Fixture: Northampton Town v Carlisle United, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, January 12, 3pm kick-off
Venue: PTS Academy Stadium
Forecast: 8C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole, Ash Taylor, Dean Bowditch, Lewis Ward, Shaun McWilliams. Carlisle: Jason Kennedy
Betting: Northampton 13/10, draw 9/4, Carlisle 21/10
Form guide: Cobblers LLDDDD, Carlisle WWWWWW
Possible line-ups: Northampton (3-5-2): Cornell, Facey, Turnbull, Pierre; Hoskins, Foley, Williams, Crooks, Buchanan; Morias, Williams. Carlisle (3-5-2): Collin; Gerrard, Parkes, Gillesphey; Liddle, Grainger, Sowerby, Etuhu, Devitt; Nadesan, Hope.
Man in the middle: Lee Swabey
Last time out: Northampton 1 (Crooks) Bristol Rovers 2; Carlisle United 3 (Hope 2, Sowerby) Mansfield 2
Most recent meeting: Saturday, August 11, 2018 – Carlisle 2 (Devitt, Hope) Northampton 2 (van Veen, Crooks)
Record v Carlise: P41 W15 D14 L12
Opposition view: “It would be a fantastic feat if we were able to go down to Northampton and make it seven wins on the bounce, which I think equals a club record,” said Carlisle’s joint caretaker manager Paul Murray this week. “The lads are in a really good place, the momentum and enthusiasm everyone has got is massive, and we still think there’s a bit more to come.”
Cobblers connection: Despite falling just short of achieving the ultimate goal of promotion during his four years at Brunton Park, Keith Curle should receive a warm reception from the vast majority of travelling supporters this weekend. Having saved the club from relegation in his first campaign, the current Cobblers boss led Carlisle United to 10th, sixth and 10th in his three full seasons at the club before leaving at the end of last term. The 55-year-old, a former defender for Man City, Wolves, Sheffield United and England, has also taken charge of Mansfield, Chester, Torquay and Notts County in his 16-year management career. His time at Carlisle included an agonising 95th minute defeat to Exeter City in the play-offs.
Curle and his team will be casting envious eyes towards his old club because, not so long ago – less than a month, in fact – just one place and one point separated the Cobblers from Carlisle in the League Two table.
James Heneghan’s preview: The shock departure of manager John Sheridan to Chesterfield has seemingly made little difference for Carlisle United, who arrive at the PTS on Saturday bidding for a seventh successive win against Keith Curle’s stuttering Cobblers.
Sheridan’s surprise resignation came just 24 hours before last weekend’s game against Mansfield Town but, under the temporary guidance of Tommy Wright and Paul Murray, a brace from Hallam Hope, in addition to Jack Sowerby’s early opener, helped them end the Stags’ 17-game unbeaten streak and maintain their own impressive winning sequence.
Sheridan was chosen as Curle’s replacement in the summer but after taking up the vacant manager’s position at the non-league Spireites just this week, it will be left to someone else to finish the job and achieve something Curle was not quite able to do in his four years at the club: take United back to League One.
Curle and his team will be casting envious eyes towards his old club at Brunton Park because, not so long ago – less than a month, in fact – just one place and one point separated the Cobblers from Carlisle in the League Two table.
But the win over Mansfield last time out, plus the five victories which preceded it, have catapulted the Cumbrians all the way up to fifth spot and right in the heat of a promotion battle, leaving Town trailing in their wake. Suddenly 12 places separates the sides, not to mention a seismic 15 points.
Carlisle’s strength lies on the road. They boast the third best away record in the division with 23 points and seven victories to their name already this season, one more than the Cobblers have managed in total.
United’s current league position is exactly where Northampton want to be and they may well have been an awful lot closer if not for a concerning run of one victory in 12 games, including none in the past six.
That has left them looking down rather than up although it would take a major drop-off – or an extended winning run – for this season to end in anything other than mid-table disappointment, which looks highly likely at the present moment.
Something must budge this weekend because while Carlisle are going in search of a seventh successive victory, the Cobblers are hoping to make it 10 league games unbeaten on home soil, stretching all the way back to September and Dean Austin’s time at the helm.
Of course, Austin was in charge when these two last met back in August. Kevin van Veen scored Town’s first goal of the campaign at Brunton Park before Matt Crooks added a second as they came from 1-0 down to lead 2-1, only to concede immediately afterwards and draw 2-2.
Van Veen will not be on target in Saturday’s reverse fixture after his move to Scunthorpe United last week while rumours continue to circle regarding the futures of other Cobblers players, including Crooks and defender Aaron Pierre.
A clear-out and overhaul is likely at some point but Curle will be keen to wait until the summer before making wholesale changes, though his one signing so far – George Cox – is line to be involved on Saturday.
As for other team news, Ash Taylor and Dean Bowditch joined John-Joe O’Toole and Lewis Ward in the treatment room on Tuesday night and are doubts, but Pierre returned against Rovers while Shaun McWilliams and Andy Williams should also be back in the matchday squad.
Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Carlisle United 1