Fixture: Northampton Town v Notts County, Sky Bet league Two
Date/time: Saturday, September 22, 3pm kick-off
Venue: PTS Academy Stadium
Forecast: 14C, showers
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Shaun McWilliams (foot), Daniel Powell (hamstring), Junior Morias (hamstring), Aaron Pierre (suspended). Magpies: Dan Jones (suspended), Richard Duffy (hamstring), Ben Hall (groin), Jamie Turley (ribs)
Betting: Northampton 11/10, draw 12/5, County 12/5
Form guide: Cobblers LLLDWL, Magpies DLLLLL
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Cornell; Facey, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan; Hoskins, Crooks, Foley, Bridge; O’Toole; van Veen. County (4-4-2): Fitzsimons; Turley, Ward, Brisley, Evina; Boldewijn, Husin, Milsom, Alessandra; Stead, Hemmings.
Last time out: Port Vale 2 Northampton Town 0; Notts County 3 (Stead, Boldewijn, Hemmings) Stevenage 3
Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 2, 2016 – Northampton Town 2 (Holmes 2) Notts County 2 (Audel, Stead)
Record v Notts County: P53 W16 D11 L26
Cobblers connection: His role in Town’s 2015/16 title triumph went under the radar compared to others but Shaun Brisley was nonetheless a decent servant and reliable defender in the 10 games he played for the Cobblers while on loan from Peterborough United. Having started out at Macclesfield, the 28-year-old centre-back has also turned out for Scunthorpe United, Leyton Orient and Carlisle United before signing for Notts County last summer. He’s played all 10 games so far this season and is set to make a return to the PTS Academy Stadium on Saturday.
James Heneghan’s preview: No fixture that takes place in mid-September should ever be placed in the must-win category but the situation is becoming increasingly urgent for both the Cobblers and their rock-bottom opponents Notts County ahead of this weekend’s crunch clash at the PTS Academy Stadium.
Floundering in the bottom four when expected to be challenging for promotion, a stumbling start to the campaign has turned into something of a mini-crises for both clubs, one which will become a full-blown disaster for whoever dares to suffer defeat on Saturday.
Town had the comfort of some promising performances to go with their disappointing results at the start of the season, but a second-half collapse against Cheltenham Town, followed by last week’s feeble loss at Port Vale, has cranked up the heat on manager and players alike.
Unlike County, Town at least had the comfort of some promising performances to go with their disappointing results at the start of the season, but a second-half collapse against Cheltenham Town, followed by last week’s feeble loss at Port Vale, has cranked up the heat on manager and players alike.
Dean Austin’s job should not be under threat just yet – even if they succumb to yet another home loss on Saturday – but in the fast and furious world of modern football, patience is wearing thin among a fanbase that will not tolerate many more defeats, especially at home where they’ve witnessed just one victory from their team since January.
But while the buck always stops with the manager, it’s time for Town’s players to follow their tough talk with actions and put in the type of full-bloodied, fully-committed display that will get supporters onside. Soundbites ultimately mean little when wins remain elusive.
Austin has hinted this week that he may have been too ‘loyal’ to certain individuals and he will not hesitate to leave players out should he decide they are not putting in the required effort and showing the necessary desire.
If he follows it through, the unveiling of his team selection at 2pm on Saturday should make for interesting reading. Billy Waters, John-Joe O’Toole and Jordan Turnbull are among those to have their game-time limited and there should be few grumbles, and even fewer complaints, if any of them come in this weekend, regardless of who drops out.
One change is guaranteed with centre-back Aaron Pierre suspended, Leon Barnett his most likely replacement, while Shaun McWilliams and Daniel Powell remain doubtful.
Results that read 0-0, 3-2, 4-0, 3-2, 3-1, 3-1, 5-1 and 3-3 tell their own story for a Notts County team whose woeful start to the season makes Northampton’s struggles look decidedly minor in comparison.
County went into the campaign looking to bounce back from last season’s play-off heartbreak and, installed as title favourites by many, they looked ripe for another shot at promotion under Kevin Nolan.
But six games, no wins and a shed load of goals conceded later, Nolan was swiftly removed from his post and replaced by former Crawley boss Harry Kewell, though the Magpies are yet to see a major change in fortunes since the Australian’s appointment.
Three times they took the lead against Stevenage last time out and three times they were pegged back as their goals conceded tally reached a seismic 24 in just eight league fixtures, an average of three a game. At their current rate, the Mapgies will concede a total of 138 goals this season.
These two clubs, both much-fancied among the bookies before a ball was kicked, have endured terrible starts to the season, sitting 20th and 24th respectively with just a solitary victory from 16 games between them.
Another defeat on Saturday would only deepen the decline. Victory, by contrast, could be just what the tonic needed. The pressure is on; time to deliver.
Prediction: Northampton Town 3 Notts County 2