James Heneghan's Exeter City v Northampton Town preview

Fixture: Exeter City v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two

Friday, 6th December 2019, 12:20 pm
Updated Friday, 6th December 2019, 12:27 pm
Cobblers drew 2-2 at Exeter last season

Date/time: Saturday, December 7, 3pm kick-off

Venue: St James Park

Forecast: 10C, cloudy

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Outs and doubts: Exeter: Nicky Ajose, Lewis Ward, Jayden Richardson, Craig Woodman, Lee Holmes

Betting: Exeter 21/20, draw 12/5, Northampton 11/4

Form guide: Grecians DDWWDW, Cobblers LWWWWD

Current league positions: 4th v 6th

Possible line-ups: Exeter (3-5-2): Maxted; Sweeney, A Martin, Moxey; Williams, Atangana, Law, Collins, Sparkes; L Martin, Bowman. Northampton (3-5-2): Cornell; Goode, Turnbull, Wharton; McCormack, Lines, Anderson, Adams, Hoskins; Williams, Oliver.

Man in the middle: Neil Hair

Last time out: Exeter 0 Oxford 0 (Exeter won on penalties): Portsmouth 2 Northampton 1 (Harriman)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 9, 2019 - Northampton 2 (Pierre, Williams) Exeter 1 (Martin)

Record v Exeter: P115 W52 D34 L29

Opposition view: "We know what Northampton are about but as much as people talk about their physicality they’ve got some good players too at our level as well," said Matt Taylor. "There’s a lot of dangers in their team, but we’re at home and we’ve got to back ourselves."

James Heneghan's preview: After mixed success in two cup competitions, the Cobblers make their return to league action with a tantalising encounter against fellow high-flyers Exeter City.

Town's EFL Trophy defeat to Portsmouth in midweek may have ended their impressive unbeaten run but it would have done little to dent confidence and stall momentum. If anything, it was another productive evening for Keith Curle and his players.

Although Curle rang the changes on the south coast, his side still put in a positive display at Fratton Park - at least until they faded in the last half-hour - and the return of certain individuals, namely Ryan Watson and Shaun McWilliams, has made selecting his starting XI even harder.

For the first time this season he goes into a game without a single injury concern - barring any mishaps in training on Friday - and now has serious depth to pick from, with perhaps the most heated competition coming in central midfield.

Watson and McWilliams would be a first-choice midfield for the majority of teams in League Two but, despite their excellent form prior to injury, both face a fight to dislodge current trio Alan McCormack, Chris Lines and Paul Anderson, all of whom have been instrumental in Town's rise up the table.

It's unlikely Curle will deviate too much from the side that have won five of six league games when they head to equally in-form Exeter on Saturday.

The stats, however, are slightly misleading. While Exeter are unbeaten in seven, four of those games have been in cup competitions. Of their last six league games, they've won only two and lost three, a run that has dropped them from top spot to fourth place in the last month.

Matt Taylor's team do boast a strong record at home though, losing just once at St James Park this season, and they can rejoin leaders Swindon Town at the top by beating the Cobblers tomorrow.

Two teams in-form and two teams eyeing promotion, it's all set up for a fascinating battle at St James Park.

Prediction: Exeter City 2 Northampton Town 2