James Heneghan’s Northampton Town v Scunthorpe United preview

Skipper Marc Richards, who was on target as the Cobblers easily overcame Harrow Borough in last season's FA Cup first round tie at Sixfields, could return to the starting line-up this weekend
Skipper Marc Richards, who was on target as the Cobblers easily overcame Harrow Borough in last season's FA Cup first round tie at Sixfields, could return to the starting line-up this weekend

Fixture: Northampton Town v Scunthorpe United, FA Cup first round

Date/time: Saturday, November 4, 3pm kick-off

Venue: Sixfields

Forecast: 9C, cloudy

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Aaron Phillips (thigh), Leon Barnett (Achilles), Matt Crooks (knee), Brendan Moloney (knee). Scunthorpe: Neal Bishop (knock), Conor Townsend (hamstring), Jonathan Margetts (knee), Luke Williams (hamstring), Sam Mantom (hip)

Betting: Northampton 7/4, draw 11/5, Scunthorpe 8/5

Form guide: Cobblers WWDLLD, Iron WWDLLW

Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-3-3): Cornell; McWilliams, Poole, Pierre, Buchanan; Foley, O’Toole, McGugan; Waters, Smith, Richards. Scunthorpe (3-5-2): Gilks; McArdle, Wallace, Burgess; Clarke, Ojo, Adelakun, Bishop, Morris; Hopper, Novak

Man in the middle: Robert Jones

Last time out: Northampton Town 1 (Hoskins) Blackpool 0; Doncaster Rovers 1 Scunthorpe United 1 (Lewis)

In need of a rest? Ash Taylor has started all 19 of Northampton's games this season

In need of a rest? Ash Taylor has started all 19 of Northampton's games this season

Most recent meeting: Saturday, January 14, 2017 – Northampton Town 1 (Revell) Scunthorpe United 2 (Van Veen, Morris)

Record v Scunthorpe United: P61 W21 D17 L23

Opposition view: “When you go to any opponent in the same division, it’s going to be a tough game, and I’m sure Northampton won’t disappoint us in that aspect,” said Scunthorpe boss Graham Alexander. “It’s another match for us to win in a different competition and we want to continue our run of form. We’re looking forward to it and I still think there is a buzz about the FA Cup, and that goes throughout the whole club – players, staff and supporters.”

James Heneghan’s preview: Whether or not the Cobblers could do with the distraction of back-to-back cup games at this moment in time is up for debate, but there’s no doubt that tomorrow’s FA Cup tie with Scunthorpe United, followed by Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy game, have their benefits.

With several players short of full fitness, others still seeking match rhythm and some in need of a rest, Saturday’s visit of Scunthorpe provides manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink with an overdue opportunity to shuffle his pack and fully utilise the options at his disposal.

For sure, in an ideal world, Northampton would probably prefer to play a league game this weekend given their recent upturn in results and performances and the feeling that momentum is beginning to build, not to mention their ongoing need to climb the League One table.

But with cup competitions comes less pressure and more freedom and therefore a chance to release the shackles, entertain and impress – and for some it’s a opportune time to stake their claim for a regular place in the team.

Without doubt, there’s plenty of motivation for various individuals across the Cobblers squad this weekend.

With several players short of full fitness, others still seeking match rhythm and some in need of a rest, Saturday’s visit of Scunthorpe provides manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink with an overdue opportunity to shuffle his pack and fully utilise the options at his disposal.

Since taking charge, the Dutchman has overseen 13 games in eight weeks and the importance of many of those games, coupled with Town’s lengthy injury list, has limited his options in terms of rotation, so these next two games have come at a good time to give some aching bodies a rest while presenting others with a chance to shine in the process.

Aaron Pierre, David Buchanan, Ash Taylor and Matt Grimes are among those to have played almost every minute of every game in recent weeks, and then on the flip side you have Lewis McGugan, John-Joe O’Toole, Sam Foley and to an extent Sam Hoskins who could do with more minutes in their legs following various lengths of time spent on the sidelines.

Lewis McGugan remains short of match fitness

Lewis McGugan remains short of match fitness

Then you add the likes of Dean Bowditch, Yaser Kasim, George Smith and David Cornell, all of whom have had to be patient in their quest for game-time this season, into the equation and there’s lots to play for.

There are unlikely to be wholesale changes for United’s visit – they might come on Tuesday – but Foley, McGugan and Waters are surely likely starters, while defender Ryan McGivern, signed on a short-term contract this month, could also come in to give one of Taylor or Pierre a much-needed rest.

The Cobblers should look at Saturday’s game as not only an opportunity to progress in the world’s oldest competition and move a step closer to a potential glamour tie and possible cup run, but also as a chance to claim the scalp of a promotion-chasing team who currently sit above them in the league table.

Achieving that would be a further boost to their increasing confidence and also give them a slight edge for when these two clubs reconvene for their league fixture in two weeks’ time.

It’s hardly the type of glamour tie everyone craves – no disrespect to Scunthorpe – but it’s at home, it’s a winnable game and it’s a chance to build on recent progress. That alone should provide all the motivation the Cobblers need to progress to round two.

Prediction: Northampton Town 2 Scunthorpe United 1