James Heneghan's Northampton Town v Cheltenham Town preview
Fixture: Northampton Town v Cheltenham Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, September 8, 3pm kick-off
Venue: PTS Academy Stadium
Forecast: 17C, showers
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Junior Morias (hamstring). Cheltenham: Chris Hussey, Sean Long.
Betting: Northampton 8/11, draw 3/1, Cheltenham 4/1
Form guide: Cobblers LDWLDD, Robins LLLWDL
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Cornell; Facey, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Hoskins, Crooks, Foley, Brigde; Williams, van Veen. Cheltenham (4-5-1): Flinders; Forster, Mullins, Boyle, Field; Broom, Atangana, Dawson, Jones, Maddox; Duku.
Last time out: Northampton Town 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1; Forest Green Rovers 4 Cheltenham Town 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 18, 2015 - Northampton Town 2 (Toney, Richards) Cheltenham Town 0
Record v Cheltenham Town: P30 W11 D8 L11
Opposition view: “We have an idea of what’s coming and they are probably in a false league position (18th) at the moment I would say,” said Cheltenham caretaker boss Russell MIlton. “It’ll be a tough one and it’s never an easy place to go, Northampton, so we have to make sure the boys are ready for the battle on Saturday.”
James Heneghan’s preview: The Cobblers may have been sluggish out of the blocks this season but at least they didn’t feel the need to sack their manager just four games in, unlike tomorrow’s visitors Cheltenham Town.
Gary Johnson became the first managerial casualty of the EFL campaign last month when he paid the ultimate price for a return of three defeats and one draw from their first four league games, losing his job just 18 days after the season kicked off.
Despite Russell Milton’s subsequent appointment as caretaker boss, the Robins’ iffy record remains among the worst in the division with four points from six games only good enough for 21st place in Sky Bet League Two, making it two teams in need of a morale-boosting result at the PTS Academy Stadium on Saturday.
It appears this will be Milton’s last game at the helm, however, with current Burnley U23s coach Michael Duff reportedly to in line for the top job at Whaddon Road. He could even be in the stands for tomorrow’s clash.
Dean Austin and his side’s first assignment this campaign was to rediscover the art of winning but that is taking a little longer than originally hoped after last week’s morale-boosting victory at Colchester United was followed by a familiar tale of frustration against Tranmere Rovers and then a laboured Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Wycombe Wanderers in midweek.
Bright spots in Town’s season – and there’s been plenty of them – continue to be outweighed by poor results with Tuesday’s loss now making it eight games played in all competitions and just one victory. Whichever way you look at it, that’s well below what was expected before a ball was kicked.
Austin has been insistent that not much is wrong and it’s true his side look close to being the type of team that can challenge for promotion this term but finding those final pieces of the jigsaw – composure in the final third, cutting out defensive errors – will be the difference between a good season and an average one.
The style of play is a clear and refreshing upgrade but Austin’s true challenge, as he has spoken about this week, is changing the mentality of his players and the club as a whole. Falling into a losing habit is easy, getting out of that habit is far harder. And when you have been losing for two years, it’s even more difficult and will require time and patience to change.
Confirmation of the theory that a good team is emerging from the rubble of last season will only come via wins and plenty of them. The need for one this weekend is not urgent but increasingly important, not least because Town have claimed just one victory, a 2-0 win over Plymouth Argyle, at their home ground since January.
Austin’s main selection dilemma this week comes up front where Junior Morias’ hamstring injury will present an opportunity for someone else with one of Billy Waters and Andy Williams likely to partner Kevin van Veen.
Otherwise, though, the team seems pretty straightforward, particularly after Tuesday’s sluggish performance when fringe players had the chance to impress but failed to do so, though Shaun McWilliams proved his fitness after coming through 80 minutes unscathed.
Prediction: Northampton Town 2 Cheltenham Town 1