Fixture: Crawley Town v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Tuesday, November 24, 7.45pm kick-off
Venue: Checkatrade.com Stadium
Forecast: 7C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Crawley: Lanre Oyebanjo (knee), Joe McNerney (knee). Cobblers: Joel Byrom (back), Marc Richards (ankle), Paul Corry (knee), Ricky Holmes (back)
Betting: Crawley 9/5, draw 23/10, Northampton 6/4
Form guide: Crawley WDLWWL, Cobblers WWWDWW
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Crawley 1.3/1.5, Northampton 1.6/1.2
Likely line-ups: Crawley (4-4-2): Flahavan; Young, Yorwerth, Bradley, Hancox; Deacon, Walton, Smith, Edwards; Harrold, Murphy. Northampton (4-4-1-1): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan; Potter, O’Toole, Byrom, D’Ath; Adams; Richards.
Man in the middle: Staffordshire official Stephen Martin has taken charge of 15 games so far this season, handing out 39 yellows and two reds. This will be his first Northampton match since the Cobblers were beaten 2-0 by Plymouth in February.
Last time out: Crawley Town 2 (Murphy 2) Bristol Rovers 1 (Taylor); Notts County 1 (Stead) Northampton Town 2 (McDonald, Moloney)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 17, 2012 – Crawley 3 (Neilson, Clarke, Kitson) Northampton 1 (Williams).
Record v Crawley: P3 W0 D0 L3
Opposition view: Red Devils boss Mark Yates told the club’s website: “The players are really looking forward to it, as they are with everything at the moment. We had a light session on Monday morning, nothing too heavy because we want to make sure they’re as fresh as possible for Tuesday night’s fixture, which we know will be tough. Northampton are on a great run but we want to go out there and do ourselves justice.”
Cobblers connection: Playmaker Nicky Adams has become a crucial component in this current Cobblers side despite only being at Sixfields since May, and barring any late problems, he is a certain starter to face his former club this evening. The 29-year-old scored 14 goals in 82 appearances for Crawley between 2012 and 2014. He then had spells at Rotherham and Bury before signing for the Cobblers in May. For Crawley, former Cobbler Lewis Young is also likely to start.
James Heneghan’s preview: Buoyed by yesterday’s announcement, you get the feeling the majority of Cobblers fans will not be overly bothered by the result this evening, most are just relieved and delighted that this whole agonising ordeal is showing signs of finally coming to a long overdue conclusion.
It’s been a torturous few months with countless twists and turns and ups and downs (admittedly mainly downs) but the mounting problems have only brought everyone – players, staff and fans – closer together and that unity and that resolve will serve the club well now there’s finally some light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel.
Indeed, the only constant at Northampton in recent weeks has been on-pitch performances and it will be fascinating to see how the players respond now the dark clouds seem to be lifting and the focus begins to switch solely on football matters.
For now, though, there is just an overwhelming sense of relief for everyone connected to Northampton Town as those involved can start to enjoy an exciting, battle-hardened team that will need to call upon all of their fighting qualities this evening when they visit an in-form Crawley outfit.
For the second successive game Northampton will make the trip to a side who were relegated from League One last season, and much like Notts County, Crawley didn’t make the best of starts to this term, picking up just six points from their opening nine games which saw them sit second from bottom.
But an upturn in both form and performances has seen them steadily rise up the League Two table with the Red Devils now sitting a much more respectable 14th having collected 16 points from their last eight games.
Rhys Murphy scored twice in a minute as Crawley moved into the top half of the table with victory over Bristol Rovers at the weekend, and they will take much encouragement from their immaculate record against the Cobblers.
This will be just the fourth meeting between the two and the first since 2012. None of those previous three clashes will give any confidence to Cobblers fans with the Devils winning on all three occasions, scoring eight goals in the process.
But this is a different Northampton side, one which is firmly on the up, and though Crawley’s recent turnaround is impressive, as previously mentioned, it still doesn’t match that of the Cobblers, who have won their last five league games to sit level on points with Oxford United at the top of the form table with 19 points from the last eight games.
It’s been a quite remarkable run of results and a win tonight could close the gap on leaders Plymouth to just a single point.
Lanre Oyebanjo and Joe McNerney are both sidelined with knee injuries for Crawley but manager Mark Yates has an otherwise fully fit squad to pick from.
Marc Richards and Joel Byrom are expected to recover from ankle and back problems respectively to start for the Cobblers, and tonight’s game may also see Ricky Holmes feature in the matchday squad for the first time since he pulled up with a back injury in the warm-up against Barnet way back in August.
This game will be a tricky one for Chris Wilder’s men but given the new-found feel good factor at the club, coupled with their recent run of form, you feel nothing is beyond them.
Prediction: Crawley 1 Northampton 2