Fixture: Yeovil Town v Northampton Town
Date/time: Saturday, December 22, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Huish Park
Forecast: 11C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Yeovil: Bevis Mugabi (shoulder), Nathan Baxter (hip), Diallang Jaiyesimi (knee), Gabby Rogers (ankle), James Bailey (knee), Alex Pattison (back), Wes McDonald (hamstring). Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole (bruising)
Betting: Yeovil 13/8, draw 23/10, Northampton 8/5
Form guide: Glovers DLLLLW, Cobblers DWDLDD
Possible line-ups: Yeovil (4-4-2): Nelson; James, Gafaiiti, Warren, Dickinson; Brown, D’Almeida, Santos, Green; Arquin, Olomola. Northampton (3-4-3): Cornell; Taylor, Turnbull, Pierre; Facey, Foley, McWilliams, Buchanan; Bowditch, Powell, van Veen
Man in the middle: Robert Lewis
Last time out: Cambridge United 0 Yeovil Town 0; Northampton Town 1 (Bowditch) Stevenage 1 (Kennedy)
Yeovil own the second-worst home record in the entire division and have not tasted victory on their own patch since a 2-0 win over Stevenage all the way back in August
Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 23, 2016 - Yeovil Town 1 (Cornick) Northampton Town 1 (Adams)
Record v Yeovil: P13 W4 D5 L4
Opposition view: Yeovil manager Darren Way: “Knowing Keith’s team, they get men behind the ball so we will have to have spells of possession where we have to break them down because they’ve been quite solid and they’ve got a good team.
“I’ve seen energy and loads of passion in training. We’ve got competition now and we can build on that because I think at the start of the season clean sheets were very important to us in being successful.”
Cobblers connection: Off the mark with his first goal of the season last time out, Dean Bowditch now heads back to one of his happiest hunting grounds this weekend. The 32-year-old spent two seasons at Huish Park between 2009 and 2011, scoring 25 goals in 70 starts having signed for the Glovers on a free transfer from Ipswich Town. That form won him a switch to Milton Keynes Dons where he stayed for six productive years before signing for the Cobblers.
“It was a really, really good spell for me at Yeovil,” said Bowditch this week when asked about his time at Huish Park. “I managed to play a lot of games, got a lot of minutes, and my career started again there really. Since leaving, I think I have only played one game down there.”
James Heneghan’s preview: The decision to hand Yeovil Town boss Darren Way a new contract extension earlier this month stirred much consternation among supporters at Huish Park given their team’s dreadful form since September.
The Glovers were eight points and 15 places above the Cobblers eight games into the season but while Keith Curle has steadily taken his side away from trouble and into the safety net of mid-table since replacing Dean Austin, Way’s men have plummeted in the wrong direction.
Four wins and just one defeat represented an excellent first two months of the campaign for the Huish Park outfit, only for that promising start to be followed by a woeful run of form. Since their remarkable 6-0 win at high-flying Newport County left them fifth with a game in hand in mid-September, Yeovil have won only one of their subsequent 13 league fixtures, dropping them all the way down 19th place and a mere three points above relegation.
It’s been at Huish Park where the Glovers have particularly struggled. They own the second-worst home record in the entire division and have not tasted victory on their own patch since a 2-0 win over Stevenage all the way back in August. Not even the FA Cup could provide any relief, beaten 3-1 by National League North side Stockport County last month.
Nevertheless, Way was described as a ‘gem of a manager’ by chairman John Fry when attempting to justify the 38-year-old’s contract extension until 2021, though that hasn’t exactly gone down well with increasingly upset supporters who fear their club are heading for non-league just five years on from being in the Championship.
In his defence, Way has not been helped by a lengthy injury list; the Glovers are without at least seven first-team players going into Saturday’s game against the Cobblers.
The deadly combination of fan frustration, poor form and an injury-hit squad is one Northampton know all too well this season but, back on the ascent under Curle, they will be hoping to take advantage of their opponent’s struggles this weekend.
They begin the notoriously busy festive schedule with a trip to the west country and a ground that holds happy memories because the last time they played at Huish Park, they did so as champions and walked out to a guard of honour as Nicky Adams’ header cancelled out Harry Cornick’s early opener in a 1-1 draw.
The Cobblers have a mixed bag over Christmas. After their trip to the 19th-placed, out-of-form Glovers, they host back-to-back home games against Richie Wellens’ inconsistent Swindon Town and Paul Tisdale’s title-chasing MK Dons before heading out on the road again to face play-off hopefuls Forest Green Rovers.
On paper, those second two fixtures look trickier than the first two, meaning three points on Saturday followed by another positive outcome on Boxing Day would set them up nicely for their Dons-Rovers doubleheader.
The busy run of games – four in 11 days to be precise – will give Curle ample opportunity to tinker and rotate as he looks to make full use of the large squad he has available to him. John-Joe O’Toole is the only current injury doubt so there are no excuses not to come back from the west country with all three points.
Prediction: Yeovil Town 1 Northampton Town 3