James Heneghan’s Plymouth Argyle v Northampton Town preview

Plymouth boss Derek Adams
Plymouth boss Derek Adams

Fixture: Plymouth Argyle v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One

Date/time: Tuesday, November 21, 7.45pm kick-off

Venue: Home Park

Forecast: 14C, showers

Outs and doubts: Plymouth: Ryan Edwards (suspended), Ryan Taylor (ankle), Luke McCormick (ankle), Kyle Letheren (thigh), Robbert te Loeke (back), Nadir Ciftci (ankle). Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole (ankle), Sam Hoskins (hamstring), Daniel Powell (hamstring), Alex Revell (groin), Aaron Phillips (thigh)

Betting: Plymouth 13/8, draw 23/10, Northampton 13/8

Form guide: Argyle LWWDWD, Cobblers LLWDDW

Possible line-ups: Plymouth (4-1-4-1): Matthews; Sawyer, Miller, Bradley, Taylor-Sinclair; Songo’o; Carey, Diagouraga, Fox, Grant; Jervis. Northampton (4-3-3): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Poole, Grimes, Crooks; Waters, Powell, Long

Man in the middle: Antony Coggins

Last time out: Plymouth 0 Oxford 4; Northampton 0 Scunthorpe 3

It’s far too early in the season to describe this game as anything more than important, rather than ‘must-win’ or ‘defining’, but there’s no denying that victory for either side would be a big step in the right direction.

Most recent meeting: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 – Plymouth Argyle 1 (Wylde) Northampton Town (Collins, Richards)

Record v Plymouth: P57 W22 D12 L23

Cobblers connection: Gregg Wylde’s time at Sixfields may have been brief and ultimately disappointing, but his sensational goal at MK Dons will live long in the memory. A terrific 25-yard half-volley into the top corner, that was his only goal in 12 appearances whilst on loan from Millwall towards the end of the last campaign. Starting out at Rangers, Wylde played for Bolton, Bury, Aberdeen and St Mirren before spending 2015/16 at Home Park - scoring against the Cobblers the last time these two clashed - and after making just one league start at following club Millwall, he returned to Plymouth over the most recent summer, playing 10 games and netting one goal so far this term.

James Heneghan’s Preview: The positions of the two teams may have changed since they last met at Home Park two seasons ago but the importance of this fixture remains very much the same.

It’s not quite the top-of-the-table clash it was in January 2016 when Plymouth, top at the time, last hosted Northampton, hot on their heels in second, but the outcome could be just as telling in their respective seasons.

Back in those days, the prize was the League Two title and a place in League One. Now, with both having achieved that objective – albeit a year late for Plymouth – their need for points is no less urgent as they look to stay in the division and avoid an all too swift return to England’s fourth tier.

In that aforementioned clash, James Collins and Marc Richards were both on target for what was the third of Northampton’s club record 10 successive league victories. It propelled them level on points at the top and was the catalyst for their relentless charge to the title.

By contrast, Plymouth badly drifted away in the wake of that defeat to not only miss out on the title but also automatic promotion, with subsequent play-off heartbreak capping off a miserable end to the season.

Their stay in the division was only temporary, though, as Derek Adams at least steered them back into League One by finishing second last season, only denied the title by goal difference, however the way these two clubs have started the current campaign, the next clash at Home Park could be well be back in League Two again.

It’s far too early in the season to describe this game as anything more than important, rather than ‘must-win’ or ‘defining’, but there’s no denying that victory for either side would be a big step in the right direction.

Plymouth, currently second-bottom and with only three league wins all season, will particularly be targeting this game. The 4-0 home defeat suffered at the hands of Oxford United on Saturday looks bad on paper but they were down to 10 men from 14 minutes on and, before that, they had won three of their previous four games in all competitions and were on six-game unbeaten run.

Like tonight’s visitors, Argyle’s problems this season largely owe to a distinct lack of goals; they’ve scored two or more on just one occasion this term, managing a division-low total of 13 from 18 games in all. They’ve also struggled to keep 11 players on the park, having a man sent off in five different games.

Going by the stats alone, it seems unlikely that we’ll be in for a goal-fest tonight, but who knows.

The Cobblers suffered their own collapse on home turf at the weekend when beaten 3-0 by Scunthorpe United, a result that has cranked up the pressure on these next four games that, on paper, are all winnable.

They can ill-afford for the pattern of their season to continue. So far, Northampton have accumulated their points in blocks – seven in nine and most recently 10 in 12 – amid winless runs of four and seven matches, and they do not want Saturday’s loss to signal the start of another poor run.

The crux of the issue has been striking the right balance in midfield, something which they did not do on Saturday. The back five pretty much picks itself and the front three, providing Daniel Powell is fit, should also be relatively straightforward but the midfield three holds the key.

Likely to be without John-Joe O’Toole, the Cobblers require a player with his bite and tenacity to help win the midfield battle and play to the strengths of star trio Lewis McGugan, Matt Grimes and Matt Crooks who all possess quality when in possession.

Shaun McWilliams and Regan Poole could both play that role, though who misses out from his raft of midfield options is another conundrum for Hasselbaink to solve.

It’s not the be all and end all but tonight is a prime opportunity to prove Saturday was no more than a minor blip on Town’s road to recovery.

Prediction: Plymouth Argyle 1 Northampton Town 2