLWWW
Possible line-ups: Newport (4-3-3): Day; Pipe, Franks, Demetriou, Butler; Pring, Bakinson, Cooper; Matt, Amond, Seemenyo. Northampton (4-4-2): Cornell; Odoffin, Turnbull, Pierre, Buchanan; Waters, Foley, McWilliams, Bridge; Powell, Williams.
Man in the middle: Lee Swabey is scheduled to take charge for Tuesday’s match at Rodney Parade but there are no guarantees he will be after after injuring his calf on duty at Millwall v Bolton on Saturday. The Devon official was in the middle for Northampton’s opening-day defeat to Lincoln City and has flashed 54 cards from 15 games in all this season, including two reds.
Last time out: Cheltenham 2 Newport 1 (Semenyo); Northampton 2 (Williams, van Veen) Grimsby 2
Most recent meeting: Friday, March 25, 2016 – Northampton Town 1 (Marquis) Newport County 0.
Record v Newport: P6 W4 D1 L1
Opposition view: “I’m not interested in the FA Cup – we’ve got Northampton first,” said Newport manager Mike Flynn after his side’s surprise defeat to Cheltenham on Saturday. “I know I’ll get a reaction on Tuesday.
“I had a reaction at half-time. I thought we were the better team in the second-half without really creating much. The one thing I didn’t want was for them to crumble and conceded four or five again, like has happened in the past.”
Cobblers connection: Midfielder Sam Foley will have fond memories of his time at Rodney Parade. The now 32-year-old played well over 100 games during a three-year period between 2009 and 2012, helping the club win promotion from the Conference South with a record 103 points. He was still at Newport when former Cobblers boss Justin Edinburgh took charge in 2010 and scored 15 goals in all for the club before moving onto Yeovil, Shrewsbury and finally Port Vale ahead of his switch to Northampton last summer.
James Heneghan’s preview: As difficult as the past 12 months have been for Northampton, they are still far better off than when they last visited south Wales just over three years ago.
Chris Wilder’s Cobblers, third in League Two at the time, surrendered a two-goal advantage to draw 2-2 with Newport County, but it was off the pitch where the club made headlines – for all the wrong reasons.
Financial problems and a winding-up petition had plunged Northampton into a crisis. Just a day before their trip to Newport, the club confirmed players and staff had gone unpaid for the month of October.
The outlook back then looked increasingly bleak, leading to some emotional scenes before and after their 2-2 draw with the Exiles at Rodney Parade as players, staff and most importantly supporters contemplated the very real possibility of extinction.
Thankfully, it never came to that. Kelvin Thomas rode in at the 11th hour to save the day, finally completing his takeover just in time and placing the club on a more stable financial footing.
On the pitch, Cobblers went from strength to strength. They followed their draw at Newport by winning nine of the next 10 to lay the platform for their superb title win six months later.
Sadly, it’s all been downhill since. While they are now in a safe place off the field, problems remain on it ahead of Tuesday’s game at the high-flying Exiles, who are among the surprise packages this season.
Hardly tipped for promotion at the start of the campaign, Newport were third ahead of Saturday’s shock defeat to relegation-threatened Cheltenham, which ended a three-game winning run. Their excellent form and lofty league position has inevitably attracted interest in manager Michael Flynn, who’s been heavily linked with the current vacancy at Shrewsbury Town.
Though Newport denied receiving any formal approach only on Monday, the Cobblers will see tonight as an opportunity to take advantage of any potential distractions for the hosts, and they have their own added motivation.
The desperately sad news of Leon Barnett’s enforced retirement has given them an extra reason to come back from Wales with all three points. Barnett was and still is a class act and his loss is a blow for the Cobblers who could do with his experience in their fight to move up League Two.
For manager Keith Curle, there are decisions to be made. Does he stick with 3-5-2? Does he make changes from the weekend’s disappointing result against Grimsby? If so, who drops out and who comes in?
The Cobblers were good in the first-half on Saturday and poor in the second as their first mini-downturn in form since Curle’s arrival continued, having now not won in three. While that hardly signals a crisis, three points across the border this evening would be most welcome.
Prediction: Newport County 1 Northampton Town 1