James Heneghan's Northampton Town v Bury preview
Fixture: Northampton Town v Bury, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, November 25, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 5C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Aaron Pierre (calf), John-Joe O’Toole (ankle), Sam Hoskins (hamstring), Daniel Powell (hamstring), Alex Revell (groin), Aaron Phillips (thigh). Bury: Neil Danns (calf), Jermaine Beckford (thigh), Craig Jones (groin), Joe Murphy (knee), Stephen Dawson (knee)
Betting: Northampton 13/10, draw 12/5, Bury 2/1
Form guide: Cobblers LLLWDD, Shakers WLLDWD
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-3-3): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan; Poole, Grimes, Crooks; Waters, Powell, Long. Bury (4-2-3-1): Fasan; Leigh, Cameron, O’Connell, Edwards; Ince, Laurent; Dobre, O’Shea, Bunn; Smith
Man in the middle: Carl Boyeson
Last time out: Plymouth 2 Northampton 0; Bury 1 (Leigh) Shrewsbury 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Bury 3 (Vaughan 2, Miller) Northampton 0
Record v Bury: P61 W22 D15 L24
Opposition view: “Well, we have played them three times within the last three weeks at Scunthorpe, so I have seen quite a bit of Northampton first hand. We’ve also got other games to look at, and we will prepare accordingly,” read more from new Shakers boss Chris Lucketti here.
Cobblers connection: Of the 241 appearances Michael Smith has made during his nine-year professional career, almost half have come in seven loan spells spread across seven different clubs. Fourteen of those were at Sixfields last term when he his part in Town’s survival by netting twice in a short stint under Justin Edinburgh, including a crucial goal against Charlton. Having been released by Portsmouth in the summer, the 26-year-old signed a two-year deal with Bury and, with two goals in 18 matches for the Shakers this term, he’s in line to feature against the Cobblers this weekend.
James Heneghan’s preview: Buoyed by the appointment of a new manager just two days after toppling league leaders Shrewsbury in midweek, Bury will make the long trip south this weekend with an extra spring in their step as they look to move away from bottom spot in Sky Bet League One.
Greg Leigh’s second-half goal at Gigg Lane on Tuesday was enough to condemn Shrewsbury to only their second defeat of the season while earning Bury only a fourth league victory in the process.
Just 24 hours later, they also had a new manager. With Lee Clarke sacked after a miserable start to the campaign – three wins from 16 games – ex-Scunthorpe assistant manager and former Bury legend Chris Lucketti is the new man at the helm having been appointed on Wednesday evening.
The 46-year-old made almost 300 appearances for the club as a player and despite Tuesday’s fine win, he now has a tough job on his hands as a manager, though Lucketti does at least have the bonus of knowing all about the strengths and weaknesses of Saturday’s opponents after he and Scunthorpe boss Graham Alexander masterminded two wins in three games over Northampton earlier in the month.
The sticky situation at Bury is not too dissimilar from Northampton’s current plight. Hopes and expectations were high after a summer in which they recruited a raft of exciting names, including Jermaine Beckford, Nicky Ajose and Chris Maguire, but that has not translated into success on the pitch.
With just four wins all season, the Shakers currently prop up the division and face a fight to survival, although such is the congested nature of the current table, three points at Sixfields on Saturday could potentially take them all the out of the relegation zone.
And if they manage that, they could be replaced at the bottom by their opponents.
The Cobblers need to find a way to halt their own most recent slide. Just when it seemed they had cracked the code and found their mojo this season, they throw in two poor performances and suffer successive defeats to drop back in the bottom four.
All of a sudden, after going six unbeaten and winning three on the bounce in the league, they are now over 300 minutes without a goal. If that continues for much longer, they’ll be on course for their third goal drought of the season already.
The first goal in Northampton games has become disproportionately important, so much so it’s almost decisive. They’ve not lost when scoring first this season, winning five of six games. Conversely, of the 12 games in which they’ve conceded first, they’ve lost 11 and drawn just one (Rochdale).
Those numbers will not surprise anyone who has watched them in recent times; this is a team more than capable of defending a lead once in front but it’s getting that lead in the first place which is the tricky part. And as for coming from behind to win, that’s not been achieved since Chris Wilder’s time and the Ricky Holmes-inspired comeback at Stevenage some 74 league games ago.
That makes the first goal in Saturday’s clash with Bury absolutely crucial, all the more so given that these are two teams lacking in both belief and confidence.
Manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will be keeping his fingers crossed that John-Joe O’Toole can at least play some part in the game after encouraging news on his ankle injury, while the absence of Daniel Powell – arguably the only natural winger in the squad – has been equally telling in Town’s recent struggles.
If O’Toole and Powell can get back fit and stay fit, it will be a huge boost for the Cobblers as both, in different ways, bring qualities that other players in the squad do not.
Aaron Pierre is the latest player to be added to their injury list but Leon Barnett’s return and Ryan McGivern’s arrival softens that particular blow and otherwise there are not likely to be sweeping changes to the team that lost to Plymouth in midweek, largely because Hasselbaink is so hamstrung by the options available to him.
With every defeat, the pressure cranks up. The loss at Home Park on Tuesday was a particular low point in this underwhelming campaign but the Cobblers have an immediate opportunity to put it right in Saturday’s crucial clash.
However, it will not be easy. Whilst Bury are lower in the table and theoretically in poorer form, a new manager and the scalp of the league leaders has given them a much-needed lift.
Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Bury 0