James Heneghan's Charlton Athletic v Northampton Town preview
Fixture: Charlton Athletic v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, August 19, 3pm kick-off
Venue: The Valley
Forecast: 21C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Charlton: Lee Novak (suspended), Harry Lennon (groin), Lewis Page (hamstring), Mark Marshall (knee), Andrew Crofts (suspended). Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole (groin), Daniel Powell (hamstring), Sam Foley (ankle), Sam Hoskins (knee)
Betting: Charlton 4/5, draw 13/5, Northampton 100/30
Likely line-ups: Charlton (4-2-3-1): Amos; Solly, Bauer, Pearce, Da Silva; Forster-Caskey, Kashi; Holmes, Clarke, Fosu; Magennis. Northampton (3-4-1-2): Cornell; Barnett, A Taylor, Pierre; Phillips, Crooks, Kasim, Buchanan; Waters; Long, Revell
Man in the middle: Kevin Johnson
Last time out: Plymouth 2 Charlton 0; Northampton 0 Fleetwood 1
Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 4, 2017 - Northampton 2 (Smith, O’Toole) Charlton 1 (Botaka)
Record v Charlton: P31 W9 D13 L9
Opposition view: “I think they will be our biggest test so far,” Karl Robinson told Charlton’s club website this week. “People look at Charlton and what has gone on in the summer but since Northampton’s takeover their squad has become very strong too, and we have to approach the game in the right frame of mind.”
Cobblers connection: Two former Sixfields favourites are among the obvious candidates to fit the bill here, and in fact both might have been lining up against the Cobblers this weekend had fate worked out differently. Wing wizard Ricky Holmes will be, of course, but former Charlton right-back and Northampton manager Chris Wilder was on the verge of taking over at The Valley last summer when Sheffield United swooped in at the last minute.
James Heneghan’s preview: The football season is often referred to as a marathon rather than a sprint, and that’s just as well for the Cobblers who remain stuck in the starting blocks following a faltering first week of the campaign.
No goals, no points and certainly no wins, it’s difficult to envisage how things could have gone any worse but one good result can often make all the difference – all the more so at this early stage – and if they manage to come away from Charlton Athletic with a positive outcome this weekend, it might just be the tonic they to kick-start their campaign.
For sure, there are easier places to go than The Valley when you are a side still striving for your first goal, let alone point or even victory, of the season, but it can work one of two ways.
If Northampton manage to play well and beat Karl Robinson’s men, picked by many to contend for promotion this term, it’ll give them a much-needed shot in the arm and could well spark their stuttering season into life.
Conversely, a defeat would do the opposite and only add to the mounting questions that are stacking up all too quickly given that we are still in mid-August.
So whilst it’s still very early days, the significance of this game should not be underestimated.
It will be a difficult challenge for Town because this Chartlon team looks much stronger and more united than the one which finished 13th and 13 points adrift of the play-offs last season, especially given that they still boast the irrepressible Ricky Holmes among their ranks after fending off interest from several clubs over the summer including Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United.
They have started the current campaign with one win and one defeat, though by all accounts they played better than their 2-0 loss at Plymouth last time out suggests.
For the Cobblers, new goalkeeper Luke Coddington could come straight into the squad and battle David Cornell for the number one spot, while Leon Barnett is likely to replace Regan Poole as the right centre-back of a three-man defence, despite the latter’s impressive debut against Fleetwood.
The selection conundrums come mainly in midfield and up front where Justin Edinburgh hasn’t quite stumbled upon the right combination, perhaps partly due to the absence of key midfield duo Sam Foley and John-Joe O’Toole.
If the Cobblers boss is to persist with 3-5-2, it might be worth playing an extra midfielder because so far they have been overrun in that area of the pitch regardless of who’s played, whether it’s been Matt Crooks, Yaser Kasim, Shaun McWilliams or Matt Crooks
No goals among the six fit strikers will also be an early worry for Edinburgh who has varied his options without success so far. Chris Long and Billy Waters have been the pick and it would be interesting to see how they perform if selected as a front two.
Northampton’s goal drought currently stands at 520 minutes – Gillingham are the only other Football League team yet to get to score this season – but though their array of strikers, who combined for 56 goals last term, have been unable to convert the few chances created, they will surely need better service if the goals are going to flow.
At least defensively the Cobblers have looked solid and resilient, and that will need to continue this weekend if they are to finally get off the mark.
Prediction: Charlton Athletic 1 Northampton Town 1