Fixture: Mansfield Town v Northampton Town
Date/kick-off time: Saturday, February 14, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Field Mill, Mansfield
Weather forecast: 6C, rain
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Ian Morris (knee), Kaid Mohamed (broken metatarsal), Zander Diamond (hamstring). Mansfield: Chris Clements (gashed leg), Ricky Ravenhill (hamstring)
Betting: Mansfield 2/1, draw 12/5, Cobblers 8/5
Form guide: Mansfield LWLDLL, Cobblers LWWWWW
Possible line-ups: Mansfield (3-4-3): Pidgley; Sutton, Tafazoli, Raynes; Beevers, McGuire, Heslop, Elder; Kee, Rhead, Oliver. Northampton (4-4-1-1): Duke; Moloney, Cresswell, Collins, Horwood; D’Ath, Taylor, Byrom, Holmes; O’Toole; Richards.
Last time out: Cobblers lost 1-0 at Hartlepool, Mansfield lost 2-1 at Morecambe (Heslop)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, August 9, 2014 - Cobblers 1 Mansfield 0 (Mohamed)
Cobblers connection: Giles Coke’s exit from Sixfields was an acrimonious one, with the midfielder signing for Motherwell after verbally agreeing a contract to stay on in the summer of 2009, and his departure from Mansfield was also reasonably controversial, with Northampton going to a tribunal to establish the fee they would have to pay the Stags. Coke cored seven times in 82 games for the Field Mill club but went up a level while a Cobbler, notching seven in 57 in an injury-hit spell before heading north of the border.
Jefferson Lake’s preview: Although the Cobblers have 16 games left on their league fixture list for the season, there really is no more margin for error if they are to be successful this season.
They cannot afford to go to Mansfield and contribute the same kind of performance they did at Hartlepool on Tuesday night.
And they definitely can’t afford to reproduce the result they got in midweek – although it would not destroy their mathematical prospects of reaching the top seven, it would be very damaging from a momentum point of view.
As it is, some of the wind has already been taken from the team’s sails by the 1-0 reverse at Victoria Park.
On that occasion they allowed themselves to be drawn into a scrappy contest by a team who missed out midfield and didn’t give the Cobblers any thinking time on the ball whatsoever.
Mansfield should be a different proposition; under new manager Adam Murray they have tried to develop a technical style built around keeping the ball and passing it.
But they may move away from that to a more urgent approach considering they are now, having lost to Morecambe in midweek, just two points off the relegation zone.
Their recent successes, under Murray’s predecessor Paul Cox, were achieved playing a 3-5-2 system with the emphasis on the ball going forward early and to big players.
It’s not quite like that at Mansfield these days and that might suit Northampton, who were unable to get functioning as an attacking unit at all at Hartlepool.
They will need improved performances across the board but mainly from the wide players Lawson d’Ath and Ricky Holmes, who have been excellent since the turn of the year but were quiet and looked slightly tired in midweek.
The fixture has been christened John-Joe O’Toole Day by the visiting supporters, who will number more than 1,200 for one of the shortest trips of the season.
The fans’ appreciation of O’Toole is the perfect illustration of both the redemptive powers of sport and the faith the club’s followers retain in their players – provided, of course, they work hard to overcome difficult periods.
O’Toole himself needs to go up a notch from his level on Tuesday night but many more of his team-mates do too, if they are to avoid another loss and see the faint hopes of a play-off push maintained.
Prediction: Mansfield 0 Cobblers 1