James Heneghan's Northampton Town v Crawley Town preview

Andy Williams chases after the ball during February's goalless draw with Crawley.
Andy Williams chases after the ball during February's goalless draw with Crawley.

Fixture: Northampton Town v Crawley Town, Sky Bet League Two

Date/time: Saturday, September 21, 3pm kick-off

Venue: PTS Academy Stadium

Forecast: 23C, sunny

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Harry Smith, Alan McCormack, Steve Arnold, Reece Hall-Johnson. Crawley: Joe McNerney, Ashley Nadesan, Tom Dallison

Betting: Northampton 11/10, draw 5/2, Crawley 11/4

Crawley boss Gabriele Cioffi

Crawley boss Gabriele Cioffi

Form guide: Cobblers WWLLWD, Crawley DWDLDD

Current league positions: 10th v 7th

Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-3-3): Cornell; Harriman, Goode, Wharton, Martin; Turnbull, McWilliams, Lines; Hoskins, Adams, Williams. Crawley (4-2-3-1): Morris; Sesay, Sendles-White, Tunnicliffe, Doherty; Bulman, Ferguson; Grego-Cox, Camara, Lubala; Enigbokan-Bloomfield

Man in the middle: Andy Haines

Last time out: Stevenage 0 Northampton 1 (Smith); Crawley Town 2 (Palmer, Greco-Cox) Plymouth Argyle 2

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 16, 2019 - Northampton 0 Crawley 0

Record v Crawley: P7 W3 D1 L3

James Heneghan's preview: Among the highest scorers in the division and currently occupying a play-off place, Crawley Town are one of these year's surprise packages in League Two as we approach the 10-game point of the season.

Last season, the Red Devils took time to take off under rookie Italian boss Gabriele Cioffi who, having taken charge just a month into the campaign, replacing Notts County-bound Harry Kewell, won only 13 of his 44 games en route to 19th place.

Crawley were therefore more likely to feature under the relegation section of pre-season previews as opposed to being tipped for a promotion challenge, but a strong start yielded a healthy return of 15 points from nine matches, good enough for seventh spot in the early standings.

And it's not hard to see where and how Cioffi's side have enjoyed their early success given they've taken more shots than anyone else in the division. In fact, no team can get close to their 158 attempts, although that figure does drop significantly to 46 when you account for efforts on target only, trailing to Macclesfield and Crewe.

The bulk of Crawley's 15 points have come on home turf (10) too, including one in midweek when a late penalty by substitute Ollie Palmer earned a 2-2 draw from an entertaining game with Plymouth Argyle.

But for all the talk of Crawley's good to start to the season, the Cobblers, on a roll themselves with four wins in the last six, are at home and should have eyes on a victory that could well catapult them into the top seven come 5pm Saturday evening.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of recent results has been the adaptability and variety of performances from Keith Curle's men. They were dynamic and vibrant against Plymouth, efficient and controlled against Newport, and then resilient and sturdy at Stevenage on Tuesday.

That most recent victory, achieved with one man less for 25 minutes, required Cobblers to dig deep into their energy reserves and depending on how his players pull up in training, it would not be a complete surprise if Curle makes one or two changes this weekend.

Things generally feel happier and more content around the PTS but we all know how fickle the world of football can be. Having already played six of the 10 pre-season title favourites in their first nine fixtures, the Cobblers now have a golden opportunity to push on and lay down a marker.

Prediction: Northampton Town 3 Crawley Town 2