Fixture: Northampton Town v Stevenage, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, October 24, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Sixfields Stadium
Forecast: 12C, showers
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Lawson D’Ath (suspended - 2 of 3), Ricky Holmes (back), Rod McDonald (knee), Paul Corry (knee), Ryan Cresswell (groin). Stevenage: Chris Whelpdale (ankle), Connor Ogilvie (hamstring), Ronnie Henry (back), Adam Marriott (knee), David McAllister (knee), Rhodell Gordon (hamstring), Dean Parrett (knock)
Betting: Northampton 10/11, draw 5/2, Stevenage 3/1
Form guide: Cobblers WLWLWD, Stevenage DWDLLL
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Cobblers 1.6/1.3, Boro 1.2/1.6
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Furlong, Brisley, Diamond, Buchanan; Hoskins, Byrom, O’Toole, Adams; Calvert-Lewin, Richards. Stevenage (4-4-2): Joronen; Franks, Wells, Hughes, Okimo; Akinyemi, Tonge, Parrett, Pett; Kennedy, Gnanduillet
Man in the middle: Geoff Eltringham
Last time out: Northampton 3 (Calvert-Lewin 2, Hoskins) Carlisle 2 (Gilliead, Wyke); Portsmouth 1 (Chaplin) Stevenage 1 (Williams)
Most recent meeting: Stevenage 2 (Whelpdale, Walton) Northampton 1 (Diamond)
Opposition view: Stevenage boss Teddy Sheringham told The Comet: “We knew Wycombe were going to be tough, Portsmouth was going to be a different tough game. And tomorrow is going to be just as tough but in a different manner.
“Northampton will be causing us problems in a different way to the first two and we need to make sure we’re ready for what they throw at us. They are a big and strong team, very organised. I’ve been very impressed when I’ve seen them. I’ll be letting my players know what to expect from them. Again we need to be at the top of our game if we’re going to get anything out of it.”
Cobblers connection: Barring a late injury, midfielder Joel Byrom is a certain starter for this weekend’s clash as his former club come to town. Following three years playing non-league football, Byrom joined Stevenage in 2009 and proceeded to enjoy three successful years at the club in which time he helped steer them to back-to-back promotions from the Conference to League One. He then moved with manager Graham Westley to Preston, where he was loaned out to the Cobblers in 2014 followed by a permanent move to Sixfields in January of this year.
James Heneghan’s preview: Northampton’s upsurge in form over the last month – with one defeat in eight – has seen them climb into the Sky Bet League Two play-offs and victory over Teddy Sheringham’s Stevenage on Saturday could close the gap to top spot to just two points.
While events off the pitch continue to dominate matters on it, Chris Wilder and co retain the look of a side who have a genuine shot at promotion this season, and their next test comes in the shape of a Stevenage side whose form has picked up in recent weeks after a difficult start.
Under the stewardship of former Manchester United and England striker Teddy Sheringham, Boro began the season with just two wins in 14 but three games unbeaten, including two credible draws at Portsmouth and Exeter, has put some breathing space between them and the bottom two.
Eighteen-year-old striker Ben Kennedy is one to watch this weekend. The Northern Irishman has been earning rave reviews since breaking into the Stevenage first team with Premier League sides Arsenal and Tottenham both rumoured to be interested in Kennedy, who has scored six league goals in his 19 appearances.
Although, having said that, it could be argued Stevenage’s biggest goal threat comes from a more unlikely source after their goalkeeper, Jesse Joronen, got on the score sheet last weekend with a freak 100-yard goal against Wycombe Wanderers.
The two clubs have only met six times previously and while the Cobblers have won four of those, it was Stevenage who prevailed the last time these two came together when they fought back from a goal down to win 2-1 in April earlier this year.
Both sides have their injury problems coming into tomorrow’s game, especially the visitors whose lengthy injury list includes club captain Ronnie Henry.
For Northampton, Zander Diamond will replace fellow centre-back Ryan Cresswell if the latter fails to recover from a groin injury picked up in Tuesday’s win over Carlisle, while two-goal hero Dominic Calvert-Lewin looks set to keep his place with Lawson D’Ath still suspended.
John-Joe O’Toole has deservedly been taken off the transfer list following a string of impressive performances and he’s line for a seventh successive start, illustrating his transformation at Sixfields.
Currently fifth in both the form and league tables, Northampton are understandably odds-on favourites this weekend but Sheringham’s side recent upturn in form means it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion.
Prediction: Northampton 3 Stevenage 1