James Heneghan’s Northampton Town v MK Dons preview

Cobblers lost 1-0 in October's reverse fixture at MK Dons
Cobblers lost 1-0 in October's reverse fixture at MK Dons

Fixture: Northampton Town v Milton Keynes Dons, Sky Bet League Two

Date/time: Saturday, December 29, 3pm kick-off

Venue: PTS Academy Stadium

Forecast: 11C, cloudy

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole (foot). MK Dons: Joe Walsh, Jordan Moore-Taylor

Betting: Northampton 11/5, draw 23/10, Dons 5/4

Form guide: Cobblers DDDWDL, MK Dons LLWWLW

Possible line-ups: Northampton (3-5-2): Cornell; Taylor, Turnbull, Pierre; Facey, Foley, McWilliams, Bowditch, Buchanan; van Veen, Williams. Dons (3-5-2): Nicholls; Williams, Houghton, Cargill; McGrandles, D’Ath, Cisse, Gilbey, Lewington; Agard, Aneke.

Man in the middle: Graham Scott

Last time out: Northampton 1 (Williams) Swindon 1 (Anderson; Cheltenham 3 (Atangana, Barnett, Clements) MK Dons 1 (Aneke)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, October 20, 2018 – MK Dons 1 (Agard) Northampton 0

Opposition view: “It’s always about what happens next,” said Paul Tisdale after his side’s surprising defeat to struggling Cheltenham on Boxing Day. “What happens next for us is that we’re in training and we’ll prepare for Saturday’s game. The defeat sets us a challenge. We’ve just lost two games on the spin and now have two games coming up in the next week which we need to respond in.”

James Heneghan’s preview: Up until just six days ago, Milton Keynes Dons looked to be well on their way to making a swift return to League One after relegation last season but back-to-back defeats either side of Christmas have opened a chink of light for the chasing pack.

Defeated by Colchester United at home and then, surprisingly, beaten on the road to Cheltenham Town on Boxing Day, Paul Tisdale’s men, hit by defensive injuries, still occupy one of the three automatic promotion places but their lead has been cut to two points.

And their recent record at Sixfields will do little to lift their spirits ahead of this weekend’s game having lost 3-2 two campaigns ago before John-Joe O’Toole and Chris Long netted in a 2-1 win for the Cobblers 12 months ago.

Dons will have the chance to complete the double over their neighbours on Saturday though after Kieran Agard scored the only goal of the game when these two met at Stadium MK in October.

Town’s focus, meanwhile, will be on replicating their first-half efforts on Boxing Day for the full 90 minutes against MK Dons with one extra ingredient: composure in front of goal.

Cobblers’ performance against Swindon was, in many ways, a neat summary of where they are currently at: the first-half showed the improvement they’ve made under Keith Curle, the second showed how far they still have to go.

Now closer to the relegation zone than the top seven, talk of the play-offs must be placed on hold for now because Curle’s men have to tough games coming up with a trip to promotion-chasing Forest Green Rovers on New Year’s Day following tomorrow’s visit of MK Dons.

Prediction: Northampton Town 1 MK Dons 1