Fixture: Northampton Town v York City, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, February 6, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: Heavy rain, strong winds, 10C
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Alfie Potter (ribs), Paul Corry (knee). York: Ntumba Massanka (illness), Reece Thompson (illness), Jake Hyde (hernia)
Betting: Northampton 8/15, draw 3/1, York 5/1
Form guide: Cobblers WLWWDW, York WDLLDW
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Northampton 1.8/1.1, York 1.1/1.9
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, Prosser, Buchanan; Holmes, O’Toole, Byrom, Martin; Collins, Richards. York (4-4-2): Flinder; Hendrie, Winfield, Cameron, Ilesanmi; Penn, Coulson, Summerfield, McEvoy; Riordan, Oliver
Man in the middle: Brendan Malone will oversee his first Cobblers game of the season on Saturday. The Wiltshire official has dished out four reds and 45 yellow cards in 20 games this term.
Last time out: Northampton 3 (Collins, O’Toole, McDonald) Morecambe 1 (Mullin); York City 2 (McEvoy, Galbraith) Stevenage 1 (Keane)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 21, 2015 – Northampton Town 3 (Hackett, Moloney, Toney) York City 0
Record v York: P49 W20 D16 L13
Opposition view: Speaking about facing Northampton, York boss Jackie McNamara told the York Press: “They are a well-organised side with good players who move the ball around well and it also sticks when it goes up front but, if we do things properly and stick to our gameplan, we can cause an upset. I want to raise the players’ belief and instil confidence and the pressure, expectations and demands will be on them because it’s top versus bottom at their home stadium.
“We will look at their strengths and weaknesses and they have players who can hurt you. They have good movement in behind the strikers, so we’ve got to be switched on first and foremost and compact in certain areas, but we need to be able to go anywhere knowing we are capable of winning three points.”
Cobblers connection: York’s Emile Sinclair will miss this game against his former club after joining National League side Guiseley on a one-month loan deal this week. After time at Nottingham Forest, Macclesfield, Peterborough and Crawley, Sinclair joined Northampton on loan in 2014 before signing permanently six months later. The 28-year-old made 34 appearances in all for the Cobblers but after moving to York, he has been plagued by injury, managing just 14 appearances this season, prompting the move down a division.
James Heneghan’s preview: The Cobblers juggernaut may have been brought to an enforced halt over the past two weeks but it has the perfect opportunity to kick back into action and claim another victim this weekend with bottom-of-the-table York in town.
Two weeks without a game has felt like an age for Cobblers fans dreaming of promotion and the wait has only whetted the appetite for this clash, with yet another home sell-out expected for a game where a win would inch Town ever-closer to the Holy Grail.
Even without kicking a ball, Northampton have seen their promotion push strengthened over the past two weeks thanks to a combination of rival teams dropping points and some excellent transfer business.
Plymouth Argyle and Bristol Rovers both suffered defeats last weekend, meaning the Cobblers now have two games in hand on their nearest rivals, while a goal from the most unlikely of sources, Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche, denied Portsmouth, another team in the promotion hunt, a precious win on Tuesday.
That all adds up to the Cobblers not only sitting pretty at the top with a two-point lead but they also now have two games in hand over second place, while the gap back to fourth remains at 11 and with lowly York next up, hopes are high that come 5pm Saturday, Chris Wilder’s men will be three points closer to League One football next season.
But just went you think everything is going swimmingly, football has a funny way of biting you in the backside so the Cobblers cannot afford to take any of the 19 remaining games lightly as one slip up could prove oh-so costly.
York come into this game with some confidence, too. An injury-time goal downed Stevenage in their last outing which followed a creditable draw away at Carlisle United.
The Cobblers will also have to be wary of the fact that this is a different York City side to the one which has so far been the whipping boys of League Two this season, with Derek Riordan and Kenny McEvoy two of several payers who became Minstermen in January.
Sitting bottom of the pile and frantically battling against relegation, York don’t exactly lack motivation either with the club in desperate need of points to maintain their Football League status, something which is all too familiar for Cobblers fans who went through the torture of a relegation dogfight just two years ago.
The turnaround in fortunes in those two years has been quite remarkable, and now the club find themselves in pole position for a return to League One following a seven-year absence.
And the expectation and excitement around Sixfields has only been heightened by an excellent transfer window.
A midfielder, a striker, a winger and a defender have all been signed up while key players such as John-Joe O’Toole, Ricky Holmes and Adam Smith remain at Sixfields to aid the promotion push.
The four new recruits are sure to give Chris Wilder many selection headaches in the coming weeks and months but it’s a nice problem to have with two players competing for almost every position, the left-back slot aside.
Of Wilder’s two most recent additions, Luke Prosser could well come straight in for his debut this weekend, perhaps partnering Zander Diamond in defence although that would be harsh on Rod McDonald, but Danny Rose is unlikely to dislodge either John-Joe O’Toole or Joel Byrom any time soon, barring injury or suspension.
On a run of 10 league wins from 11 and with more victories racked up (18) than all but one of the other 91 Football League sides, you’d be forgiven for thinking this game, against the division’s second worst travellers, was a foregone conclusion.
But this is not a time for complacency to set in. As Wilder might say, this is the time to put the hammer down.
Prediction: Northampton 3 York 1