Fixture: Northampton Town v Scunthorpe United, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, November 18, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 7C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Sam Hoskins (leg), Alex Revell (groin), Aaron Phillips (thigh). Scunthorpe: Josh Morris (hamstring), Sam Mantom (groin), Luke Williams (hamstring), Jonathon Margetts (knee), Simon Church (knock)
Betting: Northampton 12/5, draw 9/4, Scunthorpe 6/5
Form guide: Cobblers LWDDWW,Scunthorpe WWDDWW
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-3-3): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Grimes, McGugan, O’Toole; Waters, Powell, Long. Scunthorpe (4-4-2): Gilks; Clarke, Goode, Burgess, Wallace; Adelakun, Ojo, Bishop, Holmes; Hopper, Novak
Man in the middle: Michael Salisbury
Last time out: Scunthorpe United 1 (Adelakun) Northampton Town 0
Most recent meeting: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 – Scunthorpe United 1 (Adelakun) Northampton Town 0
Record v Scunthorpe: P63 W21 D18 L24
Opposition view: “I thought our performance was very good the other night, but it was only 1-0. We have to make sure we do things right on and off the ball to make sure follow up that result with another good result. We’re not underestimating Northampton’s qualities,” read more from Graham Alexander here.
Cobblers connection: Luke Williams and Matt Crooks joined Northampton and Scunthorpe respectively within a couple of weeks of each other last January. Their loan spells unfolded similarly; both impressed but both were plagued by injury before returning to their parent clubs. The unfortunate Williams remains sidelined until this day, currently out with a hamstring problem, but having swapped Glanford Park for Sixfields in the summer, Crooks is now fighting fit and raring to go.
James Heneghan’s preview: If Northampton and Scunthorpe aren’t sick of seeing one another already, they sure will be by 5pm on Saturday after their third meeting in the space of 15 days.
Of those games, this one is arguably the most important depending on your preference. Progression in the FA Cup would have been a welcome distraction from league pressures but there’s no question Town’s ongoing fight to edge their way up the table is the more pressing issue at this moment in time.
Given their league form – despite Tuesday’s narrow defeat at Glanford Park – and the winnable nature of their next three three games, this next week may well prove to be a critical one in either lifting the Cobblers a safe distance away from the bottom four or, alternatively, keeping them in dangerous territory.
Three successive league wins have taken them from 23rd to 19th but, only two points above the relegation zone, they are by no means out of the woods just yet.
The quirk of the fixture list sees these two clash once again on Saturday and that could well work in the home team’s favour if they can use Tuesday’s cup defeat as motivation.
For sure, in theory, the Cobblers should be fresher and fitter given that manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made nine changes to Scunthorpe’s two in their FA Cup first round replay.
Hasselbaink’s makeshift team on Tuesday prompted a mixed reaction on social media but it will not be until the end of next week when we find out if his decisions are vindicated.
The team he selected still had enough quality to win the game but with so many key players rested, it was clear where his focus lies: with these three big games in the next seven days.
After hosting familiar foes Scunthorpe, the Cobblers play the current bottom two – Plymouth and Bury – in Sky Bet League One.
It represents a golden opportunity to continue their winning run and establish themselves more towards mid-table than the bottom four and if they can take, say, at least six points from those fixtures, Hasselbaink will feel fully justified.
There are a whole host of key man back in the frame this weekend. Matt Ingram, Matt Grimes and Regan Poole missed out through ineligibility, suspension and intentional duty on Tuesday while Brendan Moloney and David Buchanan were both rested.
Those five are expected to all come back in, bar perhaps Poole, and it would be a surprise if Hasselbaink made many changes from the team that played so well in beating Oxford United last weekend.
Much depends on the fitness of Daniel Powell, who came off with a hamstring injury at Grenoble Road, and it also remains to be seen how Town’s manager plans to best use his wealth of midfield options with everyone at last available.
The trio of Grimes, Lewis McGugan and John-Joe O’Toole were among those to impress against Oxford but with Matt Crooks and Poole back in contention, no one can rest easy.
The Cobblers do not require any extra homework on their opposition but they will need to keep more watchful eye on Hakeeb Adelakun than they did on Tuesday when the tricky, dangerous midfielder caused problems all evening, and it was no surprise he scored the winning goal in such brilliant fashion.
Captain Neal Bishop returns from suspension for the Iron and Josh Morris could also be back, though it’s unlikely last season’s top scorer will start.
United are in terrific form and go into Saturday seeking an eighth game unbeaten across three competitions while also strengthening their promotion challenge.
But with five of the last seven meetings between these two ending in stalemate, and with the Cobblers ever-improving, a draw would be to the surprise of few.
Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Scunthorpe United 1