Blues Visit Northampton Looking to Revive Faltering Play-Off Push
Monday, 19th Apr 2021 15:11
Town visit Northampton's Sixfields for a competitive match for the first time on Tuesday evening with only a victory good enough as they look to get their faltering play-off push back on track.
The Blues go into the game ninth, four points off the top six but with only five matches remaining and their form having been less than impressive.
Town have won just twice in the 11 games since Paul Cook took over as manager, none of them away from home, drawing five and losing three.
They are without a win in four in which they have failed to score. Overall, the Blues goal drought has now extended to 439 minutes with four of their last six matches having ended in goalless draws.
Despite current form, Town boss Cook still believes that the Blues can make the top six with the sides around them similarly stuttering as the season goes into its final straight.
Speaking after Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Charlton, he said: “I’m excited, I’ve got to tell you. I told the players that while I’ve got something burning in my stomach myself, a little light flickering, until it goes out then we won’t lie down for no one.
“We’ve got to win at Northampton on Tuesday night and I think we’ll take confidence into the game now.
“That will be a big test for us now because when we’ve done OK on the Saturday, we haven’t travelled on the Saturday, so it’s watch this space.”
Cook will probably try to stick as closely as possible to the team which drew at the Valley, although seems certain to be forced into one change with James Norwood having suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury.
Tomas Holy will continue in goal behind a back four of, from the right, Kane Vincent-Young, Luke Woolfenden, Mark McGuinness and Stephen Ward.
Andre Dozzell and Flynn Downes will be in central midfield behind Teddy Bishop with Gwion Edwards again probably on the left and Keanan Bennetts in the right, although Armando Dobra is an alternative. Kayden Jackson seems set to replace Norwood as the lone out-and-out striker.
Northampton currently sit in the relegation zone, 21st, following Friday’s 3-1 defeat at Peterborough. They are currently four points from safety.
Manager Jon Brady knows their position is perilous but says a victory over the Blues and results elsewhre going in their favour could transform their situation.
“The game has perhaps magnified after the results on Saturday but that’s something out of our control, all we can do is focus on trying to beat Ipswich,” he told the Cobblers official website.
“A win for us on Tuesday night and favourable results elsewhere could see us only a point off safety and the whole picture then changes again.
“That’s what we need to happen, people from the outside might think we are down already but no one inside the building here believes that.
“We still have the belief we can stay up and we will keep fighting to the very end.
“Results haven’t always been where we wanted them to be but we have to keep showing courage and determination to give it everything we’ve got.
“I believe we can take the game to Ipswich, our home form has been really good and we can take confidence from large parts of the performance at Peterborough.
“If we play to the best of our ability we can give anyone in this league a game, the biggest problem we have and have had all season is scoring goals on a consistent basis.
“We’ve shown on occasions what we can do but it’s just finding that consistency.”
The Cobblers have won twice in their last nine matches during which time each game has ended in a different result to the previous one, two draws and five defeats in addition to the two wins.
At Sixfields in League One this season they have been in underwhelming form having won seven, drawn five and lost nine, although they have lost only one of their last seven on home turf.
Northampton will be without central defender Alan Sheehan, who has been ruled out of the remainder of the season with a quad injury.
Another defender, Peter Kioso, is a concern ahead of Tuesday’s match with a groin problem, while forward Mickel Miller may be back on the bench after a hamstring issue.
Historically, the Blues have won 12 games between the teams (nine in the league), nine (eight) have been draws with Northampton winning 11 (10).
At Portman Road in February, stand-in skipper Downes was red-carded in injury time as dismal Town drew 0-0 with Northampton.
The visitors had the better chances, coming closest when Peter Kioso hit the post in the first half.
Downes was dismissed in the closing minutes for his reaction to being booked for a foul by referee Darren Drysdale, who moments earlier had infamously squared-up to Town midfielder Alan Judge, who he had harshly adjudged to have dived in the area.
Town have never played a competitive game at Sixfields - although a 1996 pre-season friendly ended 0-0 - with their last meaningful game at Northampton a 1987 League Cup tie back in their days at the County Ground.
Following a 1-1 draw in Suffolk, John Duncan’s Blues won 4-2 to take the tie 5-3 on aggregate.
The most recent league meeting between the teams at the County Ground was back in April 1967 when sub Mick McNeil was on target for Bill McGarry’s side in a 1-1 draw.
Town skipper Chambers started his career with Northampton, making 129 starts and 20 sub appearances, scoring once, between April 2003 and January 2007 when he moved on to Nottingham Forest.
Blues keeper Dai Cornell moved to Portman Road last summer having left Northampton after four years. While at Sixfields the Welshman made 107 starts and one sub appearance.
Midfielder Emyr Huws made 12 starts - including his senior debut - and one sub appearance in a loan spell with the Cobblers in a loan spell from Manchester City in the first half of the 2012/13 season.
Tuesday’s referee is James Bell from Sheffield, who has shown 76 yellow cards and eight red in 27 games so far this season.
Bell, who is in his first season as an EFL official, will be taking charge of his first Town match, although he was down to take control of the game at Wigan last month before being replaced.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Vincent-Young, Chambers (c), Ward, Nsiala, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Dozzell, Skuse, Nydam, Bishop, Downes, Edwards, Bennetts, Lankester, Sears, Dobra, Jackson, Parrott, Hawkins, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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