Fixture: Northampton Town v Oldham Athletic, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Tuesday, February 28, 7.45pm kick-off
Forecast: 5C, showers
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Alex Revell (calf), Luke Williams (knee), Brendan Moloney (knee), Sam Hoskins (knee). Oldham: Cameron Dummigan (hamstring), Charles Dunne (pelvis)
Betting: Northampton 6/5, draw 9/4, Oldham 12/5
Form guide: Cobblers LDWWLW, Latics DDWWLW
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Northampton 1.5/1.7, Oldham 0.6/1.0
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Eardley, Diamond, Zakuani, Buchanan; Taylor, O’Toole, Boateng, Anderson; Smith, Richards. Oldham (4-3-3): Ripley; McLaughlin, Wilson, Clarke, Hunt; Banks, Green, O’Neill; Holloway, Obadeyi, Taylor.
Man in the middle: Brett Huxtable
Last time out: Fleetwood Town 3 Northampton Town 0; Oldham Athletic 0 Millwall 0
Most recent meeting: Tuesday, August 16, 2016 – Oldham Athletic 0 Northampton Town 0
Record v Oldham: P33 W11 D8 L14
Cobblers connection: Born in Wales, Cobblers full-back Neal Eardley was just 17-years-old when he established himself as a regular starter in Oldham Athletic’s first team in 2006. Initially in a more attacking role before shifting to defence, Eardley made well over 100 appearances for the Latics, scoring 10 goals in his three years at Boundary Park, and his performances were deemed so impressive that, in 2009, he won a move to Ian Holloway’s Blackpool, for whom he scored a Premier League goal against Everton and became a permanent fixture in the top flight. But relegation that season followed by several managerial changes saw his playing time significantly reduced and culminated in a move to Birmingham. Eardley was at St Andrews for three years before moving to Hibernian, but after only two appearances for the Scottish outfit, he signed a short-term contract at Northampton in January.
Oldham’s goal return is the worst in the entire division, eight lower than any other side, and their tally of just nine of the road is only matched by Port Vale, but it is in defence where they impress, boasting the best record in the bottom half of Sky Bet League One and the fourth best of anyone.
Opposition view: “They are another team in and around us,” Latics boss John Sheridan told the Oldham Chronicle ahead of Tuesday’s game. “We have got to go there and think if we can get a result and three points, it brings Northampton into the picture. It is really tight. You look at the weekend results and there are a lot you wouldn’t expect. That’s the way it will be until the end of the season now.”
James Heneghan’s preview: From rock-bottom to 20th, and from relegation favorites to second in the form table in the space of 10 games under new boss John Sheridan, Oldham’s visit to Sixfields this evening presents a much stiffer test for the Cobblers than it might have done six weeks ago.
Justin Edinburgh may have had a notable impact on Northampton’s fortunes since his arrival but it’s nothing compared to that of Sheridan’s at Boundary Park.
Back in charge for a third time, the former Leeds United midfielder has overseen a drastic turnaround in results over the past six weeks, with his side only second to Fleetwood Town in the form table since his appointment on January 12.
That run includes wins over three fellow sides battling the drop – Gillingham, Chesterfield and Coventry – and Sheridan will now be plotting the downfall of another relegation rival this evening.
His side head south to Sixfields currently on a four-game unbeaten run, although that very run came under serious threat at the weekend and was only preserved in somewhat miraculous fashion.
With the score at 0-0 against play-off hunting Millwall, Oldham conceded two penalties in the final few moments of the game and looked set to lose out on a valuable draw.
Both times Lee Gregory stepped up and both times he was denied by Latics goalkeeper Connor Ripley whose remarkable heroics ensured they claimed another vital point in their bid to beat the drop.
Now comes another important fixture, and with Bury hosting Coventry and Swindon playing Gillingham elsewhere in this round of matches, Tuesday’s relegation six-pointer at Sixfields has all the makings of another tight, tense and potentially critical game in this unpredictable season that has been packed full of twists and turns.
It’s a clash that brings together two teams who may be similarly placed but have taken very different paths to get there.
Toothless in attack but miserly in defence, the Latics are almost the total opposite of Northampton.
Their goal return is the worst in the entire division, eight lower than any other side, and their tally of just nine of the road is only matched by Port Vale, but it is in defence where they impress, boasting the best record in the bottom half of Sky Bet League One and the fourth best of anyone.
They have also been involved in eight goalless draws this season, including both of the last two games as well as the reverse fixture against Northampton in August.
Even in spite of their recent resurgence under Sheridan, the Latics remain the league’s least entertaining side.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s positive impact at Northampton has come mainly at home where victory tonight would make it four wins in a row at Sixfields.
Alex Revell has suffered an untimely setback in his return from a calf injury, keeping him out for three further weeks, so Marc Richards and Michael Smith will likely start up top again unless Keshi Anderson returns to the front line.
Many will argue Anderson should be starting in a more advanced role and it’s hard to disagree given he scored a hat-trick in one of his two starts as an out-and-out striker.
Hiram Boateng must return to midfield to help John-Joe O’Toole grapple back some control following Saturday’s defeat to Fleetwood, and surely this is also the time to recall Gabriel Zakuani to an increasingly leaky defence that has conceded more goals in 2017 than any other League One team.
Brendan Moloney and Luke Williams are back in training and both will aid Northampton’s hopes of an end-of-season resurgence as they head into the final quarter of the campaign bidding to fend off a relegation battle.
Tonight’s visitors are one of several sides to have picked up of late, alongside Shrewsbury and Bury, and the fact that all three of those teams are in the top 10 of the form table has kept the likes of Northampton on their toes.
Indeed, when Sheridan and Justin Edinburgh took charge of their respective clubs within 24 hours of each other back in January, 11 points separated the two in the table.
The extent of Oldham’s progress since can be measured in the fact that victory tonight would close the gap to just a single point.
It is up to the Cobblers to ensure that is not the case.
Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Oldham Athletic 0