Jefferson Lake’s Exeter City v Northampton Town preview

FAMILIAR FACE - former Cobblers striker Alex Nicholls will lead the Exeter line on Saturday
FAMILIAR FACE - former Cobblers striker Alex Nicholls will lead the Exeter line on Saturday

Fixture: Exeter City v Northampton Town. Sky Bet League Two

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, January 10, 3pm

Venue: St James’ Park, Exeter

Weather forecast: cloudy, 8C

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Ian Morris (knee), Kaid Mohamed (broken metatarsal), Ivan Toney (suspended). Exeter: None

Betting: Exeter 11/8, draw 5/2, Cobblers 9/4

Form guide: Exeter LLWLWD; Cobblers DLLLLL

Possible line-ups: Exeter: Hamon, Ribeiro, Woodman, Butterfield, Oakley, Harley, Sercombe, Davies, A Nicholls, Morrison, T Nicholls. Northampton: Duke, Moloney, Cresswell, Collins, Horwood, D’Ath, Taylor, Byrom, Holmes, O’Toole, Richards.

Last time out: Cobblers drew 1-1 with Southend (D’Ath), Exeter lost 2-1 to Accrington (T Nicholls)

Most recent meeting: Tuesday March, 2014 - Exeter 0 Cobblers 1 (Morris)

Cobblers connection: If Saturday’s match was being scripted by a Hollywood screenwriter, Alex Nicholls would score the winning goal. The 27-year-old signed an 18-month contract with Exeter this week after his six-month deal at the Cobblers expired. Scored once in 11 appearances for Town after 22 months out with a broken leg, an injury sustained in the act of scoring his eighth goal in an initial spell of 18 games after arriving from Walsall.

Jefferson Lake’s preview: For the first time this season, the Cobblers are in a position to name the same starting 11 for a second consecutive game, as there are no new injuries from the line-up which started against Southend United last weekend.

Barring any last-minute mishaps on the training ground, there is every chance Chris Wilder will go with the same side which secured a creditable draw against the Blues.

The performance in that game was far from perfect - the defending was disorganised and uncertain at times and Southend certainly missed chances to take more than the solitary point they got from the game.

But at the same time, Northampton also created lots of chances and got into lots of good areas, with their fluid attacking midfield three of Lawson D’Ath, John-Joe O’Toole and Ricky Holmes finding pockets of space in front of the visiting defence to exploit.

Wilder’s teams are traditionally more defence-minded away from home (most league two sides are) and so it does not seem plausible that the trio will be given the same amount of attacking freedom for a difficult game at Exeter.

Last season’s 1-0 win at St James’ Park, and the rare away victories the team has secured this season, have all come through tight, organised displays in which the emphasis has been on a compact defence and midfield and counter-attacking at pace.

That might be the way the team lines up this weekend because there will be an urgent need to stem the dismal run of away defeats and, with that in mind, a point away from home will be seen as another step in the right direction.

In the two previous matches, at Tranmere and Carlisle, the side generated enough chances to get something from the match but ultimately ended up losing.

Exeter are better than both of those two teams and their forward line will be led by Alex Nicholls, who will have a real point to prove against his former club.

After this weekend, the Cobblers play back-to-back home games, against Dagenham and Newport County, and so they must view January as a good month in which to gather league points and move away from the bottom of the league.

Prediction: Exeter City 1 Northampton Town 1