James Heneghan's Northampton Town v Southend United preview

Fixture: Northampton Town v Southend United, Sky Bet League One

Friday, 5th January 2018, 12:44 pm
Updated Friday, 5th January 2018, 12:47 pm
Chris Long drives forward during the last meeting between Northampton and Southend - a 2-2 draw at Roots Hall in September. Pictures: Sharon Lucey

Date/time: Saturday, January 6, 2pm kick-off

Venue: Sixfields

Forecast: 4C, showers

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Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Aaron Pierre (groin), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Alex Revell (groin), Leon Barnett (Achilles). Southend: Anton Ferdinand (knee), Josh Wright (hamstring), Michael Timlin (ankle), John White (knock), Rob Kiernan (knee)

Betting: Northampton 19/10, draw 12/5, Southend 7/5

Form guide: Cobblers LLLDWL, Southend LLWLLL

Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-4-1-1): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Poole, Buchanan; Foley, Grimes, Crooks, Powell; O’Toole; Long. Southend (4-4-1-1): Oxley; Demetriou, Kyprianou, White, Coker; Yearwood, Leonard, Wodsworth, Kightly; Cox; Fortune

Matt Crooks' goal put Cobblers 2-0 up in the reverse fixture before Southend fought back

Man in the middle: Michael Salisbury

Last time out: Northampton Town 0 Wigan Athletic 1 (Powell); AFC Wimbledon 2 (Trotter, Soares) Southend United 0

Most recent meeting: Saturday, September 16, 2017 – Southend United 2 (Demetriou, Wordsworth) Northampton Town 2 (Barnett, Crooks)

Record v Southend: P119 W45 D30 L44

Phil Brown took charge of the Shrimpers in 2013

Cobblers connection: With seven goals to his name this season, former Cobbler Simon Cox will be the one player the home defence must keep tabs on this weekend. The striker is once again on course for another successful season, individually speaking at least, after netting 16 goals last campaign when he struck double figures for the fourth time in his career. He was also in the goals during his very brief loan stint at the Cobblers, netting three in eight appearances during the 2006/07 campaign. The 30-year-old’s most prolific season came two years later when bagging 32 goals for Swindon Town, which was enough to earn him a move to West Brom, who paid £1,500,000, but the switch didn’t work out and following further spells at Nottingham Forest, Reading and Bristol City, he joined Southend in July of 2016.

Opposition view: “If I was a boxing coach I would never throw the towel in,” said under-pressure United boss Phil Brown this week. “It’s probably my toughest time here but there have been some tight moments in the past too. At the moment we’re below midway and that’s not acceptable given the constraints the chairman provided me with at the start of the season. I understand that.”

James Heneghan’s preview: If January is to be the month that breaths new life into Northampton’s faltering campaign, you sense that nothing short of victory against Southend United at Sixfields this weekend will do.

That’s not to say they are necessarily doomed for relegation if they fail to overcome Phil Brown’s equally out-of-form men on Saturday but, with trips to Bradford and Blackburn lurking on the horizon and the gap to safety widening by the week, time is running out for the Cobblers to collect the points they so dearly crave.

Matt Crooks' goal put Cobblers 2-0 up in the reverse fixture before Southend fought back

If recent history is anything to go by, 52 is the target that should guarantee survival. That means Town require 29 points from their final 20 games – which equates to mid-table form – and that’s a tall order judging by what we’ve witnessed so far.

One thing that is in their favour is a favourable run-in with their last four games all against teams in the current bottom nine, however for that to mean anything, the Cobblers must be in touch going into that stretch and already five points adrift at this present moment, there’s an all too strong possibility that they’ll be consigned to League Two by then.

Town were valiant in defeat to leaders Wigan last time out but valiance alone will not be enough to save them. For that, they require an injection of quality and manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will hope Shay Facey and Hildeberto Pereira, both signed this week, will provide it.

The duo will be involved tomorrow, most likely from the bench, and their arrivals have already partially lifted the gloomy mood among a set of fans who are hoping the latter in particular will inject a dash of Portuguese flair into proceedings. The only thing that will lift the mood completely, however, is three points on Saturday.

With six defeats and just one win from their last seven games across all competitions, and with the third worst away in League One, Southend are in danger of being dragged into a relegation dogfight themselves and may well represent the ideal opponents for Town to get back to winning ways.

This time last month Brown’s team were ninth and within touching distance of the play-offs but that aforementioned torrid run of form, coupled with no away win since October, has left them 17th and only four points above the drop, with the pressure mounting on Brown. It’s possible that defeat at Sixfields tomorrow will be the final straw for the former Hull City manager.

Phil Brown took charge of the Shrimpers in 2013

He’s not helped by injuries to key men this weekend with experienced defender Anton Ferdinand and influential midfielder Josh Wright both out while the enigmatic Nile Ranger has had his contract terminated.

For the Cobblers, Hasselbaink will be tempted to stick with the same team that gave leaders Wigan a fright on New Year’s Day, aside from the probable inclusions of John-Joe O’Toole and David Buchanan. Facey and Pereira are also different options for the Town boss and fit-again Sam Hoskins could be ready to go from the off.

Bar perhaps Bury, Southend are the ideal opponents for the Cobblers this weekend. They’re in torrid form, they have key men missing and their manager is under pressure. If Hasselbaink’s team cannot deliver three points on this occasion, the threat of relegation will be as great as ever.

Prediction: Northampton Town 2 Southend United 1