James Heneghan’s Northampton Town v Charlton Athletic preview

Former Cobbler Ricky Holmes slams home Charlton's second in August's clash at The Valley
Former Cobbler Ricky Holmes slams home Charlton's second in August's clash at The Valley

Fixture: Northampton Town v Charlton Athletic, Sky Bet League One

Date/time: Friday, March 30, 3pm kick-off

Venue: Sixfields

Forecast: 8C, showers

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole (suspended – 2/3), Aaron Pierre (calf), Aaron Phillips (calf). Addicks: Chris Solly (knee), Dillon Phillips (ankle), Stephy Mavididi (hamstring), Billy Clarke (knee), Jay Dasilva (ankle), Ahmed Kashi (foot)

Betting: Northampton 2/1, draw 9/4, Charlton 7/5

Form guide: Cobblers LDLDDD, Addicks WDLLLW

Possible line-ups: Northampton (3-4-2-1): O’Donnell; Moloney, Taylor, Turnbull; Facey, Crooks, McWilliams, Bunney; Pereira; Long, van Veen. Charlton (4-2-3-1): Amos; Dijksteel, Bauer, Pearce, Page; Aribo, Forster-Caskey; Zyro, Reeves, Fosy; Magennis

Man in the middle: Gavin Ward

Last time out: Fleetwood Town 2 (Demspey, Bolger) Northampton Town 0; Charlton Athletic 2 (Page, Zyro) Plymouth Argyle 0

Karl Robinson left for Oxford last week, with Lee Bowyer taking over

Karl Robinson left for Oxford last week, with Lee Bowyer taking over

Most recent meeting: Saturday, August 19, 2017 – Charlton 4 (Magennis, Holmes, Forster-Caskey 2) Northampton 1 (Richards)

Record v Addicks: P32 W9 D13 L10

Opposition view: “It will be strange because we played together and are good friends, so it’s like a different battle,” said Charlton caretaker manager Lee Bowyer, who played with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for two seasons when at Leeds United. “He’s a nice man and we had some good times together. I’ll try and say hello and give him a hug but once the game starts then we won’t be friends.”

Cobblers connection: Northampton manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is perhaps most famously remembered for his exploits at Chelsea during a long and distinguished playing career, but he also played for nine other clubs over 18 years, including Friday’s opponents Charlton Athletic. Of his 233 career goals, scored across 453 appearances, only four came during his one campaign at The Valley, which was in 2006/07 when the Addicks were relegated from the Premier League. Released at the end of the season, the 46-year-old subsequent move to Cardiff would be his last as he retired 12 months later.

Town should not let Charlton’s league position and big-club reputation get in the way of what is an eminently winnable game on Good Friday because the Addicks’ general form, with two wins in nine, is not much better than their own.

James Heneghan’s preview: The soap opera that is Charlton Athletic’s recent history took another twist last week with the news of Karl Robinson’s departure as manager and the appointment of former England international Lee Bowyer on a caretaker basis.

While Robinson took charge of Oxford United on the same day he left The Valley, Bowyer, whose one England cap came in a friendly against Portugal in 2002, was tasked with reviving Charlton’s stumbling season, and he couldn’t have made a much better start.

Bowyer’s first game at the helm – Saturday’s impressive 2-0 win over in-form Plymouth Argyle – coincided with Charlton’s first win for over a month and only their fifth since mid-November. It was an important one too as it came at a time whentheir season threatened to peter out having spent so much of it among the play-off places.

Those three points earned against promotion rivals Plymouth have them sitting on the edge of the top six battle, level on points with Portsmouth and two behind Argyle and Peterborough having played a game less than all three.

The jewel in Northampton’s title-winning crown two seasons ago, Ricky Holmes was Town’s tormentor-in-chief in the reverse fixture when he scored one and created another in a 4-1 victory, but he will do no such thing on Good Friday after teaming up with Chris Wilder at Sheffield United in January.

Instead, the Cobblers will have to be wary of young midfielders Tariqe Fosu and Joe Aribo as well as top scorer Josh Magennis, who has 11 goals for the campaign and is back from international duty with Northern Ireland.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will be boosted by the return of key midfielder Matt Crooks

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will be boosted by the return of key midfielder Matt Crooks

But Town should not let Charlton’s league position and big-club reputation get in the way of what is an eminently winnable game on Good Friday because the Addicks’ general form, with two wins in nine, is not much better than their own.

Northampton’s two fixtures over Easter might be against top eight, play-off chasing opposition but we have reached that stage of the season where the pressure is mounting and strange things start happening.

And though their survival prospects have diminished by the week, all is not quite lost. If they can somehow squeeze one win from these two games, they’ll be able to go into their final five games, boosted by the return of a fresh John-Joe O’Toole, with at least some optimism.

Lose both, however, and it will look an almost impossible task.

Matt Grimes has started all 35 league matches since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was appointed but the return of Matt Crooks, back from a three-game suspension, and the performance of Shaun McWilliams at Fleetwood Town last time out might tempt the Cobblers boss into switching things around.

Northampton have often struggled in midfield this season, lacking bite, aggression and control, so the tenacity of McWilliams and the box-to-box power of Crooks could be a combination worth trying.

If Hasselbaink sticks by 3-5-2, which he should, there are also decisions to made up front with the right combination between Kevin Luckassen, Kevin van Veen, Boris Mathis and Chris Long is yet to be struck.

Prediction: Northampton Town 2 Charlton Athletic 1