James Heneghan's Northampton Town v Crewe Alexandra preview
Fixture: Northampton Town v Crewe Alexandra, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, March 20, 2021, 3pm kick-off
Venue: PTS Academy Stadium
Forecast: 10C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Alan Sheehan, Steve Arnold. Crewe: Donervon Daniels, Luke Offord
Betting: Northampton 9/5, draw 23/10, Crewe 29/20
Form guide: Cobblers DLWWLD, Crewe LWLDDW
Current league positions: 21st v 15th
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-2-3-1): Mitchell; Kioso, Horsfall, Jones, Mills; McWilliams, Sowerby; Miller, Watson, Hoskins; Edmondson. Crewe (4-3-3): Richards; Adebisi, Wood, Beckles, Pickering; Lowery, Wintle, Murphy; Dale, Mandron, Kirk.
Man in the middle: Sam Allison
Last time out: Doncaster 0 Northampton 0; Crewe 0 Burton 3
Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 12, 2020 - Crewe 2 (Dale, Wintle) Northampton 1 (Holmes)
Record v Crewe: P70 W29 D16 L25
James Heneghan's preview: The visit of David Artell's Crewe Alexandra this weekend should provide the Cobblers with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate just how much they've changed and evolved under the impressive guidance of Jon Brady.
Town's performance during the reverse fixture at Gresty Road in December was an extreme version of the defensive, reactive style of football often played by previous manager Keith Curle.
Beaten by a stoppage-time strike from Ryan Wintle, the Cobblers finished that game with 25 per cent of the ball and managed only six shots, 18 fewer than their opponents. Now, though, they are a different proposition with Brady at the helm, as recent home wins over Plymouth and Portsmouth have proven.
It's not as if Northampton are now seeing loads more of the ball and passing opponents off the pitch - they have had under 35 per cent possession in three of their last four games - but Brady has struck a much better balance: his team are more defensively solid whilst also carrying a greater attacking threat.
A return of nine points from nine games does not sound particularly impressive but Town have been competitive in every game under Brady and in most cases, the better side. It's not an exaggeration to say they could be going into tomorrow's game on the back of four successive clean sheets if not for a couple of questionable penalty decisions.
The key to survival will likely come at the other end of the pitch and, more specfically, Town's ability to take chances and making the most of their dominance in games, something they have not done enough of before or after Brady. Given three of their final four away games are at Peterborough, Hull and Sunderland - the current top three in League One - you feel they need to collect a strong points haul from these next four.
But that's easier said than done and Artell's impressive outfit will likely provide stern opposition this weekend. Crewe joined Cobblers from League Two last season but have coped far better with the step up.
Whilst their form of late has been somewhat erratic with two wins in eight, they are sitting comfortably in 15th and do not need to worry themselves with the frantic battle to avoid the drop, much to the envy of tomorrow's opponents...
Prediction: Northampton Town 2 Crewe Alexandra 1