Fixture: Northampton Town v Bradford City, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, September 23, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 17C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole (groin), Sam Hoskins (knee), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Shaun McWilliams (foot). Bradford: Timothee Dieng (calf)
Betting: Northampton 9/4, draw 23/10, Bradford 5/4
Form guide: Cobblers LDWWLL, Bantams WDWWWD
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-3-3): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Poole, Grimes, Crooks; Long, Smith, Revell. Bradford (4-3-3): Doyle; McMahon, Kilgallon, Knight-Percival, Chicksen; Reeves, Vincelot, Law; Gilliead, Wyke, Poleon
Man in the middle: Graham Horwood
Last time out: Wigan 1 Northampton 0; Bradford 1 (Vincelot) Rotherham 0
Most recent meeting: Monday, January 2, 2017 – Northampton 1 (Revell) Bradford City 2 (Marshall, Hiwula-Mayifuila)
Record v Bradford: P31 W6 D6 L19
Opposition view: Bradford’s experienced defender Tony McMahon, who played with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Middlesbrough, spoke to the The Telegraph & Argus about Saturday’s reunion with the Dutchman, saying: “He was probably the angriest fella I’ve ever played with. If you didn’t cross the ball, he’d certainly let you know it. He’s got a real stare but he’d shout as well – and you’d always cross it next time. He’ll pick them (Northampton) up and get the team going – as he did with us all those years ago at Boro.”
James Heneghan’s preview: Bradford City could have been playing Championship football right now had it not been for Steve Morison and Millwall in May’s play-off final, but currently sitting fourth with 17 points from eight games, it seems they are yet to feel any ill-effects from that Wembley heartbreak.
Of the eight games the Cobblers have played so far, five have come against teams in the current top eight, including all three of the early pace-setters, while only one – Doncaster Rovers – has been against a team that sit below them in the table.
Indeed, if anything, it has only spurred them on in their quest to rejoin England’s second tier having spent the last 14 seasons battling between leagues one and two.
City’s success of the past 14 months has been built on two things: strong home form and a solid defence.
They were one of only two sides, the other being Tottenham, not to lose in the league at home last season, while they also boasted the second best defensive record in League One, behind Bolton Wanderers, having conceded just 43 goals.
But any of hope of repeating that feat at Valley Parade this time around were quickly dashed when beaten by Blackburn Rovers last month in just their second home game, though that remains their only defeat in eight league matches this season.
Led by Stuart McCall, in charge of the club he played over 400 times for over two different spells, the Bantams were one of a large group of clubs hotly-tipped to challenge for promotion this term and they’ve so far lived up to the billing.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, meanwhile, tasted defeat for the first time as Town boss on Tuesday when his side stumbled to a spirited, albeit deserved, 1-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic.
That result dropped the Cobblers one place to 18th in Sky Bet League One as they remain too close to the bottom four for comfort.
But whilst they’ve hardly helped themselves with some of their performances so far this season, it’s also fair to say they’ve not had the easiest set of fixtures up to this point.
Of the eight games the Cobblers have played, five have come against teams in the current top eight, including all three of the early pace-setters, while only one - Doncaster Rovers - has been against a team that sit below them in the table.
Logic dictates, therefore, that Town must soon face a kinder run of fixtures against teams who have struggled in similar fashion to themselves so far this season, but while there is some truth in that, it does not start this weekend against fourth-placed Bradford.
Hasselbaink has already shown he will not to be afraid to rest and rotate players during his time in charge at Sixfields, and there are certain to be more changes for the visit of Bradford.
Matt Crooks returns from a one-game suspension, and having sat out much of Tuesday’s encounter, Chris Long and Alex Revell will be eyeing a swift return to the starting XI.
Regan Poole, who impressed in a midfield role at the DW Stadium, Aaron Pierre and Billy Waters are others who can’t be far from Hasselbaink’s thoughts when he comes to selecting his team, while Sam Foley is edging ever nearer to full fitness.
Sam Hoskins, Aaron Phillips, John-Joe O’Toole and Shaun McWilliams remain sidelined.
Town’s recent record against Bradford makes for grim reading. You have to go way back to 2010 – some 11 meetings ago – to find the last time they managed to beat the Bantams when Billy McKay and Ben Tozer were on target.
Since then, the Cobblers have suffered five defeats, including three at home, and three draws – and you’d be hard-pushed to find many outside observers who would back that dismal record to end this weekend.
But though they must still improve in an attacking sense, Jimmy’s influence on this Northampton side has been undeniable to anyone who has watched them first-hand in recent times.
And having won their last two home games, confidence is starting to flow.
Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Bradford City 1