James Heneghan's Cambridge United v Northampton Town preview
Fixture: Cambridge United v Northampton Town, Leasing.com Trophy
Date/time: Tuesday, October 8, 7.30pm kick-off
Venue: Abbey Stadium
Forecast: 13C, showers
Outs and doubts: Cambridge: Jabo Ibehre, Liam O’Neil, Samir Carruthers, Dan Jones, Harvey Knibbs, Reggie Lambe, Jack Roles. Cobblers: Ryan Watson
Betting: Cambridge 11/8, draw 23/10, Northampton 19/10
Form guide: United DDLWWL, Cobblers LDDWWL
Possible Northampton line-up: Fisher, Hall-Johnson, Turnbull, Wharton, Martin, McCormack, Pollock, Waters, Warburton, Oliver
Man in the middle: Sam Purkiss
Last time out: Cambridge 2 (Roles, Smith) Macclesfield 2; Northampton 0 Leyton Orient 1
Most recent meeting: Saturday, January 19, 2019 - Cambridge 3 (Brown, Taft, Amoo) Northampton 2 (Pierre, Morias)
Record v Cambridge United: P40 W14 D12 L14
James Heneghan's preview: The ever-popular EFL Trophy is rarely viewed as anything other than a minor nuisance as teams focus on the serious business of league matters but it feels as if Tuesday's tie at Cambridge United has come at a good time for the stuttering Cobblers.
Three games without a win, and the manner in which points have been lost in those matches, has deflated supporters and punctured early-season optimistic as Town's promotion challenge threatens to derail before it has even begun.
But a change of competition brings a change of focus and fortunately there is no need to dwell on the shortcomings of Saturday's limp defeat to Leyton Orient courtesy of Tuesday's trip to the Abbey Stadium, which provides an immediate opportunity to get back on the winning trail again.
And it's just not the Cobblers who are in need of a win. Hosts Cambridge didn't lose any of their first five fixtures this season but two wins in nine across all competitions has stalled their early momentum, even if one of those victories came via four goals away at Mansfield Town.
Wins at home have also been few and far between for Colin Calderwood's men. They beat Scunthorpe United 3-2 in August but have lost three and drawn two of their other five fixtures at the Abbey Stadium, the latest of which ended in a 2-2 stalemate against Macclesfield on Saturday.
As always both teams are expected to ring the changes and for Cobblers' fringe players they should see this game as an excellent opportunity to put pressure on those underperforming in the first-team.
Following Saturday's 'below-par' performance against Orient, manager Keith Curle was critical of his players and felt only one member of the starting XI - Scott Wharton - strengthened their cause. With that in mind, an impressive showing at Cambridge could result in a start at Scunthorpe on Saturday.
The unique way this competition is scheduled means not everyone plays their matches at the same time and whilst Tuesday is Town's final game in Southern Group H, it's only Cambridge's first.
Defeat would definitely send Cobblers out of competition and a 'losing' draw is unlikely to be enough either, but should Town win, either after 90 minutes or via a penalty shoot-out, they will have to wait at least another month - until Cambridge play Peterborough in their final game on November 12 - to discover their fate.
But all of that, for now, is immaterial. This game might not register on the same scale as upcoming league fixtures but there is still plenty to play for, individually and collectively.
Prediction: Cambridge United 1 Northampton Town 1 (Cobblers to win on penalties)