Fixture: Plymouth Argyle v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Tuesday, January 12, 7.45pm kick-off
Venue: Home Park
Forecast: 6C, dry
Outs and doubts: Plymouth: Graham Carey (knee). Cobblers: Alfie Potter (rib), Paul Corry (knee)
Betting: Plymouth 7/5, draw 23/10, Northampton 19/10
Form guide: Plymouth WWWWLD, Cobblers DWWLWW
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Plymouth 1.5/0.8, Northampton 1.8/1.2
Likely line-ups: Plymouth (4-2-3-1): McCormick; Mellor, Nelson, Hartley, Sawyer; Threlkeld, McHugh; Jervis, Tanner, Wylde; Brunt. Northampton (4-2-3-1): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, Cresswell, Buchanan; O’Toole, Byrom; Holmes, Hoskins, D’Ath; Collins.
Man in the middle: In charge of this top-of-the-table clash is experienced Hampshire official Keith Stroud who has handed out more yellow cards (121) than any other referee in England this season. On top of that, Stroud has dismissed eight players this term and his last Cobblers game came back in November 2014 when he sent off goalkeeper Jordan Archer in Town’s 2-0 loss at Southend.
Last time out: Carlisle United 0 Plymouth Argyle 2 (Brunt, Wylde); Northampton Town 2 (Holmes 2) MK Dons 2 (Cresswell OG, Maynard)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, August 22, 2015 – Northampton 0 Plymouth 2 (Carey, Jervis)
Overall record v Plymouth: P58 W24 D11 L23
Opposition view: Argyle boss Derek Adams has played down the significance of this game, telling the Plymouth Herald: “It’s a good game to have. We have already had very big games this season and we have been able to perform well. But there are 21 games to go in the season and every single one of them are big games.”
Cobblers connection: After playing just nine times in a two-year spell at Arsenal, left-back Mike Everitt moved to Northampton in 1961 where he was to spend the majority of his career, playing 207 games over six years between 1961 and 1967. He moved to Plymouth Argyle the following season before going onto Brighton and Wimbledon. Everitt also enjoyed a brief managerial career in the early 1970s, managing Wimbledon and Brentford.
James Heneghan’s preview: Rarely has the 450-mile round trip down to Plymouth on a cold January evening looked so enticing for Northampton Town fans.
It’s remarkable to think that, barely two months ago, Northampton’s very existence was under threat.
Now, just seven weeks after Kelvin Thomas completed his takeover, the club find themselves riding high at the top of League Two, in with a shout of facing Premier League champions Chelsea in the FA Cup and all while playing some of the best football Sixfields has seen for many a year.
And after Saturday’s thoroughly enjoyable cup tie against MK Dons, attention now turns to this clash at Home Park where a win by two goals would send Town top with a game in hand.
That will be no mean feat, of course, especially against a Plymouth side who come into this game on the back of a 10-day break having not played at the weekend.
While it’s far too early in the season to describe tonight’s game as anything more than significant, rather than defining, there’s no denying that a win for either side would be a big step towards promotion.
Given Plymouth’s impressive defensive record this season – the best in League Two – the first goal could well prove decisive, just as it did when these two met back in August.
Incidentally, that encounter at Sixfields was the last time Northampton failed to score in a league game, and the only time they’ve failed to score at home all season, an indication of Plymouth’s defensive strength.
The absence of Reuben Reid, top scorer for the past two seasons, would usually represent a major concern for Plymouth fans but the form of replacement Ryan Brunt, scorer of some crucial goals this season against the likes of Luton and Yeovil, has softened the blow.
With Brunt playing so well and scoring goals, Argyle have not had to rush back Reid, who has been on the bench for the last three games but only played once as a substitute following a hip injury.
Midfielder Graham Carey, who scored in August’s win at Sixfields and is hailed by many as Argyle’s best player, will likely be their only absentee as he continues to work his way back to full fitness having not played since November due to a knee injury.
Chris Wilder also has a striker quandary, although it’s one which must be the envy of many of his League Two colleagues as he has to decide whether to start with Marc Richards after the skipper’s exertions at the weekend or give on-loan Shrewsbury striker James Collins an eagerly-anticipated debut.
Wilder did confirm Collins will definitely feature this evening, whether that’s from the bench or not remains to be seen, while Lawson D’Ath and Zander Diamond are likely to return.
The Cobblers could go top with a two-goal win but with their recent woeful record against Plymouth in mind, a point would be far from the worst result.
Prediction: Plymouth 1 Northampton 1