James Heneghan’s Northampton Town v Bristol Rovers preview

Fixture: Northampton Town v Bristol Rovers, Checkatrade Trophy, third round

Date/time: Tuesday, January 8, 7.45pm kick-off

Venue: PTS Academy Stadium

Forecast: 4C, cloudy

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole, Lewis Ward, Shaun McWilliams, Aaron Pierre.

Betting: Northampton 7/4, draw 5/2, Rovers 7/5

Rovers ran riot on their last visit to Northampton, scoring six times without reply.

Rovers ran riot on their last visit to Northampton, scoring six times without reply.

Form guide: Cobblers LDDDDW, Rovers DWWWLL

Possible line-ups: Cobblers (3-5-2): Cornell; Facey, Taylor, Pierre; McWilliams, Foley, Turnbull, Buchanan, Crooks; Williams, Morias. Rovers (4-4-1-1): Bonham; Clarke, Lockyear, Craig, Kelly; Rodman, Sinclair, Upson, Martin; Reilly, Jakubiak.

Man in the middle: Charles Breakspear – Town’s nemesis returns to the PTS on Tuesday three months on from his controversial decision to send off Sam Foley. Remarkably, Foley became the sixth different Cobblers player to be sent off in the last five matches refereed by Breakspear, joining David Buchanan, John-Joe O’Toole, Leon Barnett, Matt Crooks and Hildeberto Pereira.

Last time out: Forest Green Rovers 2 (Williams, Archibald) Northampton Town 1 (Foley); Bristol Rovers 0 Burton Albion 0

Northampton’s disappointing and increasingly predictable league campaign, currently 13 points off the play-offs and nine above relegation in League Two, may work in their favour when it comes to going for cup glory in this competition.

Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 10, 2018 – Bristol Rovers 1 (Bennett) Northampton Town 1 (Luckassen)

Record v Rovers: P91 W38 D29 L34

Opposition view: Graham Coughlan, appointed permanent Rovers boss at the weekend, has promised to field a strong team: “I’ll pick a side capable of winning the game and a side that should win the game. It’ll be a good, strong solid team.

“We have some niggles and an illness that we can’t seem to shake off but we’ll pick a competitive side and we want to go out and win the game. I want to win every game I take part in and we want to continue the momentum.”

Charles Breakspear has sent off six Cobblers players in the last five games he's refereed them, including Sam Foley earlier this season.

Charles Breakspear has sent off six Cobblers players in the last five games he's refereed them, including Sam Foley earlier this season.

James Heneghan’s preview: Standing between the Cobblers and a much-desired place in the Checkatrade Trophy quarter-finals this evening is a Bristol Rovers team that has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent weeks.

Fumbling around at the bottom of the League One table when long-serving manager Darrell Clarke departed four weeks ago following six defeats in seven, Rovers have won four of their last five to move themselves out of the relegation zone, albeit on goal difference only.

That impressive turnaround was enough to land caretaker boss Graham Coughlan the role on a full-time basis – his first job as a manager – when appointed at the weekend. The former Plymouth and Blackburn defender will take charge of his first game as permanent boss at the PTS on Tuesday.

With Wembley now in sight for all 16 remaining clubs, interest levels in this regularly criticised competition may well have spiked among previously disillusioned supporters and that could be reflected in the attendance tonight. In their two group stage matches earlier in the season, Town had just 1,059 and 1,053 watching on.

Northampton’s disappointing and increasingly predictable league campaign, currently 13 points off the play-offs and nine above relegation in League Two, may work in their favour when it comes to going for cup glory in this competition.

While other sides, including Tuesday’s opponents Bristol Rovers, will focus most of their resources elsewhere, such as battling relegation or gunning for promotion, the Cobblers can take eggs from their previously full league basket and instead place greater emphasis on bidding for a Wembey final and potentially silverware.

With that in mind, it’s likely to be a strong team named by Keith Curle for this third-round clash, especially as victory would equal the club’s best ever run in this competition, achieved twice previously.

John-Joe O’Toole is the main injury doubt having been out of action for over a month, though Aaron Pierre and Shaun McWilliams both missed the New Year’s Day clash with Forest Green Rovers. However, having just come off a free weekend and with seemingly little else to play for, there’s no reason for the Cobblers not to be close to full-strength.

Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Bristol Rovers 1 (Cobblers to win 4-3 on penalties)