Fixture: Northampton Town v Wycombe Wanderers, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, February 20, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 11C, showers
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Alfie Potter (ribs), Joel Byrom (neck), Paul Corry (knee). Wycombe: Garry Thompson (suspended), Alex Lynch (thigh)
Betting: Northampton 1/1, draw 23/10, Wycombe 13/5
Form guide: Cobblers WWWWLW, Wycombe WWLWLL
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Northampton 1.9/1.0, Wycombe 1.2/1.0
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan; Holmes, O’Toole, Rose, D’Ath; Collins, Richards. Wycombe (4-4-2): Allsop; Harriman, McCarthy, Pierre, Jacobson; Cowan-Hall, O’Nien, Bean, Wood; Hayes, Ugwu.
Man in the middle: Graham Salisbury
Last time out: Oxford 0 Northampton 1 (Richards), Wycombe 1 (McGinn) Exeter 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, October 3, 2015 – Wycombe Wanderers 2 (O’Nien, Rowe) Northampton 3 (Richards, D’Ath, Brisley)
Record v Wycombe: P28 W9 D13 L6
Opposition view: Chairboys boss Gareth Ainsworth had praise for Chris Wilder when speaking to the Buckinghamshire Advertiser this week: “Chris Wilder has done a fantastic job at Northampton. He’s been up against it this year with a lot of things going on behind the scenes. I’m expecting nothing less and if we can get anything out of the game, fantastic.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Chris. We always have good battles but always have a beer after the game as well. He’s a good guy and will go on to better things. We’re going into it as any game. We’re the underdogs but we know we can match anyone on our day.”
Cobblers connection: This week’s Cobblers connection never actually played for Northampton in a competitive match, however Gozie Ugwu did spend pre-season on trial at Sixfields and it was only an untimely injury which prevented him from becoming a Cobbler. The 22-year-old travelled with the squad to Brighton for a training camp in July and Chris Wilder revealed he would have offered a contract to Ugwu, only for the striker to pick up an injury when scoring in their 5-2 win over Worthing. After regaining his fitness, Ugwu was then picked up by Wycombe in September and has scored two goals in 19 appearances for the Chairboys this season.
James Heneghan’s preview: Saturday’s home clash against play-off chasing Wycombe Wanderers presents the Cobblers with their latest opportunity to etch themselves into the history books in this record-breaking season.
After setting a new club record of seven straight away league wins when beating rivals Oxford United on Tuesday, this unrelenting Cobblers team can notch a ninth consecutive league win in all if they beat Wycombe at Sixfields tomorrow, a feat that has never been achieved in the club’s 119-year history.
On top of breaking that record, three points against the Chairboys on Saturday would also take Northampton up to the 70-point mark, one shy of what it usually requires to finish in the League Two play-offs – and there would still be 15 games remaining.
To put it into context, in the last five seasons, the team at top of the table after 30 games has had 58, 55, 59, 61 and 56 points, while the gap back to fourth place has been no more than 12 points in those five years.
In contrast, Northampton are currently on 67 points from 30 games and hold a staggering 18-point lead over fourth-placed Accrington Stanley.
Wycombe is the final game of three in a week that has pitted Northampton against teams in League Two’s top seven.
It was meant to be the run of fixtures which would put their promotion credentials to the sternest of tests but it’s a challenge which they have risen to and with six points from six already notched up, Town have only cranked up their promotion march, regardless of the result this weekend.
Wycombe are the lowest scorers in League Two’s top half but have the fourth best defence and after suffering the heartbreak of a penalty shoot-out loss in the play-off final last year, Gareth Ainsworth’s side are once again defying the odds to maintain a sustained promotion challenge.
Ainsworth was in attendance at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday night, no doubt scouting tomorrow’s opponents, and he would have been impressed by what he say with the Cobblers edging a tight game 1-0 over fellow high-flyers Oxford United.
Midfielder Garry Thompson is suspended and Alex Lynch has a thigh injury but otherwise Wycombe have a fully fit squad to pick from as they look to build on wins against Dagenham and Exeter.
After an energy-draining week and with another midweek game on the horizon, Wilder could make use of the many options at his disposal with perhaps starts for Nicky Adams and Sam Hoskins, although the temptation to stick with a winning team might be too much.
After an impressive start to life at Sixfields, Danny Rose will keep his place alongside John-Joe O’Toole in midfield, as confirmed by Wilder, despite Joel Byrom’s return to fitness.
This game promises to be another tough test but that’s not stopped this Cobblers team so far.
Prediction: Northampton 2 Wycombe 0