James Heneghan’s Rochdale v Northampton Town preview

Shaun McWilliams made his Cobblers debut in this fixture last season. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds
Shaun McWilliams made his Cobblers debut in this fixture last season. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds
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Fixture: Rochdale v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One

Date/time: Tuesday, October 17, 7.45pm kick-off

Venue: Spotland Stadium

Forecast: 11C, cloudy

Outs and doubts: Rochdale: Keith Keane (groin). Cobblers: Chris Long (hamstring), Marc Richards (thigh), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Matt Crooks (knee), Leon Barnett (Achilles), Alex Revell (suspended – 2/3)

Betting: Rochdale 7/10, draw 11/4, Northampton 19/5

Keith Hill

Keith Hill

Form guide: Dale DLDDDW, Cobblers LLDLDL

Possible line-ups: Rochdale (4-3-3): Lillis; Daniels, McNulty, McGahey, Bunney; Williams, Camps, Henderson; Done, Andrew, Inman. Northampton (4-3-3): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Poole, McWilliams, Grimes; Hoskins, Smith, Waters

Man in the middle: Darren Drysdale

Last time out: Fleetwood 2 Rochdale 2 (Inman, Henderson); Northampton 0 AFC Wimbledon 1

Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 1, 2017 – Rochdale 1 (Mendez-Laing) Northampton 1 (Anderson)

Record v Rochdale: P61 W20 D21 L20

James Heneghan’s preview: If there was ever a time for the Cobblers to suddenly rediscover their scoring touch, let alone their ability to win away from home, this week is surely it.

Set for two crunch away games at teams currently placed 20th and 22nd in Sky Bet League One, starting with Rochdale this evening, Northampton simply can’t afford not to come away from both games with something to show for their efforts if they have any desire to escape the clutches of the bottom four.

Already four points adrift of safety, their room for manoeuvre is shrinking by the week and with a tricky sequence of fixtures on the horizon, tonight’s trip to Spotland, followed by Saturday’s game at Gillingham, would be an opportune time to find the net again.

It’s now six games and nearly 600 minutes since their last league goal and what’s of more concern is that they don’t even especially look like scoring, having been comfortably shut out by Bristol Rovers and then AFC Wimbledon in their past two outings.

On the plus side, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink could be boosted by the return of two strikers this evening.

Marc Richards, who missed Saturday’s visit of AFC Wimbledon with a thigh strain, and Chris Long, who Hasselbaink has held back until he fully recovers from a hamstring injury, are both nearing a return and might be involved against Rochdale.

John-Joe O’Toole could also get further game-time after his 12-minute cameo appearance on Saturday and he knows, as do the Cobblers, that he must quickly recapture the form of the last two campaigns to help spark this floundering team into action.

Aside from that, there’s unlikely to be the raft of chances that some may expect from a team who are so out of sorts. The injury list, plus Alex Revell’s suspension, gives Hasselbaink little room for manoeuvre in that respect, though given that he has already demonstrated his desire to tinker between matches, there will likely be changes.

If so, Regan Poole, George Smith and Dean Bowditch are all options, plus Long or Richards if either are fit enough to start.

As for their hosts tonight. Rochdale have had a mixed run of recent form. Held to three successive goalless draws in all competitions, they ended their own four-game goal drought with an entertaining and admirable 2-2 draw at Fleetwood on Saturday, an result that suggests their current position of 20th is a false one.

The blow of losing key man and goalscorer in this fixture last season Nathaniel Mendez-Laing to Cardiff was somewhat offset by the arrivals of exciting young midfielder Jordan Williams and Peterborough loanee Brad Inman, while Steve Davies and ex-Cobbler Ian Henderson have also been among the goals this term.

On the face of it, Rochdale – low on form, confidence and goals – are exactly the sort of team Northampton should at least be challenging, if not beating. But, given recent displays and current form, it’s difficult to see anything other than a home win.

Prediction: Rochdale 2 Northampton 0