Jefferson Lake’s Northampton Town versus Portsmouth preview

TURNING THINGS ROUND - Portsmouth manager Andy Awford
TURNING THINGS ROUND - Portsmouth manager Andy Awford
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Fixture: Northampton Town v Portsmouth

Date/kick-off time: Tuesday, March 3, 7.45pm kick-off

Venue: Sixfields Stadium, Northampton

Weather forecast: 3C, cloudy

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Ian Morris (knee), Kaid Mohamed (broken metatarsal), Ben Tozer (knee), John-Joe O’Toole (suspended). Portsmouth: Jack Whatmough (foot), James Dunne (suspended)

Betting: Cobblers 11/10, draw 12/5, Portsmouth 9/4

Form guide: Cobblers WWDLWW, Portsmouth DWWWDW

Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Duke; Moloney, Cresswell, Collins, Horwood; D’Ath, Taylor, Byrom, Holmes; Toney, Richards. Portsmouth (3-5-2): Jones; Chorley, Devera, Robinson; Passley, Hollands, Atangana, Wallace, Butler; Taylor, Tubbs

Last time out: Cobblers beat Shrewsbury 2-1 (Hackett, Byrom), Portsmouth drew 0-0 at Oxford United

Most recent meeting: Tuesday, October 7, 2014, JPT - Portsmouth 1 Cobblers 2 (Moyo, Mohamed).

Cobblers connection: Former Manchester United trainee John Curtis finished his career with a single season at Sixfields, making 21 appearances in the 2009-10 season as the club adjusted to life in league two after their relegation. His time at Portsmouth was even shorter lived, amounting to seven outings in 2004, when Pompey were a Premier League club.

Jefferson Lake’s preview: Portsmouth arrive at Sixfields unbeaten in seven games and having completed a return to form to the kind of team the Cobblers played way back in August.

When Northampton went to Fratton Park on that warm summer’s evening, Pompey were confident they would be a promotion contender this season and swept to a 2-0 victory, albeit one in which the tone was set by a Danny Alfei error in the build-up to the first goal.

Town did return to the south coast and win, however, in a 2-1 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success in October, the goals in which were scored by a player (David Moyo) who was since left the club and another (Kaid Mohamed) who is on the treatment table after surgery to repair a broken metatarsal.

A lot has changed for both teams since those early-season meetings and the expectation levels for both have been adjusted accordingly.

Portsmouth have a giant squad and the best playing budget in the division and although they find themselves below Northampton in the table they will be confident they are gathering sufficient momentum to mount a late charge to the play-offs.

Manager Andy Awford, who was under considerable pressure not so long ago, has overseen an unbeaten run of seven games which has coincided with a move to three centre-backs and a wing-back system which is getting results.

It is the next challenge facing the Cobblers, who will be growing in confidence with every passing result that they can secure a top-seven place which looked highly unlikely even two months ago.

That their manager Chris Wilder has again been nominated for the league two manager-of-the-month award speaks volumes about the progress the team is currently making.

With both teams seeking a win on Tuesday night and with (relatively speaking) little to lose, it should be another wide-open encounter in the way the game at Shrewsbury should have been, but actually was not.

Prediction: Northampton 1 Portsmouth 1