Fixture: Northampton Town v Southampton U21s, Checkatrade Trophy
Date/time: Tuesday, November 7, 7.45pm kick-off
Forecast: 6C, rain
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole (knock), Sam Hoskins (knock), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Leon Barnett (Achilles), Matt Crooks (knee), Brendan Moloney (knee), Regan Poole (international duty).
Betting: Northampton 11/8, draw 13/5, Southampton 9/5
Form guide: Cobblers DWWDLL, Soton WLWWDW
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-3-3): Cornell; McWilliams, McGivern, Pierre, Smith; Kasim, Foley, Bowditch; Waters, Richards, Revell. Southampton (4-3-3): McCarthy; Bakary, Cook, O’Driscoll, Wood; Slattery, Jones, Rowthorn; Hale, Barnes, Johnson
Man in the middle: Brett Huxtable
Last time out: Northampton 0 Scunthorpe 0; Cambridge 0 Southampton U21s 1 (Jones)
The successful conversion of nine straight penalties in this competition has helped the Cobblers defy normal footballing logic and put them on four points from two draws after their opening couple of group stages matches, meaning another draw tonight – regardless of the outcome of the ensuing penalty shoot-out – would be sufficient in taking them through.
Opposition view: Head coach Radhi Jaïdi, whose young side will progress with victory tonight, told southamptonfc.com: “We’re motivated and ready to go and compete. It’s a competition we like to be involved in. The boys have produced really positive performances in the two games so far, particularly away at Cambridge. I’ve watched a little bit of Northampton and I know the manager likes to play football.
“They still play pretty direct under pressure, but they’re slightly different to Cambridge in that as soon as the ball comes into the middle third, they play with tempo and energy. There will also be the physical aspect for us to deal with, so it’s a good challenge but I’m expecting the boys to step up and show their ability to perform.”
James Heneghan’s preview: The fact that the Cobblers require only a draw from tonight’s game at Sixfields to ensure qualification to the knock-out stages is unlikely to prevent Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink from making the standard wholesale changes, something which the Checkatrade Trophy regularly sees up and down the land.
A Wembley final may be up for grabs at the final stop of this seemingly never-ending competition but even that does little to inspire fans and motivate players, especially given the amount of time and effort it requires to get that far.
Nonetheless, the successful conversion of nine straight penalties in this competition has helped the Cobblers defy normal footballing logic and put them on four points from two draws after their opening couple of group stages matches, meaning another draw tonight – regardless of the outcome of the ensuing penalty shoot-out – would be sufficient in taking them through.
More importantly than that, though, is that if they do not lose tonight, Town will extend their morale-boosting sequence of unbeaten games to five in all competitions, a run which should not be underestimated bearing in mind their previous struggles this season.
It says a lot about how the Checkatrade Trophy is viewed when its biggest benefit is giving much-needed game-time to players out of favour or stuck on the fringes, which in turn allows managers to rest weary legs and tired minds as we head for the crunch period of the season.
The Cobblers fall into that category with, among others, Dean Bowditch, David Cornell, George Smith, Billy Waters, Yaser Kasim and Alex Revell all having barely featured of late and therefore in line to be involved this evening.
New signing Ryan McGivern could be handed a debut while tonight is also an opportunity for Lewis McGugan, fresh from completing his first 90 minutes on Saturday, to further increase his match sharpness.
Fellow South Group H sides Southampton, Peterborough and Cambridge can all qualify this evening but, for Northampton, the equation is simple. Win or draw, the Cobblers go through, Lose and they’re out.
Neither scenario is likely to stir the emotions or shed many nerves but, for a team seeking to build confidence and belief, any opportunity to win should be seized upon.
Prediction: Northampton 2 Southampton U21s 0