James Heneghan's Northampton Town v Forest Green Rovers preview

Fixture: Northampton Town v Forest Green Rovers, Sky Bet League Two

Friday, 14th January 2022, 3:31 pm
Jamille Matt scored the only goal when these two met in September.

Date/time: Saturday, January 15, 3pm kick-off

Venue: Sixfields

Forecast: 5C, cloudy

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Outs and doubts: Northampton: Sid Nelson, Scott Pollock. Forest Green: Ebou Adams (international duty)

Betting: Northampton 23/10, draw 11/5, Forest Green 13/10

Form guide: Cobblers LLWWWW, Rovers WDWDWD

Current league positions: 3rd v 1st

Possible line-ups: Northampton (3-5-2): Roberts; McGowan, Horsfall, Guthrie; Hoskins, McWilliams, Sowerby, Lewis, Koiki; Rose, Zimba. Rovers (3-5-2): McGee; Godwin-Malife, Moore-Taylor, Bernard; Wilson, Stevenson, Hendry, Aitchison, Cadden; Stevens, Matt.

Man in the middle: Marc Edwards

Last time out: Northampton Town 0 Crawley Town 1; Forest Green Rovers 2 (Matt, March) Colchester United 0

Most recent meeting: Saturday, September 11, 2021 - Forest Green Rovers 1 (Matt) Northampton Town 0

Record v Forest Green: P6 W3 D1 L2

James Heneghan's preview: We're only halfway through the season and yet you already get the sense that there will be no catching runaway league leaders Forest Green Rovers.

Rob Edwards' side were mentioned alongside Bradford City and Salford as among the three main favourites for top honours when the League Two season started in August but whilst the other two have fallen by the wayside, Rovers seem to be going from strength to strength.

The league table underlines their dominance and so do the statistics. Nine points above Tranmere Rovers and a further two clear of Northampton, Rovers have reached 23 games - the exact midpoint of their season - with just two defeats and a whopping +27 goal difference, way better than anyone else in League Two.

They remain unbeaten on the road all season and have not lost any league game since October 9 when beaten by Swindon Town. With 51 points already, they are well on course to break the 100-point barrier.

What makes Forest Green so good? Simply put, they have a lot of good players playing in an effective and efficient system. They are defensively excellent, comfortable on the ball and, most importantly of all, have goals aplenty in the forward line.

But whilst Jamille Matt (15 goals) and Matt Stevens (13 goals) often grab the headlines, much of their ammunition is supplied by marauding wing-backs Kane Wilson and Nicky Cadden, who themselves have eight goals and 14 assists between them.

Rovers have stuck with 3-5-2 for virtually the whole season - why wouldn't they - and Jon Brady is the latest manager tasked with finding a way to counteract it this weekend, potentially by going to three at the back himself.

Cobblers essentially matched up Rovers in the reverse fixture by pushing their wing-backs high up the pitch and for the most part Brady's plan worked. There was little in the game until a dominant 10-minute spell late in the second-half culminated in Matt heading home a Cadden cross, a familiar combination for Rovers.

Northampton appeared to be Forest Green's closest challengers not so long ago but COVID came at a poor time in their season and has checked their momentum. It was not the sole reason for back-to-back defeats against Swindon and Crawley but it certainly played a significant part.

They were much better in the second-half last weekend and Brady will be desperate to pick up from where they left off on Saturday. There would be no better time for Cobblers to rediscover their wining touch.

Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Forest Green Rovers 1