Fixture: Shrewsbury Town v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, October 22, 3pm kick-off
Venue: New Meadow
Forecast: 12C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Shrewsbury: Shaun Whalley (calf), Adam El-Abd (knock). Cobblers: Matty Taylor (suspended – 3/3)
Betting: Shrews 2/1, draw 12/5, Northampton 13/10
Form guide: Shrewsbury LLLLDD, Cobblers LLDLLW
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Shrewsbury 0.9/1.7, Northampton 1.4/1.4
Likely line-ups: Shrewsbury (3-5-2): Leutwiler; Grimmer, Lancashire, Sadley; Riley, Deegan, Sarcevic, Ogogo, Brown; Waring, Toney. Northampton (4-1-4-1): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, Zakuani, Buchanan; McCourt; Hoskins, O’Toole, Beautyman, Gorre; Revell
Man in the middle: Trevor Kettle
Last time out: Shrewsbury Town 0 Sheffield United 3; Peterborough United 3 Northampton Town 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 28, 2015 – Shrewsbury 1 (Demetriou) Northampton 2 (Hackett, Byrom)
Record v Shrews: P49 W19 D9 L21
Opposition view: “They’re a tough team,” said caretaker manager Danny Coyne on Northampton. “They’ve had a really good start to the season and I know Rob Page from the Welsh squad – he’s a leader and he’s got them organised and playing well. We know it’ll be a tough game because they’re a physical, organised team.”
Cobblers connection: This weekend will see Ivan Toney reunited with the club that played an integral role in his development as a footballer. Currently on the books of Newcastle United, Toney became the youngest player to represent Northampton when he made his debut in 2012 before going on to score 13 goals in 60 games across all competitions. That prompted interest from several big clubs and it was the Magpies who won the race to sign him. The 20-year-old had two loan spells at Barnsley last season but opted to sign for Shrewsbury on a half-season loan deal in August, scoring three goals in 13 appearances so far this term. What’s somewhat more impressive than his goal tally, though, is Toney’s knack of picking up bookings this season, somehow managing eight yellow cards and one red in just 13 games.
James Heneghan’s preview: If Rob Page was to handpick the opposition for the game immediately after a dismal defeat, rock-bottom and manager-less Shrewsbury Town would probably be the team he’d choose.
For all Northampton’s recent problems, they seem minor in comparison to the woes of Shrewsbury.
Without a win in eight games across all competitions, including six defeats in that time, the Shrews are propping up Sky Bet League One having chalked up just 10 points from 14 games.
And to make matters worse, it’s only two weeks since manager Micky Mellon left the club to become boss at National League side Tranmere Rovers, leaving Town without a replacement.
Many names have been thrown into the ring since, including Keith Jackett and current Morecambe boss Jim Bentley, but it appears Shrewsbury are keen on appointing Alan Archibald, the manager of Scottish outfit Partick Thistle, though the latest reports suggest that move is off despite the club’s eagerness to bring in a new man by the time Northampton rock up at New Meadow.
If that is not the case, current caretaker manager Danny Coyne will oversee his fourth game.
It would be an understatement to say each of these two clubs are overdue a victory.
Between them, they have managed just a solitary win from their last 12 games, with both yet to win in October.
Northampton’s downward spiral may not have reached the level of Shrewsbury just yet but a bright start to the season has rapidly unravelled over the past few days.
Two concerning defeats, conceding six goals in the process, has prompted much debate and worry among fans who may have been expecting more after an excellent start heightened expectations, however it’s worth remembering that it’s less than two weeks since the Cobblers bettered the league leaders in their own back yard, and with 10 men.
Now they take on the division’s bottom club and the EFL’s most out-of-form team and three points allied with a good performance should divert the ship – for the time being at least – away from choppy waters.
Of course, on the flip side, a defeat would only exacerbate the problems and make matters worse but those are the fine margins that make sport so fascinating.
On the team news front, it’s anyone’s guess what Rob Page will dish up after Tuesday’s surprise serving.
Considering the result at Peterborough, it seems unlikely he’ll stick with the 3-5-2 and more likely that he’ll revert back to a back four, which means one of Lewin Nyatanga, Zander Diamond and Gabriel Zakuani will drop out, with Jak McCourt certain to come straight back in.
John-Joe O’Toole should start too, even accounting for his recent indifferent form, and so must Sam Hoskins, who was Northampton’s brightest spark in Tuesday’s dismal defeat.
Matty Taylor serves the last of his three-game suspension so remains out and then it’s a choice of Harry Beautyman or Joel Byrom to complete the midfield, unless Page opts to retain Marc Richards and go with two up front, or play Paul Anderson.
Another player who could and should start is Kenji Gorre who has recently found himself out of favour just when he seemed to be finding some form.
After struggling to find his feet early on, Gorre appeared to be getting over his troubles, scoring at Swindon and impressing at Coventry City, but he’s had to watch from the sidelines while Anderson, Hoskins and JJ Hooper occupy the wide positions.
Now is surely the time to give him another start.
Page’s decisions on Tuesday were brave, some might even say naive, but they ultimately backfired and now he must find a way of restoring confidence and getting back on the winning trail.
That might mean going back to basics and grinding out three points but any which way will suffice for now.
Prediction: Shrewsbury Town 1 Northampton Town 2