James Heneghan's Portsmouth v Northampton Town preview
Fixture: Portsmouth v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, December 30, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Fratton Park
Forecast: 12C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Portsmouth: Stuart O’Keefe (adductor), Milan Lalkovic (Achilles), Kal Naismith (knee), Jack Whatmough (knee). Cobblers: Daniel Powell (hamstring), Aaron Pierre (groin), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Alex Revell (groin), Sam Hoskins (ankle), Leon Barnett (Achilles)
Betting: Portsmouth 3/5, draw 29/10, Northampton 19/4
Form guide: Pompey WLWWWW, Cobblers LDWLLD
Possible line-ups: Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): McGee; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Haunstrup; Rose, Close; Evans, Chaplin, Lowe; Pitman. Northampton (4-3-3): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Poole, Buchanan; Grimes, McGugan, O’Toole; Waters, Foley, Long
Man in the middle: Lee Swabey
Last time out: Portsmouth 2 (Close, Pitman) AFC Wimbledon 1; Doncaster Rovers 3 Northampton Town 0
Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 2, 2017 (Checkatrade Trophy) – Portsmouth 2 (Evans, O’Keefe) Northampton Town 0
Record v Portsmouth: P34 W10 D7 L17
Opposition view: “Northampton are fighting for their lives down at the bottom of the table and will be working out their own way to get results,” said Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. “We want to be at our best and capitalise on the things we are doing well – and there are plenty of them.”
Cobblers connection: Midfielder Danny Rose and winger Ricky Holmes were both key members of Northampton’s title-winning success two years ago but their respective spells at Fratton Park were – or are in Rose’s case – viewed differently. While Holmes was largely considered a let down during his 62 games and two years at Portsmouth despite subsequently thriving at Town, Rose, a classy central midfielder, has established himself as a regular for Kenny Jackett’s side, playing 18 times this campaign on the back of 40 appearances in their title win last term. Holmes is now at Charlton Athletic but Rose, a favourite among the Fratton Park faithful, looks almost certain to start against his former club on Saturday.
James Heneghan’s preview: The chances of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men putting a dent in Portsmouth’s highly impressive home record this weekend hinges solely on which Northampton team turns up in this Jekyll and Hyde season.
The one who drew with Blackburn Rovers and beat Walsall has every chance of ending Portsmouth’s five-game winning run at Fratton Park, but the team who were so pitiful in defeat at Doncaster on Boxing Day would be lucky to escape with a similar-sized loss.
For one thing, the form book does not offer great encouragement of an away victory on Saturday. While Pompey boast the third best home record in Sky Bet League One, Northampton are hanging onto the coattails of the teams above them and will be trying to arrest a five-game losing run on the road.
Portsmouth, now under the guidance of Kenny Jackett following Paul Cook’s departure to Wigan, took a while to adjust to the demands of League One football but six wins in eight have left them one place and only a slightly inferior goal difference away from a play-off place as they chase back-to-back promotions.
Former Town man Danny Rose has played a starring role in their recent resurgence while top-scorer Brett Pitman, with 13 goals, has also been key in their charge towards the upper echelons of the division.
But as Portsmouth continue to head in one direction following September’s 3-1 defeat at Sixfields, the Cobblers have only stood still in the same period of time to very much remain in relegation peril, now three points away from survival.
Boss Hasselbaink will be desperate to have Daniel Powell finally back from injury. Initially expected to return way back in late November, Town have been cautious over Powell due to his troublesome hamstring problem that has still not totally gone away.
Given he’s the only out-and-out winger in the entire squad, his absence has left Hasselbaink short on options with Shaun McWilliams, Sam Foley and Lewis McGugan among those to be tried in wide roles.
It was the former two who featured at Doncaster in midweek as Town lined up 4-4-2 but their abject performance will surely mean a return to one up front for this Saturday and John-Joe O’Toole pushed back into an advanced role where he can be far more effective.
This is no time for the Cobblers to be licking their increasingly deep wounds because after tomorrow’s visit to Portsmouth, they face another team in blistering form in the shape of league leaders Wigan Athletic, followed by games against mid-table Southend and play-off chasing Bradford City.
There will be reinforcements in the door within days of the January transfer window opening but, before then, they must ensure they remain within touching distance of those above them.
Prediction: Portsmouth 2 Northampton Town 0