Jefferson Lake’s Wimbledon v Northampton preview: Opportunity knocks for Cobblers

BIG MOMENT - Kelvin Langmead is collared by Clive Platt following his last-minute winner against Southend on Saturday (Picture: Kelly Cooper)
BIG MOMENT - Kelvin Langmead is collared by Clive Platt following his last-minute winner against Southend on Saturday (Picture: Kelly Cooper)

It was notable that Saturday’s post-match interviews at Southend United were conducted in the half-light rather than pitch-black gloom.

The days are getting longer, just 14 games remain to be played and the season is now well into its final third. It is, as the cliché goes, the business end of the campaign.

For the Cobblers it’s not just the evenings that are looking bright. Although it will be dark when they play Wimbledon tomorrow night there is good cause for a sunny complexion when assessing both that game and the ones that follow it.

Only one of their next nine games is against a side above them and all of their remaining home games are against teams from the bottom half of league two.

Torquay, York City and Accrington – a trio of teams in the kind of form that has got their supporters worrying for their Football League lives - are all still to come to Sixfields.

Of Northampton’s past 10 matches, a run that included fixtures at league leaders Gillingham and divisional heavyweights Rotherham, Chesterfield and Southend, seven have been won – promotion form.

To make it through a tough spell of games and be in a strong position, seventh with a game in hand to come at Kingsmeadow, is a fine achievement and provides legitimate foundation for dreams of a top-seven finish.

The away form problem has still not really been solved, the side is still lacking belief and inviting teams into games through a cautious and defensive mind set.

But the belief and confidence will grow through positive results such as the one at Southend, as fortuitous as it was.

Joe Widdowson is a good option (albeit a very safe one) at left midfield because the squad has no real left wingers other than the out-of-favour and unpredictable Ishmel Demontagnac.

Various centre-forwards have been employed in the left-wing role this season but lack the defensive capabilities that Widdowson offers in abundance and so he should retain his place.

Less clear-cut decisions remain elsewhere.

Will Aidy Boothroyd keep Ben Tozer in central defence or restore Clarke Carlisle, who was ill for the Southend trip?

And will Adebayo Akinfenwa come in up front for Clive Platt, whose 35-year-old legs played the full 90 minutes at Roots Hall?

Cases can be made for changes but now is the time for stability and consistency of selection and it would be good to see the same 11 start the game again.

It’s all about opportunities now.

The Cobblers were given a great opportunity to beat Southend, first by their injuries and then by Bilel Mohsni’s reckless sending-off. Eventually they took it.

Tonight’s game at Wimbledon, and the back-to-back home games at the fortress of Sixfields that follow it, are great opportunities that need to be taken.

Spring is in the air, and so is hope of a genuine crack at league one football next season.