James Heneghan's Carlisle United v Northampton Town preview
Fixture: Carlisle United v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, August 11, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Brunton Park
Forecast: 18C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Carlisle: Jason Kennedy (pelvis). Cobblers: Shaun McWilliams (hamstring), Shay Facey (ankle)
Betting: Carlisle 8/5, draw 9/4, Northampton 17/10
Possible line-ups: Carlisle (4-3-3): Fryer; Miller, Liddle, Parkes, Grainger; Slater, Glendon, Etuhu; Yates, Bennett, Hope. Northampton (4-2-3-1): Cornell; Odoffin, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Foley, Crooks; Hoskins, O’Toole, Powell; Williams
Man in the middle: Tom Nield
Last time out: Exeter City 3 Carlisle United 1 (Bennett); Northampton Town 0 Lincoln City 1
Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 5, 2016 – Carlisle United 1 (Hope) Northampton Town 4 (Marquis, O’Toole 2, Collins)
Record v Carlisle: P40 W15 L13 D12
Opposition view: “There are positives and negatives to take from last weekend, we’ve been over it with the lads and we know the areas where we need to improve,” Cumbrians boss John Sheridan told the club’s website this week. “It’s about looking forward now and making sure we’re ready to put on a performance in front of our home fans on Saturday. The lads want to get off to a good start here and we know that our form at Brunton Park is crucial to what we want to achieve.”
Cobblers connection: It came as a surprise to many when Nicky Adams opted to swap Cobblers for Carlisle just weeks after winning the League Two title, but one quick glance at his career path suggests it shouldn’t have been such a shock. The 31-year-old, a key cog in Chris WIlder’s formidable team during that memorable season, does not tend to stick around for long; he’s switched clubs a total of 12 times since 2008 when he signed for Leciester from Bury for a six-figure sum.
Adams’ two-year stint at Brunton Park was plagued by injury but he still displayed his quality, winning the Player of the Season award after a stellar 2016/17 campaign, registering 14 assists and three goals. How the Cobblers might wish they had someone of his creative output among their ranks. His previous clubs also include Rochdale – three times – and Crawley, twice, and he’s now back where it all begun having returned to Gigg Lane earlier in the summer.
James Heneghan’s preview: While it is about six months too soon to be overplaying the importance of games, there’s no doubt that tomorrow’s long trek up to Carlisle United has taken on a little extra significance following Town’s opening-day loss.
This is not a must-win game in the literal sense – obviously, given we’re two games into a very long season – but more in that a victory would go a long way to raising spirits and pointing Town towards the right track again, especially if there is a convincing performance to go with it.
At the moment, it feels as if a dark cloud is permanently lingering over the club. There is, of course, a natural lasting effect from last season’s relegation disappointment and that will not totally fizzle out until the Cobblers rediscover the art of winning on a consistent basis again. The sooner they do that, the better for everyone – though it’s easier said than done.
Off the pitch, it’s been a productive week for the club. Shaun McWilliams looks likely to return sooner rather than later – he could even join his team-mates on the five-hour coach journey to Brunton Park – and Town have also resisted interest in several of their players prior to the closing of the transfer window.
There was no sign of the winger everyone wanted as Dean Austin opted not to join the late dash for deadline day deals but the current squad, on paper, has the quality and potential to challenge at the right end of the table this term; it’s just about converting that potential into wins and they’ll be desperate to notch up their first three points in Cumbria this weekend.
Like Northampton, Carlisle have a new man at the helm this season after John Sheridan took up the post in June following the departure of long-time boss Keith Curle, taking his list of clubs managed to seven.
The 53-year-old former Leeds United midfielder has become something of a personal nemesis for Town over the past couple of seasons. In 2016, his Oldham team came to Sixfields and triumphed 2-1 in a crucial relegation battle and then a year later, he was again on the right side of a valuable win over the Cobblers, this time leading Fleetwood to a 2-0 victory over Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s relegation-doomed men.
That result sent Town a step closer to the trap door but now they have a chance of revenge at Brunton Park on Saturday when Austin must decide if and how many changes should be made to the team which started in the defeat to Lincoln City.
Most of the side picks itself but Junior Morais and Billy Waters, who both impressed in a behind-closed-doors friendly game against Watford in midweek, must have entered his thinking given Town’s need for goals.
Despite his positive prognosis, McWilliams appears unlikely to feature and his loss is a big one but Cobblers have capable enough replacements to return home with three much-needed points.
Prediction: Carlisle United 1 Northampton Town 1