FA CUP FIRST-ROUND: James Heneghan's Chippenham Town v Northampton Town preview

Fixture: Chippenham Town v Northampton Town, FA Cup first round

Saturday, 9th November 2019, 11:21 am
Cobblers were beaten by a stoppage-time winner at Lincoln in the first round of last season's FA Cup - despite Kevin van Veen equalising a few minutes earlier.

Date/time: Sunday, November 10, 12.45pm kick-off

Venue: Hardenhuish Park

Forecast: 7C, cloudy

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Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Ryan Watson, Shaun McWilliams, Joe Martin

Betting: Chippenham 19/5, draw 3/1, Northampton 8/13

Form guide: Bluebirds DDWWWD, Cobblers DWWWLW

Current league positions: 14th (National League South) v 9th (League Two)

Possible line-ups: Chippenham: Puddy, Tyler, Foulstone, Richards, McDonald, Haines, Rigg, Whelan, Chamber, Jarvis, Zebroski. Northampton: Arnold, Hall-Johnson, Goode, Wharton, Harriman, Turnbull, Lines, Kaja, Waters, Williams, Oliver.

Man in the middle: Chris Pollard

Last time out: Chippenahm Town 0 Welling United 0; Oldham Athletic 2 Northampton Town 2 (Warburton, Williams)

Most recent meeting: Never previously met

Opposition view: Mark Collier: “They’re a Football League side with 52 places between us so we’ll have to be at our very, very best and we’ll have to have all the luck going our way.

“They’ll have to play very, very poorly for us to get anything from the game, however there will be cup shocks in this round – there always are – and we’d like to be one of them."

Cobblers connection: Kaid Mohamed. Played 28 times for the Cobblers in 2014/15, scoring five goals, and turned out nine times for Chippenham last season.

James Heneghan's preview: Nothing captures the magic of the FA Cup quite like the whiff of a potential giant killing as a club from the lower echelons of English football plays host to a professional outfit.

The Cobblers have little to gain and everything to lose when they step foot in Wiltshire this weekend. It's case of preparing right, getting the job done and returning home with their name safely in the hat for Monday's draw.

Remove the fears of a potential upset this weekend though and Sunday's tie should be viewed as an opportunity for Town to improve upon their dreadful recent record in the world's oldest cup competition.

A couple of tricky first-round draws coupled with their humbling defeat to Stourbridge in 2016 has seen Cobblers fail to reach round three in each of the last three campaigns. In fact, only once in the past 13 seasons have they strung together successive wins in the FA Cup.

That, unsurprisingly, was achieved by Chris Wilder's title-winning side when a controversial replay defeat to Milton Keynes Dons denied them a chance of hosting big boys Chelsea in round four.

Their first-round opponents this season have already played five matches to reach this stage. Chippenham needed replays to fend off both Cirencester and Slough before easing past Whyteleafe last time out.

This is only the third time in their history, and first in 14 years, that the Bluebirds have reached this stage of the competition, never going any further. Upsetting League Two opposition would some way to break their duck.

Chippenham are still getting used to their new surroundings in the National League South. They won promotion to that level for the first time ever in 2017 and have acclimatised well, finishing 13th in both the last two seasons and now currently sitting 14th, unbeaten in their last 11 games in all competitions.

We will no doubt have the tiresome and now-annual debate over whether or not the FA Cup still contains enough 'magic' but the first-round stage remains a highly popular event on the football calendar and that will be reflected by both sets of supporters at Hardenhuish Park tomorrow. Can we just enjoy it for what it is?

Town boss Keith Curle might see this game as an opportunity to shuffle his pack but he must make sure he finds the right balance between too many changes and too few. Take liberties with his team selection and his team could become a national story for all the wrong reasons.

But he has a competitive squad at his disposal and those players who could come in to face Chippenham, such as Billy Waters, Vadaine Oliver, Michael Harriman and Steve Arnold, should have the sufficient experience and quality to negotiate this tricky obstacle.

The Cobblers will be hoping for the chance to cause their own upset later in the competition but first they must avoid one. They know all too well of the dangers that lurk in Wiltshire on Sunday but play anywhere near to their potential and they should have enough to progress.

Prediction: Chippenham Town 1 Northampton Town 3