Fixture: Scunthorpe United v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, October 8, 2016
Venue: Glanford Park
Forecast: 13C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Scunthorpe: Josh Morris (slight knock), Jordan Clarke (ankle), Luke Williams (foot). Cobblers: Gabriel Zakunai (international duty), Harry Beautyman (knee)
Betting: United 4/5, draw 13/5, Northampton 100/30
Form guide: Scunthorpe WWWDDW, Cobblers LLWWLL
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Scunthorpe 2.4/1.0; Northampton 1.6/1.1
Likely line-ups: Scunthorpe (4-3-3): Daniels; Wiseman, Wallace, Mirfin, Toffolo; Dawson, Bishop, Smallwood; Holmes, Hooper, Morris. Northampton (4-1-4-1): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan; McCourt; Hoskins, O’Toole, Taylor, Anderson; Revell.
Man in the middle: Darren Handley
Last time out: Scunthorpe 2 (Lancashire OG, Margetts) Shrewsbury 0; Coventry 3 Northampton 1 (Richards)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 8, 2014 – Scunthorpe 1 (Canavan) Northampton 1 (Diamond)
Record v Scunthorpe: P59 W21 D16 L22
Opposition view: “They’ve continued from last season and they are an extremely difficult team to beat,” said Iron boss Graham Alexander on the Cobblers this week. “I’ve come up against Rob Page’s teams a couple of times, and they’re always competitive games, very hard-working outfits, but with very good players within them. It’ll be a competitive game.”
James Heneghan’s preview: This weekend’s trip to early pace-setters Scunthorpe United should provide us with the perfect barometer by which to judge the progress of this Northampton team under the guidance of Rob Page.
With the Cobblers lying fifth in League One, the opening quarter of the season has unquestionably exceeded most people’s expectations but tougher examinations lie in wait and there is nowhere more difficult at this present time than high-flying United who have been the EFL’s form team this season.
Not only are Scunthorpe leading the way in League One, they have also already managed to rack up a mightily impressive plus 15 goal difference, scoring 26 goals in just 11 games – more than any other team in England’s top four divisions.
What’s more, Northampton must also find a way of dealing with the Football League’s leading goalscorer in the shape of the red-hot Josh Morris who’s bagged a remarkable 11 goals in 11 games and has netted in all but three of his league appearances this term.
Whichever way you look at it, the Iron are formidable opposition.
It will be intriguing to see Page’s approach to this game. In previous away games this season, he’s been inclined to play on the counter-attack by sitting deep, frustrating the opposition and then looking to spring forward in numbers on the break.
It’s an approach which has yielded mixed fortunes, and up against an attack in such good goalscoring form this weekend, it’s essential Page finds the right balance between being well-organised and hard to beat but not overly defensive that they find themselves under constant pressure and unable to get out.
They need to show energy, press high up the pitch and put pressure on the table-toppers by constantly hassling and harrying them, don’t let them dictate and control the game otherwise there’ll only be one outcome.
Gabriel Zakuani, away on international duty, is a big miss at the heart of defence and there are other selection dilemmas for Page, particularly in the wide areas where Paul Anderson and Sam Hoskins have been the recent players of choice.
But with Kenji Gorre enjoying his best spell since signing for the club and JJ Hooper impressing Page in Tuesday’s defeat at Coventry City, there is strong competition for places.
That said, Hoskins’ work ethic and willingness to help out defensively might mean he gets the nod.
Cobblers have started the season in good form and confidence is high but with Scunthorpe absolutely flying at the top, this might just be a stretch too far for Page’s boys.
Prediction: Scunthorpe United 2 Northampton Town 1