James Heneghan's Portsmouth v Northampton Town preview

Two-time Cobblers loanee John Marquis now plys his trade for Portsmouth, though he's unlikely to start this evening.
Two-time Cobblers loanee John Marquis now plys his trade for Portsmouth, though he's unlikely to start this evening.

Fixture: Portsmouth v Northampton Town, EFL Trophy second-round

Date/time: Tuesday, December 3, 7.45pm kick-off

Venue: Fratton Park

Forecast: 5C, cloudy

Outs and doubts: Pompey: Jack Whatmough, Bryn Morris

Betting: Portsmouth 2/5, draw 15/4, Northampton 6/1

Form guide: Pompey WWWWWD, Cobblers WWWWDW

Current league positions: 10th (League One) v 6th (League Two)

Possible Cobblers team: Fisher, Harriman, Hall-Johnson, Wharton, Martin, Watson, Pollock, Warburton, Waters, Smith, Oliver.

Last time out: Portsmouth 2 (Close, Pitman) Altrincham 1; Northampton 3 (Wharton, Oliver, Smith) Notts County 1

Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 30, 2017 - Portsmouth 3 (Kennedy, Hawkins 2) Northampton 1 (Long)

Record v Portsmouth: P35 W10 D7 L18

Opposition view: “You take each match as it comes and obviously our league form is the priority, but when these games come around you try to win," said Kenny Jackett. “Northampton are in a great position in their league and on a good run, so they’ll be aiming to get back into League One."

James Heneghan's preview: Cobblers' impressive unbeaten run will face its toughest test yet tonight when they take a weakened squad down to the south coast to face equally in-form Portsmouth.

Just 48 hours on from victory over Notts County in the FA Cup, and only four days before heading to high-flying Exeter City for a tantalising League Two encounter, Keith Curle has little choice but to make wholesale changes for this Leasing.com Trophy clash.

While it's refreshing to see the Cobblers make progress in various cups this season, the fixture list is now starting to feel the squeeze and though he would not turn his nose up at victory this evening, Curle's prime concern does not lie in a second-rate competition.

You could argue this game has come at an untimely moment in the season for the Cobblers given both their charge up the League Two standings and continued FA Cup progress, but for several fringe players, as well as those in need of game-time to build up match fitness, it represents a vital opportunity to impress Curle.

Ryan Watson, Joe Martin and Shaun McWilliams all require minutes in their legs following injury while Reece Hall-Johnson, Michael Harriman and Matty Warburton are among those chomping at the bit.

Opposite number Kenny Jackett, protecting his own eight-game unbeaten run, will also heavily rotate his team after they just about squeaked past non-league Altrincham in the FA Cup on Saturday, Brett Pittman scoring a 94th minute winner to spare blushes all around Fratton Park.

Portsmouth made quick work of Southern Group B to reach the second round, collecting eight points from three games to finish above Oxford United and top the group. They have history on their side too - it's two years, almost to the day, since they defeated the Cobblers at home at this stage of the competition.

It'd be a shame if Town's eight-game unbeaten run came to an end at Fratton Park this evening but only those of a deeply pessimistic nature will allow it to dampen their mood. Ultimately, although another win would be welcome, Cobblers have bigger fish to fry.

Prediction: Portsmouth 2 Northampton Town 1