Fixture: Northampton Town v Colchester United, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, February 2, 3pm kick-off
Venue: PTS Academy Stadium
Forecast: 3C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Sam Foley, Shaun McWilliams, George Cox, John-Joe O’Toole, Shay Facey
Betting: Northampton 29/20, draw 23/10, United 9/5
Form guide: Cobblers DLWLLD, Colchester LLWDLD
Possible line-ups: Northampton (3-5-2): Cornell; Williams, Pierre, Taylor; Hoskins, Turnbull, Elsnik, Powell, Bridge; Williams, Morias. Colchester (4-2-3-1): Gilmartin; Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Vincent-Young; Pell, Lapslie; Senior, Szmodics, Nouble; Mandron.
Last time out: Northampton 1 (Elsnik) Morecambe 1; Crewe 2 Colchester 1 (Szmodics)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, August 25, 2018 – Colchester United 1 (Pierre OG) Northampton Town 2 (Crooks, Waters)
Of their last 11 league fixtures, the Cobblers have taken the lead in eight and yet only won two.
Record v Colchester: P71 W30 D14 L27
Opposition view: “We’re a team, we’re a unit, we’re one and we have to stand up to that together,” said United boss John McGreal following his side’s run of one win in seven. “We have to continue to work hard and the only way to prove them wrong is on the pitch.
“You can do it in training all day but once you step over the line – and that’s me as well – as a group, you have to do it together. We’ll get it right. I’m a firm believer that if you work hard, you get the rewards. It’s back to the drawing board and we know that we have another tough game at Northampton.”
James Heneghan’s preview: Colchester United were looking good for promotion back to League One at the turn of the year but they go into tomorrow’s game with the Cobblers desperately hoping to recapture their strong early-season form.
Town were the only League Two side to beat fast-starting Colchester in the first eight weeks of the campaign as goals from Matt Crooks and Billy Waters secured what proved to be Dean Austin’s only victory during his short and ill-fated reign.
But it’s been more of a struggle for the U’s since. A run of one victory in seven games has taken them from an automatic promotion place at Christmas to one point outside the play-offs at the present day.
That includes back-to-back defeats over the last two Saturdays, beaten by Mansfield and Crewe having taken the lead in both games, and that poor form may explain why manager John McGreal felt it necessary to make some late moves in the transfer market this week.
Bidding to get their campaign back on track, United have signed rapid winger Abo Eisa on loan from Shrewsbury, snapped up midfielder Ben Stevenson on a free transfer from Wolves and also brought in Newcastle’s Callum Roberts. All three could well feature at the PTS on Saturday.
The Cobblers have two potential debutants of their own following the deadline day arrivals of Charlie Goode and Marvin Sordell, whose last-minute move from League One Burton completed a loan-dominated transfer window for Keith Curle.
Goode and Sordell, who scored six times for Colchester in 2015/16, are decent additions and will hopefully help cure Northampton’s ongoing inability to convert draws into wins, as demonstrated by last Saturday’s second-half struggles against free-falling Morecambe.
No team across the entire EFL has drawn more games (13) this season and neither has a team registered as many home draws (9), comfortably more than anyone else.
Some of those draws have gone down as points gained rather than points lost, most notably against MK Dons over Christmas or at Exeter in November, but the vast majority have seen points chucked away. Indeed, of their last 11 league fixtures, Town have taken the lead in eight and yet only won two.
The 13 points lost from winning positions during that time is the chief reason why they remain marooned in the lower reaches of League Two and unable to break free from the relegation dogfight going on beneath them.
Are they in that dogfight themselves? Well, the seven-point gap back to the bottom two with a game in hand means they have margin for error, but it would be unwise to assume all will be well, especially given their next three fixtures are against teams currently placed eighth, 10th and first in the table.
Missed opportunities in front of goal hasn’t helped matters and that’s something Sordell will be hoping to fix. After all, this is a man who played over 40 games in the Championship only last season.
What would also help the Cobblers is having key players back to full fitness, and Curle provided a promising update in the week when he suggested one or more of George Cox, Shaun McWilliams, John-Joe O’Toole and Sam Foley will be in contention to make the squad this weekend.
Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Colchester United 1