Jefferson Lake’s Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle preview

Reuben Reid (far left)
Reuben Reid (far left)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, December 13 (3pm kick-off)

Competition: Sky Bet League Two

Venue: Sixfields Stadium, Northampton

Weather forecast: Sunny, 6C

Outs and doubts: Northampton: Jordan Archer (suspended - 1 of 1), Joel Byrom (suspended - 1 of 1), Ian Morris (dislocated knee), Tom Newey (ankle). Plymouth: Deane Smalley (cruciate knee ligament), Marvin Morgan (hamstring), Nathan Thomas (hamstring)

Betting: Cobblers 9/5, draw 23/10, Plymouth 7/4

Form guide: Plymouth LDLWLW, Northampton LWLLLD

Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-4-1-1): Duke; Tozer, Cresswell, Collins, Robertson; Hackett, Murdoch, Carter, Mohamed; Banks; Richards. Plymouth (3-5-2): McCormack; Nelson, O’Connor, Hartley; Mellor, Cox, B Reid, Blizzard, Kellett; R Reid, Alessandra

Last time out: Northampton lost 2-0 at Southend United, Plymouth lost 3-0 at Sheffield United (FA Cup second round)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 8, 2014 - Cobblers 0 Plymouth 2 (R Reid, Alessandra)

Cobblers connection: Paul McGregor was an unmistakeably-coiffured forward player who turned out for Nottingham Forest, Carlisle, Preston North End and both Plymouth and the Cobblers. McGregor was equally well known for his part in a band called Merc, who were said to have once attracted the attention of Creation Records’ Alan McGee, and after leaving the Cobblers he set up another with his brother called Ulterior who toured Europe in 2011 promoting their latest single.

Jefferson Lake’s preview: The enforced two-week break between fixtures has given several members of the Cobblers’ squad an opportunity to both prove their fitness and stake claims for involvement in the weekend game against Plymouth.

The most obvious candidates are centre-back Ryan Cresswell and forward Lawson D’Ath, because they have missed the least amount of football, with Zander Diamond behind those two and Evan Horwood after that.

Lewis Hornby is the last of the long-term injured players to return but even with central midfielder Joel Byrom suspended there is no great pressure on him to go into the side and play.

The same is partially true of D’Ath, although Chris Wilder could do with some competition for his wide players, and Horwood, in whose place Gregor Robertson has done a good job at left-back after another stand-in spell at centre-half.

The situation, though, is less clear with Diamond and Cresswell, who might just be Wilder’s preferred central defensive duo but face stiff competition from Kelvin Langmead and Lee Collins for the jerseys.

Collins has been almost an automatic pick under Wilder whenever he has been fit and one option would be to shift him to right-back, but Ben Tozer is doing little wrong there and it would be harsh to bench him at this point.

Another avenue Wilder may explore is reverting to a 3-5-2 system to match up with the one Plymouth use (although it must be noted that Argyle lined up in a 4-4-1-1 system when he scouted them at Sheffield United last weekend), which would allow Cresswell to transition smoothly into the side.

The main precluding factor to that system is an absence of players able to play the wing-back roles; Danny Alfei would be the option on the right but there is no natural for the left side with Byrom suspended and Horwood not quite ready to start. The role would not suit Robertson, although he would gamely attempt it such is his attitude.

Plymouth may stay in the 4-4-1-1 system but the 3-5-2 is what they have used in the majority of their league games and has provided them with the defensive stability on which their good season has been built.

Reuben Reid is a key man for the Pilgrims in attack and capable of getting goals in any situation, but on-loan Blackburn Rovers tyro Anthony O’Connor is equally important to the way Plymouth like to play.

O’Connor can operate as a centre-back but may move into midfield if Carl McHugh recovers from his calf injury in time for the weekend game.

Plymouth do not concede a lot of goals, and have the best defensive record in league two (11 in 19) but have not won in three matches, although one of those fixtures was against league one opposition in the FA Cup last time out.

Prediction: Cobblers 0 Plymouth 0