James Heneghan's Northampton Town v AFC Wimbledon preview

Daniel Powell scored in a 3-1 win the last time these teams met.Daniel Powell scored in a 3-1 win the last time these teams met.
Daniel Powell scored in a 3-1 win the last time these teams met.
Fixture: Northampton Town v AFC Wimbledon, Sky Bet League One

Date/time: Saturday, September 12, 3pm kick-off

Venue: PTS Academy Stadium

Forecast: 19C, sunny spells

Former player Glyn Hodges took charge of Wimbledon just under a year ago.Former player Glyn Hodges took charge of Wimbledon just under a year ago.
Former player Glyn Hodges took charge of Wimbledon just under a year ago.

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Sam Hoskins, Joe Nuttall, Harry Smith, Luka Racic, Joseph Mills, Shaun McWilliams, Nicky Adams, Scott Pollock. Dons: Ollie Palmer, Jack Rudoni

Betting: Northampton 6/5, draw 23/10, Dons 12/5

Possible line-ups: Northampton (3-4-1-2): Arnold; Racic, Bolger, Horsfall; Harriman, Missilou, Watson, Hoskins; Korboa; Warburton, Ashley-Seal. Wimbledon (3-5-2): Trueman; Thomas, Nightingale, Kalambayi; McLoughlin, Chislett, Hartigan, Reily, Osew; Roscrow, Longman.

Man in the middle: Ollie Yates

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Last time out: MK Dons 3 Northampton 1 (Mills); Oxford 1 Wimbledon 1 (Taylor OG)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 10, 2018 - AFC Wimbledon 1 (Oshilaja) Northampton 3 (Grimes, Crooks, Powell)

Record v AFC Wimbledon: P14 W7 D6 L1

Opposition view: "It'll be a competitive game," said Dons boss Glyn Hodges. "They had a brilliant season last year and we saw how good they were in the play-offs.

"They've made some changes in their squad since then but the way they play, it will be a tough, tough game and a hard one for us to start the season."

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James Heneghan's preview: According to the bookies, Saturday's League One curtain-raiser at the PTS Academy Stadium is a game between two teams who are set for a season-long battle against the drop.

Only Rochdale have shorter odds for relegation than Wimbledon and Northampton but thankfully football is a game played on grass and not paper and one of the sport's great appeals is the unpredictability factor, this season more than any other.

Indeed, these two sides have already landed one warning shot apiece thanks to a couple of impressive cup victories. Town's came against Cardiff City in the Carabao Cup last weekend while Dons downed Charlton Athletic in the EFL Trophy the previous Tuesday.

Wimbledon also took Oxford United, another League One team fancied for promotion this season, to penalties in the EFL Cup so they are not a side to be underestimated.

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For the Cobblers though, this is an opportunity to win on the opening day of a new season for the first time in five years and it would be the perfect way to mark their return to League One.

So what does the season ahead hold? Without wanting to duck the question, it's hard to predict. So many players from last year's promotion success, including key men Charlie Goode and Callum Morton, are no more, while nine and counting have arrived.

A lot will depend on how quickly those new players get up to speed and how smoothly they slot into Keith Curle's now-familiar 3-5-2 system. The early signs were good - particularly when Cobblers rolled over Cardiff - but then came the injuries.

Curle would have wanted some selection dilemmas for the first game of the season but not like this. He could be missing eight first-team players and a fair few key ones at that, none more so than Harry Smith, who is essential to the way that Town like to operate, and assist-king Nicky Adams.

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But it presents an opportunity to one or two of the new boys. Joe Nuttall should at least make the bench following his arrival on loan from Blackpool while Benny Ashley-Seal could be thrust into the heat of battle four days after joining the club.

There's no better time to get a chance than the first day of the new season. Perform well and score a goal or two and you can quickly nail down a first-team spot. The same applies all across the side, from Ricky Korboa to Fraser Horsfall, as Town stride out for the first time on Saturday.

There is only one downside this weekend but it is a big one: the absence of supporters. They will be a big loss and we can only hope that the authorities find a way for fans to safely return to grounds soon, even if it's at a reduced capacity.

Before then though, the Cobblers will be hoping to get a few early points on the board.

Prediction: Northampton Town 2 AFC Wimbledon 1

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