James Heneghan’s Northampton Town v MK Dons preview

Cobblers go into this game high on confidence following Saturday's comprehensive 3-0 win over Barnet
Cobblers go into this game high on confidence following Saturday's comprehensive 3-0 win over Barnet

Fixture: Northampton Town v MK Dons, FA Cup third round

Date/time: Saturday, January 9, 3pm kick-off

Venue: Sixfields

Forecast: 7C, heavy rain

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Paul Corry (knee), James Collins (cup tied). Dons: Daniel Powell (hamstring), Carl Baker (ankle), David Martin (shoulder)

Betting: Northampton 13/8, draw 23/10, MK Dons 13/8

Form guide: Cobblers WWLWWW, Dons DLWLWL

Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-2-3-1): Smith; Moloney, McDonald, Cresswell, Buchanan; Taylor, Byrom; Potter, Hoskins, Adams; Richards. MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Cropper; Hodson, Walsh, Kay, Lewington; Carruthers, Potter; Hall, Reeves, Bowditch; Church.

Man in the middle: Darren Drysdale

Last time out: Northampton Town 3 (Hoskins, Holmes, Richards) Barnet 0; Leeds United 1 (Kay OG) MK Dons 1 (Hall)

Most recent meeting: Tuesday, September 3, 2013, Football League Trophy – MK Dons 2 (Bamford, Alli) Northampton 0

Record v MK Dons: P6 W1 D0 L5

Opposition view: Dons boss Karl Robinson has plans to rotate his squad for this cup clash: “We have a game on Tuesday against a former Premier League club. In years gone by, we’d have been excited about playing that same team in the FA Cup. It’s the reverse now. We’ll make changes. We’ve got three games in seven days, and two of those are very big Championship games.

“We want to beat Northampton obviously, and we’ll try and pick a team that will go there and get a result.

“They’ve bought some very good players who can cause a threat on any given day and they have a very good manager who’s really turned their fortunes around. The strength and the unity they’ve shown has stood them in good stead and we know how hard it’s going to be so we won’t take the game easy at all.”

Cobblers connection: Fans favourite Clive Platt has tuned out for each of these two sides, playing 113 games for MK Dons between 2005 and 2007 and after spells at Colchester United and Coventry City, the big striker appeared 54 times for the Cobblers in 2012 and 2013, scoring eight goals in all. Of the current squads, former Cobblers loanee Dean Bowditch could feature for the Dons at Sixfields on Saturday.

James Heneghan’s preview: On paper, this FA Cup third round clash, between a team full of confidence and riding high in League Two and a side struggling at the wrong end of the Championship, has all the makings of a cup upset, something which is only reinforced by the bookies who make Northampton slight favourites despite the two league difference.

MK Dons fans will feel differencetly, of course, and understandably so given how well their side has adapted to life in England’s second division following promotion last year.

It’s been a struggle, no doubt, and a season-long battle to avoid the drop seems inevitable, but Karl Robinson’s men currently find themselves two places and two points outside the bottom three after picking up a vital point at Leeds United last time out, which may well have been all three but for Antony Kay’s late own goal.

Cup meetings between the Dons and the Cobblers have become something of a theme in recent years, this will be the fifth encounter in six seasons.

Of those previous four, MK Dons have three victories with Northampton’s only success coming in a 1-0 win in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2012/13.

Like Town, MK Dons face a crucial league game just three days after this cup tie, and Robinson has already confirmed he plans to make wholesale changes for the trip to Sixfields, with the likes of Jordan Spence, Josh Murphy and Kyle Murphy expected to be rested, while there may be a first start of the season for Mark Randall after the former Arsenal midfielder was cleared of a sexual assault charge in November.

Chris Wilder, too, has confirmed he’ll freshen things up with next Tuesday’s humdinger at leaders Plymouth looming large, but there will be no debut for new boy James Collins with the on-loan Shewsbury striker cup tied having played in three FA Cup games already this season.

Other changes are likely, though, especially with that top-of-the-table clash on Wilder’s mind, which could mean rare starts for the likes of Rod McDonald and Jason Taylor.

The FA Cup has been a bit of a bogey competition for the Cobblers of late, this being their first third-round appearance since 2006 when a certain Andy Johnson netted in Crystal Palace’s 4-1 win at Selhurst Park.

Nevertheless, despite the 30 league places that separate these two, this is welcome and overdue opportunity for Wilder’s men to balance the record books somewhat and reach the fourth round stage of the FA Cup for just the ninth time in their 118-year history – and the first for 12 years.

MK Dons know all about upsetting the odds, of course, following last season’s stunning 4-0 win over Manchester United in the League Cup, but this time the pressure is reversed and with confidence among those at Northampton as high as it’s been for many a year, this is as good an opportunity as any for a cup shock.

Prediction: Northampton 2 MK Dons 1