FA CUP: James Heneghan's Burton Albion v Northampton Town preview

Fixture: Burton Albion v Northampton Town, FA Cup third round

Saturday, 4th January 2020, 10:04 am
Updated Saturday, 4th January 2020, 10:08 am
Cobblers last played at Burton in 2015, beaten 3-1

Date/time: Sunday, January 5, 2.01pm kick-off

Venue: Pirelli Stadium

Forecast: 8C, cloudy

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Outs and doubts: Burton: Kieran Wallace, Jevan Anderson, Nathan Broadhead. Cobblers: Harry Smith, Egli Kaja, Shaun McWilliams, Alan McCormack

Betting: Burton 8/15, draw 10/3, Northampton 5/1

Form guide: Brewers WLWWLL, Cobblers WDLDWL

Current league positions: 12th (League One) v 7th (League Two)

Possible line-ups: Burton (4-3-3): O'Hara; Brayford, Nartey, Buxton, Hutchinson; Sbarra, Edwards, Fraser; Sarkic, Templeton, Akins. Northampton (3-5-2): Arnold; Goode, Wharton, Turnbull; Watson, Lines, Anderson, Hoskins, Adams; Williams, Oliver.

Man in the middle: Jeremy Simpson

Last time out: Bolton 3 Burton 4 (Templeton, Akins 2, Boyce); Northampton 1 (Williams) Stevenage 0

Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 25, 2015 - Burton 3 (Diamonds OG, Edwards, Akins) Northampton 1 (D'Ath)

Record v Burton: P12 W3 D3 L6

Cobblers connection: Midfielder-turned-defender John-Joe O'Toole needs no introduction to Cobblers fans. The 31-year-old enjoyed five mixed years at Northampton but he will always be remembered fondly by supporters for the starring role he played during the club's League Two title win during 2015/16.

He also scored important goals to lead Town to safety a year later but two injury-ravaged seasons followed and his departure to League One Burton felt a good move to all parties. O'Toole has done well at the Brewers too, impressing at centre-back and racking up 25 appearances so far.

James Heneghan's preview: For only the second time in 14 years Northampton will partake in one of the most popular dates on the footballing calendar as they head to Burton Albion for FA Cup third-round weekend.

FA Cup success has been thin on the ground for far too long but Keith Curle and his players, aided by a favourable draw, are doing their best to rectify that with this season's charge to the third-round.

Routine victories over non-league clubs Chippenham Town and Notts County brought them to this stage and now comes a trip to the Pirelli Stadium and the League One Brewers, who have already beaten two League Two sides - Salford and Oldham - in this year's competition.

There's no escaping the fact that this was an underwhelming tie - for both teams - when the draw was made last month but excitement has gradually increased and is now running high as fans eye a juicy fourth-round clash.

Not since 2004 and a meeting with Manchester United have the Cobblers reached round four of the competition but Sunday's encounter in Staffordshire, despite Burton sitting 19 places higher on the football ladder, is an opportunity to end that barren run.

However, Nigel Clough's side are enjoying another decent season in England's third tier. They currently sit slap bang in the middle of the table and trail the play-off places by only three points after winning three of their four games over Christmas: 4-3 at Bolton, 4-2 over Tranmere and 3-1 against Rochdale.

But Burton's home form this season should give the Cobblers some encouragement. They've managed only 15 points and four wins from 10 league games at the Pirelli Stadium, among the poorer records in the division.

And the visitors will be roared on by magnificent support with well over 1,000 fans expected to make the trip. As well as a win for their team, they'll also be hoping to catch a glimpse of old favourite John-Joe O'Toole.

O'Toole, who's made name for himself at centre-back this season, has adapted well to moving up a division although his disciplinary record remains iffy - to say the least. He's had two red cards this season and is just returning from a six-game ban.

Clough suggested the 31-year-old will return to the squad, if not the team, on Sunday, but it's unlikely either manager will make sweeping changes. After all, this is one of the highlights of the footballing year.

Prediction: Burton Albion 2 Northampton Town 1