Fixture: Portsmouth v Northampton Town, Checkatrade Trophy
Date/time: Saturday, December 2, 12.30pm
Venue: Fratton Park
Forecast: 6C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Portsmouth: Damien McCrory (knee), Tareiq Holmes-Dennis (knee), Brett Pitman (hamstring), Kal Naismith (knee), Oli Hawkins (hamstring), Dion Donohue (back). Cobblers: Aaron Pierre (calf), John-Joe O’Toole (ankle), Sam Hoskins (hamstring), Daniel Powell (hamstring), Alex Revell (groin), Aaron Phillips (thigh)
Betting: Portsmouth 4/6, draw 3/1, Northampton 100/30
Form guide: Pompey WLWWWL, Cobblers DLLLWD
Possible line-ups: Portsmouth (3-5-2): McGee; Thompson, Clarke, Haunstrup; Close, Rose, Evans, Bennett, Lowe; Chaplin, Main. Northampton (4-4-2): Cornell, Moloney, Taylor, Barnett, McGivern; Waters, Poole, McGugan, Crooks; Long, Richards
Man in the middle: Tom Nield
Last time out: Portsmouth 1 (Naismith) Plymouth 0; Northampton 0 Bury 0
Most recent meeting: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 – Northampton 3 (Long 2, Crooks) Portsmouth 1 (Kennedy)
Record v Portsmouth: P33, W10 D7 L16
Opposition view: “Northampton have beaten us once already this season and, like us, will now be looking towards the latter stages of the competition,” says Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. “Wembley is the carrot for all of us and, while respecting the opposition, it’s an opportunity for us to progress at home.”
Cobblers connection: Former Cobbler Danny Rose initially found himself out of favour when new Pompey boss Kenny Jackett arrived at Fratton Park in the summer but, on a run of four straight league starts, the 29-year-old is seemingly back in the good books. Signed from Oxford United in January, Rose, a tidy central midfield player who has an impressive eye for a pass, became a regular fixture in Town’s midfield towards the back end of the title-winning campaign, playing all of their final eight games. But with Chris Wilder leaving the club, Rose stalled on a new contract and followed suit as h opted to remain in League Two when Portsmouth came calling. It proved a wise move and, in the following season, he experienced another title success as Pompey pipped Plymouth and Doncaster to top spot.
James Heneghan’s preview: In need of a springboard to resurrect their stuttering form, tomorrow’s trip to Fratton Park is an opportunity for the Cobblers to taste the winning feeling again.
And unlike the previous Checkatrade Trophy game, this weekend’s visit to in-form Portsmouth has perhaps come at a good time for Town as the focus shifts from their league struggles to a chance to progress in a cup competition and edge nearer to a potential Wembley final.
Without a win or even a goal in any of their previous four games, Town’s season has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks and they will be desperate to seize upon any opportunity to get it back on track, even if that happens to be a trip to the south coast in this heavily-criticised cup competition.
Some might say that the Cobblers are destined to go deep in the Checkatrade Trophy given the manner in which they qualified from the group stages; scoring three goals in 20 minutes to come from 3-0 down and draw with Southampton U21s, including Ash Taylor’s 95th minute leveller. They also went on to win the subsequent shoot-out, a recurring theme so far this term.
But while the Cobblers have their penalty-taking prowess to thank in reaching this stage – winning all three spot-kick shoot-outs – Pompey’s route through was a little bit more conventional as they beat both Charlton and Crawley and drew with Fulham U21s to top Southern Group A.
In contrast to Northampton, Portsmouth also head into tomorrow’s encounter in good form having won three of their last four league games to get themselves right into play-off contention following a sluggish start to life back in League One.
With both teams dumped out of the FA Cup at the first time of asking, Portsmouth by Luton and Northampton by Scunthorpe, the two clubs opted to move this tie to a Saturday to ease the pile-up of fixtures, what with the cluttered Christmas spell fast approaching.
And that change to the schedule has prompted Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to say this week that he intends to name a relatively strong team.
The likes of Ash Taylor, Matt Crooks, Lewis McGugan, Chris Long and Matt Grimes are all in contention to start as a result but Alex Revell and Aaron Phillips remain sidelined.
In more positive news, if Daniel Powell, Sam Hoskins and John-Joe O’Toole come through training unscathed this week, tomorrow’s game will be a good chance to get them some minutes ahead of a crucial double-header in the league against Oldham and Walsall.
But whilst they may be more important games in the grand scheme of Northampton’s season, it could be tomorrow’s trip to Fratton Park that provides the springboard to kick-start their faltering campaign.
Prediction: Portsmouth 2 Northampton 1