Jeremy Casey's Southend United versus Northampton Town preview
Fixture: Southend United v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, September 16, 2017, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Roots Hall, Southend-on-Sea
Forecast: 14C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole (groin), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Sam Foley (knee), Sam Hoskins (knee), Shaun McWilliams (foot). Southend: John White (groin), Michael Kightly (hamstring),
Possible line-ups: Cobblers (4-3-3): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan; Grimes, Crooks, Kasim; Long, Revell, Smith. Southend: Oxley; Ferdinand, Demetriou, Kyprianou; Timlin; McLaughlin; Yearwood, Leonard; McGlashan, Bwomono, Fortune
Betting: Southend 10/11, draw 3/1, Northampton 3/1
Form guide: Cobblers WWDLL, Southend: LLDLD
Man in the middle: Nick Kinseley
Last time out: Northampton 3 (Long 2, Crooks) Portsmouth 1; Shrewsbury 1 Southend United 0
Most recent meeting: February 18, 2017, Roots Hall: Southend 2 (McGlashan, Cox) Cobblers 2 (Richards, O’Toole)
Record v Southend: P118 W45 D29 L44
Southend connection: Billy Best is regarded as a legend at both the Cobblers and Southend United. Best enjoyed two spells at the old County Ground, and was part of the Town squad that reached the first division for the only season in the Cobblers’ history in 1965/66. His two spells with Northampton sandwiched a five-season stint at Roots Hall, where the Glaswegian established himself as a ‘Shrimpers legend’. At Southend he scored an incredible 123 goals in 246 starts. In all, Best spent 10 years with the Cobblers, playing in all four divisions of the Football League for the club,
Opposition view: Southend boss Phil Brown: “I wouldn’t say Northampton are an in-form side but you would say two wins out of two, he’s (Hasselbaink) doing something right. We know what he’s all about. He’s about hard work, he likes a bit of quality in his side and they’ve got an old player that used to be here in Alex Revell who is leading the line. It appears he’s shifted from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 – there’s lots of little things that he’s changed, but he’s just reinvigorated them. He’s given them a little bit of belief and that’s the hard part of the game.”
Jeremy Casey’s preview: Two very welcome wins in the space of three days at Sixfields laid one hoodoo to rest for the Cobblers this week... now for another one.
Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers saw Town claim their first points of the season, and their first win in any competition since March 14, a run stretching back 14 matches.
The Donny win was quickly followed up by another three-pointer, Tuesday’s 3-1 triumph over Portsmouth, with new boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink making an impressively quick mark.
But Town are now on their travels this weekend when they go to Southend United, and improving the club’s woeful record on the road is the next hurdle for Hasselbaink to overcome.
So far in 2017, the Cobblers have won just one away game, and that was on March 11 at AFC Wimbledon when a late Matt Taylor penalty sealed a 1-0 victory.
Town have failed to win any of their other 12 matches on the road since the turn of the year, but perhaps this weekend’s trip to Roots Hall offers a chance to improve that record.
Phil Brown’s team are without a win since their opening day triumph over Blackburn Rovers, and were beaten 1-0 at Shrewsbury on Tuesday night, a result that allowed the Cobblers to leapfrog them in the Sky Bet League One table.
It could be seen as a good time to play Southend, but although struggling to win games, Brown’s side have yet to lose a home league clash this season, following up that that win over Blackburn with draws against Plymouth Argyle and Rochdale.
The Cobblers’ record at Roots Hall is hardly sparking either, with just one win there in the past 14 years.
They did manage a 2-2 draw in their most recent trip there in February, and it is an indication of the change and upheaval at Sixfields in the following six months that only four players from that match day squad - Dave Buchanan, Marc Richards, John-Joe O’Toole and David Cornell - are still with the Cobblers.
But Town will be travelling to Essex in good heart, full of confidence and, perhaps most importantly, with self belief.
That has quickly been instilled into them by Hasselbaink, as well as, judging by the players we have spoken to, some direction, discipline, structure and organisation.
You would imagine those things would be a given with any manager of a professional football team, and I am sure it is to a certain extent, but clearly Hasselbaink provides that little bit extra.
Selection wise, I can’t see Hasselbaink venturing too far away from the team he selected for his first two games in charge, although he will be forced into one change due to Shaun McWilliams being out injured.
The absence of the 19-year-old is a blow for Hasselbaink, who has been impressed by the Sixfields academy graduate, but he has options to replace him.
He could go for Yaser Kasim to play alongside Matt Grimes in a two as he did after McWilliams went off on Tuesday, or perhaps bring Matt Crooks in to partner the Swansea loan man, and utilise somebody else out wide.
Perhaps an away game would be the perfect time to switch to a 4-5-1 formation, with Kasim, Grimes and Crooks as a central midfield three, with flyers either side of them to get up and down the pitch to support defence and aid attack.
But, as always, I am only guessing, because as Hasselbaink said himself this week, he isn’t going to tell me what he’s going to do. I’ll have to wait and see, just like everybody else!
But what I am expecting to see is a Cobblers side that is going to be hard to beat.
A Cobblers side that is going to compete, that is going to be positive when it gets the chance, and is going to give Southend a real run for their money.
A third win on the trot would put the icing on a fabulous few days for Hasselbaink and the Cobblers, and this team is certainly capable of it.
But I don’t think anybody would be too disappointed with a draw either.
Prediction: Southend United 1 Cobblers 1