Fixture: Stevenage v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, March 19, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Lamex Stadium
Forecast: 6C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Stevenage: Ronnie Henry (thigh), Aaron O’Connor (calf), Chris Whelpdale (groin), Charlie Lee (groin), Steven Schumacher (knee), Dave McAllister (knee), Connor Ogilvie (knee). Cobblers: Marc Richards (Achilles), Paul Corry (knee).
Betting: Stevenage 14/5, draw 12/5, Northampton 1/1
Form guide: Stevenage LLLLWW Cobblers DWDDWW
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Stevenage 1.2/1.7, Northampton 1.8/1.0
Likely line-ups: Stevenage (4-4-2): Jones; Franks, Wilkinson, Wells, Okimo; Pett, Parrett, Tonge, Kennedy; Luer, Harrison. Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan; Holmes, O’Toole, Byrom, Adams; Marquis, Collins.
Man in the middle: David Webb’s most recent Northampton game was last season at Accrington where he dismissed Ryan Cresswell on 28 minutes yet Cobblers still managed to triumph 5-1. Webb has dished out only three red cards this season, to go with 83 yellows, in 29 games.
Last time out: Northampton 1 (Marquis) Cambridge 1 (Spencer); Wycombe 1 (O’Nien) Stevenage 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, October 24, 2015 – Northampton 2 (Calvert-Lewin, Potter) Stevenage 1 (Schumacher)
Record v Stevenage: P7 W5 D1 L1
Opposition view: Boro caretaker manager Darren Sarll is hoping for a quick start from his side on Saturday: “We go into every game with the belief we can win it. We’ll make it competitive and it’s at our place so we’ve got to make sure we inspire those people who come and watch us.
“It’s important we start at our tempo and get a foothold in the game and start to dominate matches again because we haven’t dominated early on enough. We have to be that free-flowing, positive side that has that bit of steel and the first thing is to assert our dominance at our place and send a message to the opposition.”
Cobblers connection: After coming through Northampton’s youth system as a 17-year-old, Steve Morrison has been prolific at almost every one of his next five clubs, particularly during a three year spell at Stevenage where he netted 76 goals in 142 appearances. His three years at Sixfields yielded just seven starts and three goals but since then Morison has gone on to score 142 Football League goals in over 400 games. He’s currently enjoying another fruitful season at Millwall where he’s kept John Marquis out of the side, allowing the striker to join Northampton on loan.
James Heneghan’s preview: Saturday’s clash in Hertfordshire brings together two clubs who have been heading in very different directions this season, so much so that League Two could well become a buffer division between them in just a few months’ time.
Fourteen more points from Northampton’s final 10 games would be sufficient to guarantee promotion, although in reality another two wins should be more than enough, especially if rival teams continue to trip over themselves.
In sharp contrast, Stevenage are in desperate need of anything but defeat to halt their worrying slide down the table, and it may only be the woeful form of York and Dagenham that saves them from returning to non-league football.
Boro have rarely stood still in their six years since promotion from the Conference – when they reached the Football League for the very first time in their history – first shooting up to the League One play-offs within two seasons before plummeting right back down over the past 18 months.
The change in manager from Teddy Sheringham to caretaker boss Darren Sarll in February briefly brought an upturn in results and performances but four defeats on the spin has left Boro teetering precariously above the bottom two.
The contrast in fortunes experienced by these two clubs in recent times can be measured in the amount of points they’ve taken since the start of December.
While Northampton have racked up a division high 39 during that period, Stevenage have managed a paltry 12 – the joint lowest in League Two – to plunge from relative safety in 18th to one place outside the drop zone.
This weekend they face their toughest test yet when the rampant Cobblers come to town seeking to extend their unbeaten run to 15 games, and Chris Wilder has his usual abundance of options to pick from.
Nicky Adams and Rod McDonald are two players who must be entering the Northampton manager’s thoughts when he comes to picking his starting XI, unless he opts to stick with the same team for a third successive game.
Skipper Marc Richards could feature on the bench having returned to training following an Achilles problem, and James Collins will travel to Hertfordshire despite his... eventful trip to Cheltenham in the week.
Stevenage have used more players this season than any other team in the entire Football League and they’re once again hampered by injuries for the visit of Northampton.
Steven Schumacher, who gave Boro the lead at Sixfields back in October’s meeting, is one of up to seven players who could be missing in a Stevenage team brimming with loan players.
Top scorer Chris Whelpdale is one man who may return having trained again this week following a groin injury, while striker Greg Luer is still awaiting his full debut after signing on-loan from Hull City.
Stevenage were unfortunate to come away from Sixfields with nothing to show for their efforts back in October having pushed Northampton close in a 2-1 defeat.
This, however, is now a very different Cobblers side who have their eyes firmly fixed on the prize.
Prediction: Stevenage 0 Northampton 2