James Heneghan’s Northampton Town v Exeter match preview

Alex Nicholls will make his Sixfields return this weekend
Alex Nicholls will make his Sixfields return this weekend

Fixture: Northampton Town v Exeter City

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, August 15, 3pm kick-off

Venue: Sixfields

Weather forecast: 17C, cloudy

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Brendan Moloney (knee), Evan Horwood (groin). Exeter: Lee Holmes (thigh), Tom McCready (back), David Noble (knock)

Betting: Cobblers 21/10, draw 12/5, Exeter 5/2

Form guide: Cobblers WWWWDL, Exeter WWWLWL

Possible line-ups: Cobblers (4-2-3-1): Smith; Lelan, Diamond, Cresswell, Buchanan; Byrom, Taylor; Potter, Adams, D’Ath; Richards. Exeter (4-4-2): Olejnlk; Davies, Ribelro, Brown, McAllister; Wheeler, Harley, Oakley, Nicholls; Nichols, Hoskins.

Last time out: Northampton 3 (Hackett, Calvert-Lewin, Hoskins) Blackpool 0. Swindon 1 Exeter 2 (Nicholls, Wheeler).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, January 10, 2015 – Exeter 0 Northampton 2 (Richards, O’Toole)

Opposition manager’s view: Ahead of Saturday’s clash, Exeter boss Paul Tisdale told the Exeter Express and Echo: “I think Northampton will be one of those sides who will be challenging for at least a play-off spot. They have got some continuity running through their team, with the manager and their squad and of course they have made some signings to build on the strength that they accrued last season.

“It looks like they have got a pattern in the way that they are playing. They have got goals in their team; they have got a proven No. 9 in Marc Richards and I expect them to be a difficult team to beat. I won’t be surprised if they are a top seven side by the end of the year.”

Cobblers connection: Alex Nicholls will make his first return to Sixfields this weekend after leaving the Cobblers in January. Signed on a free contract in June 2012, the 27-year-old made a promising start to his Northampton career before suffering a leg break in a 2-0 win against Port Vale. It ended his season and despite coming back the following year, he then had two loan spells at Exeter before joining the Grecians permanently in January this year. He comes into this weekend’s game after scoring in Exeter’s 2-1 upset of Swindon in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday.

James Heneghan’s preview: With two wins from two, Cobblers fans could not have wished for a much better start to the new campaign and this weekend they will be eyeing up a third to conclude the perfect opening week, with Exeter City in town for the season’s first league game at Sixfields.

We’re less than a week into the season yet the fixtures are already coming thick and fast, with tomorrow’s encounter followed by five games in a hectic 14-day spell that includes trips to Barnet, Accrington Stanley and Newcastle United, and for that very reason manager Chris Wilder will be keen to ensure his side maintain their early season momentum against the Grecians.

Wilder has a few selection dilemmas ahead of the clash following several impressive performances in Tuesday’s League Cup win over Blackpool. While the Cobblers boss is likely to stick with the bulk of the team that beat Bristol Rovers, he may be tempted to rotate given the flurry of fixtures coming up with the likes of Sam Hoskins, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Lawson D’Ath all pushing for a starting berth.

There are few injury concerns and the news that Nicky Adams has fully recovered from a slight knock sustained in the win on Saturday is a welcome one, although Brendan Moloney and Evan Horwood remain sidelined.

Exeter have enjoyed a similar start to the season as the Cobblers, winning their opening game at home to Yeovil before upsetting a League One side – Swindon Town – in the first round of the Capital One Cup.

The Grecians won many fans last season with their attractive style of football, however they were unable to translate that into a successful promotion push having finished 10th, just two places and three points above the Cobblers.

This is City’s fourth straight campaign in League Two following a rollercoaster of a few years between 2008 and 2012 when they went from the Conference to League One in back-to-back seasons, only to then be relegated back to fourth tier.

Three mid-table finishes have followed but the belief is there that this season could be the one to see them win promotion and return back to League One, especially with the likes of striker Will Hoskins and Manny Oyeleke joining the club.

Hoskins is a player Northampton will have to be wary of. The 29-year-old has a knack for scoring goals and made an instant impact at Exeter last weekend when scoring the winning goal on his deubt as a second half substitute against Yeovil.

Both sides have high hopes of improving on last season and after their respective starts to the season, you can understand why. Tomorrow’s game should be an entertaining one with little to separate the two and given the way they both like to play, it’s one not to be missed.

Prediction: Northampton 2 Exeter 2