James Heneghan’s Northampton Town v Forest Green Rovers preview

Rovers boss Mark Cooper
Rovers boss Mark Cooper

Fixture: Northampton Town v Forest Green Rovers, Sky Bet League Two

Date/time: Saturday, October 13, 2pm kick-off

Venue: PTS Academy Stadium

Forecast: 22C, sunny spells

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Junior Morias, Leon Barnett, Ash Taylor, Daniel Powell

Betting: Northampton 31/20, draw 23/10, Rovers 17/10

Form guide: Cobblers WDDLDL, Rovers DDWDWD

Possible line-ups: Northampton (3-5-2): Cornell; Facey, Turnbull, Pierre; McWilliams, Foley, O’Toole, Crooks, Buchanan; Williams, Hoskins. Rovers (4-3-3): Sanchez; Shephard, Rawson, Gunning, Mills; Brown, Digby, Winchester; Campbell, Reid, Grubb.

Man in the middle: Ollie Yates

Last time out: Oxford 1 Northampton 2 (van Veen, Pierre); Coventry 1 Forest Green Rovers 1 (Pearce).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, November 6, 2010 - FA Cup, Forest Green 0 Northampton 3 (Johnson, Guinan, Jacobs)

Record v Forest Green: P1 W1 D0 L0

James Heneghan’s preview: Forest Green Rovers arrive at the PTS Academy Stadium this weekend boasting the only unbeaten record in the entire EFL but, like their struggling hosts, they’ve had a few too many draws and not enough wins.

In just their second ever season in the Football League following promotion two years ago, Rovers have drawn eight and won four of their opening 12 fixtures to lie an impressive sixth at this early stage of the season. In fact, Mark Cooper’s side have not lost a game in any competition, adding two wins and two draws from four cup games to their pristine league record.

The back three of Shay Facey, Aaron Pierre and the highly impressive Jordan Turnbull have performed well in back-to-back games and the midfield trio of Sam Foley, John-Joe O’Toole and Matt Crooks should be an equally straightforward selection, barring injuries.

And Cooper’s excellent work at Forest Green has not gone unnoticed; only this week he has been linked to the Brentford job after Dean Smith left for Aston Villa. Whether or not there is genuine interest, and whether it’ll impact on Saturday’s game, remains to be seen. Cooper, though, did play down the speculation earlier today (Friday).

“I don’t know anything about it,” he told the Stroud News and Journal. “It’s always nice to get linked to jobs but our focus is fully on Forest Green and trying to get a result tomorrow.”

Rovers’ promotion from the National League in 2017 made Nailsworth the smallest town ever to host a Football League club, but they don’t seem content to stop there. Spearheaded by Reuben Reid after losing Christian Doidge to Bolton Wanderers on the final day of the loan window, the Gloucestershire club look ripe for a promotion challenge.

For Town, their immediate upcoming fixtures increase in difficulty with games against sixth and then fourth over the next two weeks before they go to bottom side Macclesfield Town. If the former two games go with the current form book, their clash with the Silkmen will only ramp up in terms of importance.

The Cobblers have ticked many boxes since the appointment of Keith Curle, the latest of which came on Tuesday evening when goals from Kevin van Veen and Aaron Pierre clinched just their second win in 15 games in all competitions this season.

The next obstacle for Curle to overcome is to win at home. The Cobblers have triumphed in their own surroundings just once since January, a pitiful record that has seen attendances steadily fall and apathy grow.

Being able to name a settled side due to players in good form is a luxury not usually afforded to many Northampton managers but Curle is in that position this weekend. The back three of Shay Facey, Aaron Pierre and the highly impressive Jordan Turnbull have performed well in back-to-back games and the midfield trio of Sam Foley, John-Joe O’Toole and Matt Crooks should be an equally straightforward selection, barring injuries.

Curle has harder decisions to make in the two wing-back positions and up front. David Buchanan brings defensive solidity but Jack Bridge and Daniel Powell, if fit, offer more attacking impetus on the left while Shaun McWilliams’ fitness may determine whether or not he gets the nod over Billy Waters or Hakeem Odoffin on the right. Amazingly, eight players have already been trailed at wing-back at some point of Curle’s three games, so he’s certainly not short on options.

In attack, van Veen’s wonder goal on Tuesday was another example of what he can offer when on-song and his ability to conjure something out of nothing might give him the edge over Andy Williams or Sam Hoskins as Town seek to up their goal tally.

On the face of it, the unbeaten visitors look clear favourites over their 22nd-placed hosts this weekend. But the Cobblers, gradually rebuilding confidence under Curle, are trending in the right direction. Coming off a precious and rare win, they simply must capitalise on their new-found momentum.

Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Forest Green Rovers 1