Fixture: Northampton Town v Harrow Borough, FA Cup first round
Date/time: Saturday, November 5, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 7C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Harrow: Francis Babalola (groin)
Betting: Northampton 1/5, draw 11/2, Harrow 12/1
Form guide: Cobblers WWLLDL, Harrow WDLWWD
Possible Northampton line-up (4-3-3): Cornell; Phillips, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan; McCourt, O’Toole, Beautyman; Potter, Gorre, Richards.
Last Harrow line-up: Williams, Ochoa, Webb, Peacock, Preddie, Nicholas, Bryan, McLeod, Charles-Smith, Driver, Newman
Man in the middle: Card-happy Ross Joyce will take charge of Harrow’s first ever visit to Sixfields on Saturday. The Cleveland official has handed out a whopping 75 yellow cards already this season, the second most by an EFL referee, in addition to four reds. His last Cobblers game was the 4-0 win over Southend United in September.
Last time out: Northampton 3 (Richards 2, Taylor) Bury 2; Harrow Borough 3 (Charles-Smith, Driver, Newman) Herne Bay 0
Cobblers connection: There aren’t exactly an overwhelming number of players who have donned the colours of both Harrow and Northampton, but one man who has is Rob Wolleaston. The 36-year-old is now retired but spent the last three years of his career turning out for Harrow, making over 100 appearances and scoring five goals. Previous to that, Wolleaston started out at Chelsea and was loaned to Northampton in 2001, making just seven appearances for the Cobblers. He’s also played for Bradford City, Oxford United, Cambridge United, Rushden & Diamonds, Farnborough and Weymouth.
James Heneghan’s preview: It would be tempting to write-off Saturday’s cup tie as a foregone conclusion, and in truth the Cobblers should sail through if they perform anywhere close to their potential, but if the FA Cup has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.
Northampton’s FA Cup campaign might only be starting on Saturday but Harrow Borough’s began over two months go with a home game against Sawbridgeworth Town on September 3.
To even reach this stage of the competition, Harrow, who ply their trade four tiers below the Cobblers, have already played five games, seeing off Winchester City, Uxbridge, Sawbridgeworth and finally Margate, who they beat in a replay to earn their place at Sixfields in the first round proper.
But despite their clear advantage over this weekend’s visitors both in terms of quality and experience, Town should be taking nothing for granted, especially if they are to heed the lessons of last season when Northwich Victoria came oh so close to causing an almighty upset.
The Vics were a tier below even Harrow when they made the trip to Sixfields yet found themselves deservedly 2-0 up with 10 minutes to play, only for three goals in five minutes to rescue the Cobblers and spare their blushes.
On that occasion Northampton got out of jail but they might not be so lucky if they approach tomorrow’s game with the same complacent attitude.
That said, there are differences this time around. Whilst Northwich went into their tie against Northampton in scintillating form and as runaway leaders in their division, Harrow are languishing down in 19th in the Ryman Premier Division and go into Saturday with just two wins from their last eight league games. Northwich, by contrast, had won eight on the bounce.
That’s not to say the London outfit will be taken lightly by Rob Page, who nevertheless could be tempted to use this as an opportunity to hand fringe players a rare chance to shine, although he may feel the Checkatrade Trophy clash with West Ham United U21s three days later will be a better time to rotate his squad.
Those pushing for a start include John-Joe O’Toole and Alex Revell, both of whom missed out against Bury for different reasons, while goalkeeper David Cornell, right-back Aaron Phillips and midfielder Harry Beautyman may also have an eye on a rare start.
Otherwise, Page will field a strong side because this is not a time to experiment, irrespective of the opposition.
There are no need to take any risks, and though Harrow will undoubtedly strive to make life difficult for the Cobblers, Saturday should yield nothing but a comfortable home win.
Prediction: Northampton Town 3 Harrow Borough 0