James Heneghan's Northampton Town v Bury preview
Fixture: Northampton Town v Bury, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, October 29, 3pm kick-off
Forecast: 14C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Alex Revell (suspended – 1/1). Bury: Chris Brown (knee), Craig Jones (thigh), Tom Pope (ribs), Leon Barnett (hamstring), Ishmael Miller (hamstring).
Betting: Northampton 5/4, draw 12/5, Bury 21/10
Form guide: Cobblers WLLDLL, Shakers LLLLLL
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: Northampton 1.7/1.4, Bury 1.5/1.5
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-3-3): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, Zakuani, Buchanan; McCourt, Taylor, Hoskins; Anderson, Hooper, Richards. Bury (4-3-3): Williams; Maher, Barnett, Kay, Leigh; Soares, Mayor, Mellis; Danns, Ismail, Vaughan
Man in the middle: Carl Boyeson has already officiated a Cobblers game this year having taken charge of their 2-1 victory at Barnsley in the EFL Cup. The East Yorkshire official has handed out 34 yellow cards in his 11 matches so far this season, but he is yet to issue a single red.
Last time out: Shrewsbury 2 (Toney 2) Northampton 4 (Zakuani, Anderson 2, Hoskins); Bury 0 Bolton 2 (Clough 2)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, March 21, 2015 – Bury 2 (Etuhu, El-Abd) Northampton 1 (Holmes)
Record v Bury: P59 W21 D15 L23
Opposition view: “We just need to get that one win and bury this ghost that we have got at the minute,” David Flitcroft told the Bury Times this week as he looks to arrest their form slump. “I’m sure we will do that.
“At times that’s what the players feel (doom and gloom) and that’s what the staff feel. It’s my job to protect them from that and make sure we try and drive towards where we want to be this season and try to aim for them play-off spots.”
Cobblers connection: Former Cobblers assistant Alan Knill enjoyed his longest stint as a manager at Bury, where he also spent a large chunk of his playing career, making over 150 appearances in four years in the 1990s. He went on to manage the Shakers between 2008 and 2011 during which time he missed out on automatic promotion by an agonising one goal on goal difference before they were beaten in the play-offs. After further managerial spells at Scunthorpe and Torquay, Knill teamed up with a certain Chris Wilder at Northampton in 2014 and the rest, well, as they say, the rest is history.
Another member of last season’s title-winning effort, Nicky Adams, also enjoyed two separate successful loan spells at Bury, one immediately before moving to Northampton, while current Shakers forward Hallam Hope returns to Sixfields on Saturday having played three games for the Cobblers whilst on-loan there in 2014.
James Heneghan’s preview: Troubled Bury arrive at Sixfields this weekend with major issues both on and off the pitch, but after the experiences of Millwall and then Peterborough in recent weeks, nothing should be taken for granted.
Those two sides both went into games against Northampton struggling for any kind of form, yet both walked away victorious, comfortably and deservedly so too.
The Cobblers haven’t exactly been in rip-roaring form themselves either and they head into Saturday on a run of only one win in six – and that against a wretched Shrewsbury side last weekend – and on the back of successive home defeats, conceding three goals in each.
In fact, between them, Northampton and Bury have managed just a solitary victory coupled with 10 defeats in their last 12 games combined.
David Flitcroft has seemingly been hit by the ultimate manager of the month curse: after scooping the award for winning five out of five in September, his Bury side have lost all six of their games since.
It’s a terrible run of form and one which has seen them inevitably plummet down the Sky Bet League One table, going from riding high in second four weeks ago to now being stationed in 11th place ahead of Saturday’s three-hour trek down the M1 to Sixfields.
Their latest defeat came in Monday’s local derby with Bolton when, in front of the Sky Sports cameras, Zak Clough scored twice from the penalty spot.
To make matters worse, the club have been hit with their third winding-up petition from HMRC this year – Cobblers fans know how that feels all too well – and they’re also struggling with injuries at present and make the trip down south with a patched-up squad.
Whilst Bury plot how to reverse their seemingly endless downward spiral, the Cobblers arrested their own worrying slide last time out.
Their victory and performance over a hapless Shrewsbury Town outfit has temporarily quashed the growing concerns and silenced the doom-mongers, but previously legitimate concerns regarding Northampton’s feeble defending and performances at Sixfields are certain return if they don’t inflict a seventh straight defeat on Bury this weekend, such is the nature of football.
With Matty Taylor back in the frame and Alex Revell out suspended, predicting Rob Page’s team is once again a far from straightforward task.
Taylor is likely to come straight back in but if Page sticks with the 4-3-3 he deployed at Shrewsbury, it would mean one of Paul Anderson, John-Joe O’Toole, JJ Hooper or Sam Hoskins missing out, all of whom impressed at Greenhous Meadow, assuming Jak McCourt starts at the base of midfield.
One option might be to play Hooper up front and bring Taylor into the middle with Hoskins out wide, but Marc Richards’ return to full fitness makes him favourite to start in the lone role up front.
On top of all that, Kenji Gorre netted a hat-trick for a Northampton reserve team against Stevenage in midweek so will be hoping for some game-time himself.
With so many players seemingly finding their form, it’s a nice problem for Page to have.
The fact that Gabriel Zakuani’s injury sustained at Shrewsbury will not keep him out for the visit of Bury presents Page with another dilemma over who to choose as Zander Diamond’s centre-back partner.
Both Nyatanga and Zakuani have impressed this season, but in different ways. The former is a composed, classy centre-back whilst the latter’s aggressive, no-nonsense style of defending has won him plenty of plaudits and often given him the nod ahead of Nyatanga so far.
Whoever is selected, the very fact that competition for places is so healthy can only be a positive, especially now the fixture list becomes less cluttered, Bury’s visit signals the first of five games in 24 days.
A win could take the Cobblers into the play-offs, a defeat could drop them as low as 15th. Fine margins, but they represent very different outlooks.
Prediction: Northampton Town 2 Bury 1