DERBY DAY: James Heneghan's Northampton Town v Peterborough United preview
Fixture: Northampton Town v Peterborough United, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, November 19, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 6C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Jak McCourt (neck), JJ Hooper (thigh). Posh: Jermaine Anderson (anterior cruciate ligament injury)
Betting: Northampton 7/5, draw 5/2, Peterborough 7/4
Form guide: Cobblers LDWWWL, Posh WWWWLW
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Northampton 1.6/1.5, Peterborough 1.6/1.1
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-3-3): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan; McCourt, Taylor, Hoskins; Anderson, Gorre, Revell. Peterborough (4-3-3): McGee; Smith, Baldwin, Tafazolli, Hughes; Lopes, Bostwick, Forrester; Maddison, Coulthirst, Nichols.
Man in the middle: Darren Bond
Last time out: Gillingham 2 Northampton 1 (O’Toole); Peterborough 1 (Smith) Bolton 0
Most recent meeting: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 – Peterborough United 3 (Coulthirst, Tafazolli, Nichols) Northampton Town 0
Record v Peterborough: P64 W20 D17 L28
Opposition view: “It will be a completely different game,” said Posh boss Grant McCann this week. “Northampton were missing a couple of key men at our place and that won’t be the case on Saturday. The first meeting will have no bearing on the second one. If we go there thinking we will win easily again we will get into trouble.
“Northampton are a good side with a strong home record and we will need to show the same resolution, character and ability we showed against Bolton last weekend to get the result we want. I expect us to play well. We are showing good form and we will be ready for what will be a very tough challenge.”
Cobblers connection: Harry Beautyman joined the Peterborough-Northampton club when he swapped the ABAX Stadium for Sixfields in the summer. After playing for Leyton Orient, Sutton United and Welling, the midfielder spent two years at Posh during which time he made 45 appearances and scored five goals. But after becoming something of a bit-part player last term when making just 19 league starts, the 24-year-old moved to Northampton during the summer transfer window and will now be hoping to feature against his former club this Saturday having already beaten his goal tally from last season.
James Heneghan’s preview: This weekend’s visit of rivals Peterborough United signals the start of a three-game run that should give us a clearer indication as to how high – or perhaps low – the Cobblers can go this season.
So far it’s been a mixed bag for Rob Page’s men, with encouraging performances and promising wins followed by dispiriting defeats and reasons to be anxious of what the future holds – not least the last meeting with Saturday’s opposition.
You only need to look at last week’s game at Gillingham for a prime example. Bidding for a third straight league win to cement their play-off position, Northampton produced an indifferent performance and were beaten by a team who had failed to win any of their previous seven league matches.
Consistency and the ability to string together results are essential for any team with lofty ambitions but that is something which continues to elude Northampton this season.
And now comes a stern test and a run of fixtures that promises to thoroughly examine every facet of this Cobblers team, and by the end of it, the picture should be clearer.
In-form and high-flying duo Bolton Wanderers and Bradford City wait in the wings but up first are rivals Peterborough United who make the short hop to Sixfields this weekend, and for Northampton, it’s all about revenge following last month’s 3-0 humbling at the ABAX Stadium.
Since that dark day, both sides have managed two wins and one defeat to sit within two points of each other in the top eight of Sky Bet League One.
It’s a quirk of the fixture list that the two derby games have been scheduled so close together, and that might just work in Northampton’s favour if they can harness the pain and frustration of last month’s defeat and use it as motivation for tomorrow’s reunion.
One thing is for certain, they’ll have to perform a great deal better to appease fans.
It seems somewhat doubtful that Rob Page will deploy the same 3-5-2 formation he did at the ABAX, a gamble that spectacularly backfired as United romped to victory.
This time he’ll likely revert to type and stick to his favoured 4-3-3 system, with the possible return of Jak McCourt a timely boost after his absence was keenly felt in their defeat to Gillingham last time out.
There’s two other selection dilemmas for Page. Gabriel Zakuani has returned from international duty and will be hoping to line up against his former club, however the classy Lewin Nyatanga, who again shone at Gillingham, may have other ideas.
For the lone front role, it’s a straight fight between Marc Richards and Alex Revell. Page could go with both, but if not, Revell should be considered favourite to get the nod having often been the man of choice so far, though Richards’ recent form muddies the water somewhat for the Cobblers boss.
Marcus Maddison’s lethal set-piece delivery caused varying degrees of chaos for Northampton in that last meeting, and it’s something which Page will be desperate to address given his side’s recent defensive fallibility which has seen them concede 16 goals in their last seven league outings.
Gillingham were the latest team to profit last weekend and before that it was Millwall, Bristol Rovers and Peterborough.
More of that against the free-flowing and free-scoring Posh, who’ve registered more shots on target than any other League One team this season, on Saturday and Northampton face an uphill task to get anything out of the game.
Their defensive problems have at least been compensated by an increased goal output at the other end. After managing just 0.6 goals per game in their first five outings, Town have since averaged 2.1 per game.
But again it boils down to striking the right balance between defence and attack, and too often this season the Cobblers have leaned too far one way or the other.
Get it right, though, and they will reap the rewards.
Aside from Maddison, 17-year-old Leonardo Da Silva Lopes has caught the eye of many Peterborough observers and will be one to watch on Saturday, while Michael Smith’s superb volley inspired United to an impressive 1-0 win over in-form Bolton last time out.
While the Cobblers remain inconsistent, Peterborough, with four straight wins in all competitions, have seemingly found their groove this season.
The competitive nature of this season’s League One scrap makes predicting any game a tricky task, and that’s no different this weekend.
But up against old foes and looking for revenge, Northampton know they must deliver.
Prediction: Northampton Town 2 Peterborough United 1