Fixture: Northampton Town v Tranmere Rovers, Sky Bet League Two
Date/kick-off time: Saturday, September 1, 3pm kick-off
Venue: PTS Academy Stadium
Weather forecast: 21C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Shaun McWilliams (hamstring). Rovers: Jay Harris (suspended), Adam Buxton (double hernia), Liam Ridehalgh (knee), Zoumana Bakayogo (calf), Evan Gumbs (leg)
Betting: Northampton 23/20, draw 23/10, Tranmere 12/5
Form guide: Cobblers WLDDDL, Rovers WDLLWD
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Cornell; Facey, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Hoskins, Crooks, Foley, Bridge; Morias, van Veen. Tranmere (4-4-2): Davies; Caprice, Ellis, McNulty, Monthe; Jennings, McCullough, Banks, Smith; Stockton, Norwood.
Man in the middle: Nick Kinseley
Last time out: Colchester United 1 (Pierre OG) Northampton Town 2 (Crooks, Waters); Tranmere Rovers 1 (Norwood) Port Vale 0.
Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 14, 2015 – Northampton 1 (Cresswell) Tranmere 0
Record v Tranmere: P40 W14 D11 L15
Opposition view: “They’re a good, strong team,” said Micky Mellon of Northampton this week. “They’ve got a lot of talent through their group and we’ll have to play very well to go there and get something from what will be a tough game.”
James Heneghan’s preview: With a long-awaited first win of the season now under their belt, the next objective for Cobblers to tick off their to-do list is beat newly-promoted Tranmere Rovers this weekend and register three points in front of their own supporters.
The Cobblers have taken more shots (74) and also had more on target (28) than any other team in Sky Bet League Two so far this season, three clear of Forest Green (71) and Mansfield Town (27) respectively.
Last weekend’s much-needed 2-1 win at Colchester United was accompanied by Town’s third good performance of the campaign. The previous two both came at the PTS Academy Stadium where they outplayed Lincoln City and then Cambridge United but failed to beat either.
Home form has eluded the Cobblers in recent times but there have been encouraging signs so far this term and if they can turn dominance into goals, disappointing defeats and frustrating draws should become three points and a march up the League Two standings.
Achieving victory this weekend, however, will be no easy task. Rovers, under Micky Mellon’s stewardship, are riding the crest of a wave having backed up last season’s promotion back into the EFL with a steady start to the campaign, winning two, drawing two and losing only one of their opening five fixtures.
James Norwood’s late strike earned them three points over Port Vale last time out, placing them a very respectable 10th in the table and three points better off than Saturday’s hosts, though it is still far too early to be making judgements purely based on the current standings.
It is not a new concept that football is a results-based business, clearly, but look beyond Town’s sticky start to the campaign and there are some promising statistics to be found which back up the idea that their performances have been a significant upgrade on last term.
The Cobblers have taken more shots (74) and also had more on target (28) than any other team in Sky Bet League Two so far, three clear of Forest Green (71) and Mansfield Town (27) respectively.
Those stats are also a significant increase on the same stage 12 months ago when Northampton had mustered meagre 41 shots with just 13 on target. While some of that can be attributed to dropping down a division and facing lower-quality opposition, there’s no doubt the Cobblers are now a far more attack-minded side creating chances at quicker rate.
Of course, it goes without saying that these sort of statistics are pointless in the grand scheme of things but they can give you an accurate indication for future success. If Cobblers are still top of those two categories come May, it’s hard to believe they won’t be far from a promotion spot.
Manager Dean Austin will be tempted to stick with the same team that beat Colchester United. Billy Waters’ bright cameo off the bench might earn him a first league start of the season and Shaun McWilliams may also return to the squad, but otherwise it will be more of the same and rightly so.
The victory last week lifted pressure and with successive home games to come, Town now have an opportunity to make their move this season.
Prediction: Northampton Town 3 Tranmere Rovers 1