James Heneghan's Oldham Athletic v Northampton Town preview
Fixture: Oldham Athletic v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League One
Date/time: Saturday, December 9, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Boundary Park
Forecast: 2C, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Oldham: Gyamfi Kyeremeh (groin). Cobblers: John-Joe O’Toole (ankle), Aaron Phillips (thigh), Alex Revell (groin), Aaron Pierre (calf)
Betting: Oldham 1/1, draw 5/2, Northampton 13/5
Form guide: Latics LDDWWL, Cobblers LDLLLW
Possible line-ups: Oldham (4-4-2): Placide; Dummigan, Clarke, Bryan, Hunt; Byrne, Gardner, Fane, Menig; Davies, Doyle. Northampton (4-4-2): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan; Hoskins, Poole, Grimes, Crooks; Richards, Long
Man in the middle: Graham Salisbury
Last time out: Bradford City 0 Oldham Athletic 1 (Obadeyi); Portsmouth 2 Northampton Town 0
Most recent meeting: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 – Northampton Town 1 (O’Toole) Oldham 2 (Obadeyi, Erwin)
Record v Oldham: P34 W11 D8 L15
Cobblers connection: Skipper Marc Richards will return to one of his several former clubs this weekend, though his spell at Boundary Park was only brief. He turned out just six times for Oldham during a very short loan spell at the age of 19 in 2001. Former Town defender Zander Diamond, who left Sixfields in the summer, also played for the Latics when making 31 appearances in 2011/12 before moving to Burton Albion.
Opposition view: “Lewis McGugan has played at a higher level and is Northampton’s main threat,” said Latics boss Richie Wellens this week. “They have Grimes on loan from Swansea and they have got some good players, as has everyone in this league.
“This game at home with the way we playing, its all about us. We need to move the ball quickly, open the game up and take our chances now. Let’s start converting chances and get back to scoring three or four goals again.”
James Heneghan’s preview: The Cobblers will not get many better chances to end their most recent goal drought than at Boundary Park this weekend when they take on the division’s leakiest defence.
For the third time in 2017, Town are on a run of over 500 minutes without scoring. Chris Long’s first-half strike at Oxford United remains the last time they found the net, some five and a half games ago.
But given Saturday’s opponents Oldham Athletic have conceded 38 times this season – two more than next-worst Bristol Rovers – they have an ideal opportunity to put that right and get back on the score sheet in what should be an open, entertaining game.
Instead, Northampton’s problems may come at the other end of the pitch where Oldham have offset their defence troubles by banging in the goals; their tally of 30 for the campaign is the sixth most in Sky Bet League One and far higher than any other team in the current bottom eight.
And most of that has been down to the incredible impact of new boss Richie Wellens.
Wellens was placed in temporary charge when John Sheridan left Boundary Park with the club sat at the very bottom back in September but a subsequent seven-game unbeaten run, including five wins, earned the 37-year-old the position on a permanent basis.
That sequence of results catapulted the Latics from a points haul of four from nine games to 21 from 17 which places them fifth in the current form table, though their failure to win any of the last three league games, including last week’s loss at Southend, means they are not clear of trouble just yet.
The Cobblers themselves know all about the impact a new manager can have after experiencing it twice in 2017, first with Justin Edinburgh and then Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
But Town’s failure to convert mini-revivals into something more substantial has been their undoing so far this season, with good bursts of form too often followed by winless and goalless runs, such as the one they are currently enduring.
Five games without victory or even a goal, Northampton’s hopes of at least keeping in touch those above them until the New Year and January transfer window rest largely on these next two games with Saturday’s trip to Greater Manchester followed by the visit of Walsall to Sixfields next weekend.
The expected return of key players, such as John-Joe O’Toole and Daniel Powell, will help Hasselbaink’s task ahead of the busy Christmas period, and it will be interesting to see how he lines up this weekend, both tactically and in terms of personnel.
More recently, the Northampton manager has favoured 4-4-2 with Marc Richards and Chris Long leading the line but it seems his preference for the long-term is 4-3-3, although neither formation has done much to solve their persistent goal problems.
O’Toole is rated as touch and go for the trip to Oldham while the return of Powell will allow Hasselbaink to play with a natural winger and Alex Revell is also close to full fitness, but whether or not those players will significantly improve the team to the point where they can haul themselves up the table remains to be seen.
Prediction: Oldham Athletic 2 Northampton Town 0