Fixture: Northampton Town v Coventry City, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, January 28, 2017
Forecast: 7C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Alex Revell (calf), Brendan Moloney (knee), Sam Hoskins (knee), Rod McDonald (back), Gabriel Zakuani (international duty), Paul Anderson (cut). Coventry: Chris Stokes (groin), Stuart Beavon (hamstring), Ruben Lameiras (illness), Marcus Tudgay (knock)
Betting: Northampton 6/5, draw 12/5, Coventry 11/5
Form guide: Cobblers LLLLLW, City DLLWDD
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Northampton 1.4/1.7, Coventry 0.9/1.4
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-3-3): Smith; Eardley, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan; McCourt, Boateng, O’Toole; Wylde, Williams, Richards. Coventry (3-5-2): Burge; Turnbull, Clarke, Rawson; Haynes, Reilly, Rose, Stevenson, Willis; Beavon, Thomas.
Man in the middle: Lee Probert
Last time out: Milton Keynes Dons 5 Northampton 3 (Wylde, Richards 2), Coventry City 1 Swansea U21s 1
Most recent meeting: Tuesday, October 4, 2016 - Coventry City 3 (Agyei, Jones, Lameiras) Northampton 1 (Richards)
Record v Coventry: P48 W19 D13 L16
Cobblers connection: Saturday’s visit of Coventry City will mark the first Sixfields meeting between these two clubs since the Sky Blues used Northampton’s home as their own temporary accommodation. Due to a dispute between the owners of Coventry and the landlords of the the Ricoh Arena, the Sky Blues started a groundshare with Northampton in 2013/14. This arrangement was due to continue for three seasons, but in September 2014, Coventry returned to the Ricoh Arena. In the 27 games City played at Sixfields, their average attendance was a meagre 2,348. A much bigger crowd is expected when they return to Northampton this weekend.
The current league positions of Northampton’s next four opponents are: 24th, 13th, 22nd and 19th. If the Cobblers are still teetering on the brink of the drop after those, the alarm bells will be ringing loud and clear.
James Heneghan’s preview: In the context of their respective seasons, Saturday’s relegation showdown between Northampton Town and Coventry City, two teams in similarly dreadful form, is very much a case of sink or swim time.
Whilst the winner can start to believe again, it’s not even worth contemplating the repercussions for the loser.
Going into this one, the current outlook for both is bleak.
Between them, they have managed a pitiful return of 11 points out of the last 72 available in League One, a frankly embarrassing statistic for both.
For a Coventry side rapidly plummeting towards the reaches of League Two, it’s simple: they must win, by any means possible, or face the consequences.
With seven points now separating them and survival, they are in desperate need of points and will be targeting this game, against a team in equally awful form, as an opportunity to finally win again.
What has become of Coventry in recent times is a crying shame, with Russell Slade the latest man tasked with the challenge of defying controversial ownership and financial issues to guide the club towards safety.
But it’s not gone according to plan so far. Appointed in December, the Sky Blues are yet to win in the league under his leadership, leaving them rooted to the bottom of the table.
The situation is not quite so urgent for the Cobblers who, thanks to a strong start, still have breathing space between themselves and the bottom four despite recent results.
That room for manoeuvre has steadily shrunk by the week as the defeats keep totting up, however, and a quick glance at the upcoming fixtures will give an indication as to how significant the next month or so will prove to be.
After Saturday’s Sixfields clash with bottom-of-the-table Coventry and next week’s trip to mid-table Walsall, Northampton have back-to-back home games against Chesterfield and Swindon in the space of four days.
The current league positions of their next four opponents are: 24th, 13th, 22nd and 19th. If the Cobblers are still teetering on the brink of the drop after those, the alarm bells will be ringing loud and clear.
At the moment, they just need to win. Any which way they can. At this stage, performances become irrelevant – points are all that matter.
And they won’t get a much better opportunity to win again than this weekend when a Coventry side who haven’t tasted victory in 11 league games turn up at Sixfields, then again Town’s five-game losing streak at home hardly screams confidence.
With a draw doing no good for either side, something has to give on Saturday.
What makes Justin Edinburgh’s task all the more difficult is the loss of two key attacking players to injury, with Alex Revell sidelined for up to six weeks and Sam Hoskins out for the rest of the season.
That double blow couldn’t have come at worse time for Edinburgh, who must be wondering what on earth he’s walked into after taking the reins from Rob Page two weeks ago.
For one thing, you can’t accuse him of shirking a challenge. And if he does manage to steer the Cobblers ship towards the safety of mid-table, he’ll have certainly won the fans over.
After his attempt at a midfield diamond failed in last week’s 5-3 defeat to MK Dons, it’ll be interesting to see which players and what formation Edinburgh opts for at Sixfields.
With Brendan Moloney and Gabriel Zakuani still absent, the defence is unlikely to get much of a makeover despite recent horror shows, so it’ll have to be on the training pitch where Edinburgh rectifies the mistakes.
Jak McCourt might be in with a shout of starting – no other player in Northampton’s squad has the required skillset to play the holding role – and it may be time for Matty Taylor drop to the bench. Though his set-pieces remain one of Town’s most likely sources of a goal, it’s debatable whether or not they are enough to keep him in the team based on current form.
John-Joe O’Toole and Hiram Boateng would form a more stable and reliable midfield partnership, while Town are also crying out for the pace of Gregg Wylde, who impressed during his short cameo at Stadium MK, and Luke Williams, who signed on-loan from Scunthorpe United this week.
With Paul Anderson also available, Edinburgh has plenty of options to pick from.
Victories have been in short supply for both Northampton and Coventry of late, meaning it’s make or break time on Saturday. Nothing but three points will cut the mustard.
Prediction: Northampton Town 2 Coventry City 1