Fixture: Northampton Town v Hartlepool United, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, October 10, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 14C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Alfie Potter (dead leg), Paul Corry (knee), Rod McDonald (knee), Ricky Holmes (back). Hartlepool: Carl Magnay (suspended), Michael Duckworth (hamstring), Jordan Richards (back), Harry Worley (ankle)
Betting: Northampton 4/5, draw 13/5, Hartlepool 18/5
Form guide: Cobblers LWDDWW, Pools LLWDLL
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-4-1-1): Smith; Furlong, Brisley, Cresswell, Buchanan; D’Ath, Byrom, O’Toole, Adams; Hoskins; Richards. Hartlepool (4-3-3): Bartlett; Halliday, Harrison, Boyce, Carroll; Woods, Bates, Featherstone; Fenwick, Oates, Paynter.
Man in the middle: Following his elevation to Football League refereeing status in 2014, Kevin Johnson has taken charge of two Northampton games – a 0-0 home draw with Rochdale and a 2-0 win at Exeter. This season, the 38-year-old Somerset official has taken charge of eight games, handing out 28 yellow cards but no reds. In total, Johnson has branded 392 yellows and 35 reds in 125 matches as a referee.
Last time out: Millwall 2 (O’Brien, Gregory) Northampton 0; Hartlepool 1 (Paynter) Luton 4 (Smith, Marriott 2, Lee)
Most recent meeting: Tuesday, February 10 – Hartlepool 1 (Morgan) Northampton 0
Chris Wilder’s view: “It’s a different type of home game for us on Saturday and we have to create our own atmosphere and environment and the players have to start on the front foot and get after the opposition. Ronnie will put out a side that is difficult to beat but we have to make sure that we are positive with the ball, we create chances like we did last week and when the opposition do have a spell in the game or on the counter attack that we are bright and alert to the danger.”
Cobblers connection: Evan Horwood is yet to feature this season having struggled to recover from injury, but he could be in line to play some part against his former club this weekend. The left-back signed for Hartlepool after a successful trial with the club in the summer of 2010. He played 138 times for the Pools in a three-year period before moving to Tranmere.
James Heneghan’s preview: This Saturday’s home encounter with out-of-form Hartlepool is the first of a run of fixtures that present Northampton with a real opportunity to build up a head of steam and get themselves among the business end in Sky Bet League Two.
Following last weekend’s win at previous leaders Wycombe, Northampton have now played five of the eight teams placed above them from their 11 games this season, and with another cup competition out of the way, the Cobblers can now solely focus on league matters and a favourable run of forthcoming fixtures, on paper at least.
Tomorrow, they welcome a Hartlepool side currently in free fall in League Two having won just one of their last 10 games in all competitions, and six of Cobblers’ following eight fixtures are against out-of-form sides who sit in the bottom 10 of the table.
It’s not quite that simple, of course, as we saw when Dagenham & Redbridge came to Sixfields last month and bagged their only league win of the season to date, and Hartlepool will certainly be no pushovers.
Having avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last season, the Pools made a lightning start to this campaign by winning their first three games, however six defeats in the next eight has seen them plummet down the table to 17th.
In contrast, Northampton are currently on a five-game unbeaten run in the league, three of those victories, and if they avoid defeat on Saturday, the Cobblers will equal their longest unbeaten run from last season.
Recent history suggests Saturday’s clash will produce a winner with only one draw between these two in the last 15 meetings. Their last clash came in February when Marvin Morgan’s solitary goal was enough for United to earn the spoils, though Northampton will have much fonder memories of the last game to take place at Sixfields when a Marc Richards double helped them fight back from a goal down and claim a crushing 5-1 victory.
Hartlepool will be without Carl Magnay for the trip down south this weekend after the defender was given a six-match suspension for spitting at a spectator during their game at Wycombe last month, while Michael Duckworth, Jordan Richards and Harry Worley are unlikely to feature.
John-Joe O’Toole continued his rejuvenation in midweek and after another impressive showing in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Millwall, the midfielder should have done enough to earn himself a fourth successive start in the side – who saw that coming?
Jason Taylor’s return from suspension gives Chris Wilder plenty to ponder while Adam Smith, Marc Richards, Sam Hoskins, Nicky Adams and Joel Byrom are likely to be restored to the starting line-up after sitting out Tuesday’s defeat.
Brendan Moloney and Evan Horwood are training full-time but neither are ready to come straight back in.
In theory, all the signs point to a home win this weekend – but when is football ever that straightforward?
Prediction: Northampton 3 Hartlepool 1