James Heneghan's Milton Keynes Dons v Northampton Town preview
Fixture: Milton Keynes Dons v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, October 20, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Stadium MK
Forecast: 16C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Dons: Peter Pawlett, Conor McGrandles, Ryan Harley, Mathieu Baudry, Osman Sow. Cobblers: Matt Crooks (suspended - 1/1), Junior Morias (hamstring), Ash Taylor (hamstring), Leon Barnett.
Betting: Dons 8/11, draw 5/2, Northampton 4/1
Form guide: Dons WLWWDD, Cobblers WWDDLD
Possible line-ups: MK Dons (3-5-2): Nicholls; Walsh, Moore-Taylor, Cargill; Williams, Houghton, Watson, Gilbey, Lewington; Healy, Aneke. Northampton (3-5-2): Cornell; Facey, Turnbull, Pierre; Waters, Foley, O’Toole, McWilliams, Buchanan; Hoskins, Williams.
Man in the middle: Brett Huxtable – the same referee who sent off striker Chuks Aneke when MK Dons visited Northampton last season.
Last time out: Cambridge United 0 MK Dons 1 (Aneke); Northampton 2 (Pierre, Williams) Forest Green Rovers 1 (Reid)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, January 20, 2018 – Northampton Town 2 (O’Toole, Long) MK Dons 1 (Gilbey)
Record v MK Dons: P14 W4 D3 L7
Opposition view: “Keith has done a really good job already in the first two weeks and I’m sure there will be a lot more to come,” said Dons boss Paul Tisdale this week. “He did a very good job at Carlisle to make his team effective and he did things then that I learned from.
“They have had three very good results against three good teams, so you can see he’s already made an impact and they’re competitive, so we’ll really need to be on our toes on Saturday.”
Cobblers connection: Signed from Luton Town in the summer, Lawson D’Ath’s attempts to force his way into Paul Tisdale’s plans and become a regular at Milton Keynes Dons have been frustrated by a series of injury problems. The former Cobblers midfielder, who made 46 appearances in Chris Wilder’s title-winning team, came on as a second-half substitute during last weekend’s win at Cambridge United and could feature again when his old club come to town on Saturday. The 25-year-old started out at Reading and signed for Northampton in 2014 after numerous loan spells. D’Ath’s manager, Paul Tisdale, is also a former Cobbler although his five games for the club while on-loan from Southampton in 1993 are perhaps a little less memorable.
James Heneghan’s preview: Keith Curle and Paul Tisdale have grown accustomed to pitting their wits against one another in League Two over the years, but there’ll be a fresh twist when they resume their rivalry at Stadium MK this weekend.
So long considered one-club men, both are in the process of settling into new surroundings this season. While Curle is now in charge of the Cobblers following a mostly successful four-year stint at Carlisle United, Tisdale has taken the reins at Milton Keynes Dons having finally called time on his record-breaking tenure at Exeter City.
Tisdale’s time as the longest serving manager in English football – a mantle he took over from Arsene Wenger in May – lasted just 19 days as MK Dons came calling at the end of last season. Dons, like the Cobblers, are a team desperately seeking solidity and stability after churning out managers for fun over the past couple of seasons.
Between them, the two clubs have had seven different managers since they last met at Stadium MK 12 months ago when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Cobblers drew 0-0 in a dour affair against Robbie Neilson’s Dons.
But Tisdale v Curle is only a sideshow to the main event this weekend, and while Northampton are finally starting to show some signs of life after relegation from League One, Dons have encountered no such troubles in acclimatising to the surroundings of League Two having also dropped down a division.
They finished one point and two places below Town last season but have quickly adjusted to life under Tisdale, not losing any of their first seven league games and currently sitting fourth in the table. A 2-1 defeat at the hands of early frontrunners Lincoln City, suffered in injury-time, remains their only league loss of the campaign to date.
A run of six draws in eight games initially kept Dons away from the business end of the table but three successive wins over Port Vale, Cheltenham and Cambridge United has them just three points off second place, and in Chuks Aneke, they have a striker in red-hot form.
The former Arsenal player has seven goals in eight appearances this term, scoring four in his last five, and nullifying his threat will be a must for the visitors to have any chance of claiming all three points this weekend.
That responsibly will most likely fall on centre-back Jordan Turnbull whose excellent form at the heart of Town’s new-look back three is one of many reasons behind their recent turnaround as Curle looks to go about steering Northampton away from the perils of relegation to non-league.
A four-game unbeaten run would not normally be something to get excited about but it’s been slim-pickings for Cobblers fans over the past couple of seasons and this is about as good as it gets, although their recent resurgence does not mean they are out of the woods just yet.
When Town stumbled upon a patch of rare good form last season, they would immediately follow it with a sequence of poor results which placed them back in trouble again. With Dons tomorrow and bottom side Macclesfield in midweek, they cannot allow for history to repeat itself otherwise it’ll be back to square one again.
On the team news front, Matt Crooks is suspended after picking up five bookings while Leon Barnett, Junior Morias and Ash Taylor are all doubts with various injuries. Crooks, arguably Town’s most consistent performer this season, is the biggest loss but the gradual return of McWilliams should soften that particular blow. Otherwise, it’s difficult to see Curle changing much from the team that so dramatically beat Forest Green Rovers last weekend.
The clubs are new but Tisdale and Curle are well-versed in the trials and tribulations of League Two football and that vast experience is reflected in their teams’ current form.
The two are no strangers to one another, just as MK Dons and Northampton have become regular foes during recent seasons. After Tisdale got one over his counterpart with a last-minute winner in the 2017 play-off semi-final, Curle will have his chance for revenge this weekend.
Prediction: MK Dons 1 Northampton Town 1