Tom Vickers’ Northampton Town versus Cheltenham Town preview

IN FOR A DIFFICULT AFTERNOON - former Cobblers boss Gary Johnson brings his Cheltenham team to Sixfields on Saturday
IN FOR A DIFFICULT AFTERNOON - former Cobblers boss Gary Johnson brings his Cheltenham team to Sixfields on Saturday

Fixture: Northampton Town v Cheltenham Town (Sky Bet League Two)

Date/kick-off time: Saturday, April 18, 3pm

Venue: Sixfields

Weather forecast: 15C, sunny

Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Ian Morris (knee), Kaid Mohamed (broken metatarsal), Tom Newey (ankle), Ryan Cresswell (suspended), Jason Taylor (suspended).

Betting: Cobblers: 4/6, draw: 13/5, Cheltenham: 4/1

In all, the man who signed a total of 25 players - loan and permanent - during his tenure, won just seven of his 34 games in charge

Tom Vickers on Gary Johnson

Form guide: Cobblers: DLLWDL, Cheltenham: WLLLLL

Possible line-ups: Cobblers (4-4-2): Jalal, Moloney, Diamond, Collins, Horwood, D’Ath, O’Toole, Byrom, Holmes, Toney, Gray.Cheltenham (4-4-2): Carson, Vaughan, Brown, Taylor, Braham-Barrett, Sparrow, Kotwica, Richards, Haynes, Manset, Harrad.

Last time out: Cobblers drew 1-1 at Oxford, Cheltenham won 3-1 at home to Cambridge

Most recent meeting: Saturday, October 18: Cheltenham 3 Cobblers 2 (Sky Bet League Two)

Tom’s preview: Football fans love a pantomime villain.

And on Saturday, the man in the Cheltenham Town dug-out will be playing that part, whether he likes it or not.

Gary Johnson, who spent an unsuccessful nine-month spell at Cobblers during 2011, returns to Sixfields this weekend.

And while he says he is unsure of what kind of welcome he will get, it seems certain it will not be a warm one.

Johnson, a master of hubris, felt his time at Cobblers was a success.

Unfortunately, he was the only person who did.

While he claims he saved the club from relegation after taking over from local hero Ian Sampson, the way he did it left a bitter taste in the mouth.

Johnson took over with Cobblers sitting 16th in League Two, 10 points above the relegation places.

But there was to be no honeymoon period, with the club failing to win any of his first 11 games in charge and eventually securing survival in the season’s penultimate game.

And the way he started the following season, left the supporters feeling even more sour.

In all, the man who signed a total of 25 players - loan and permanent - during his tenure, won just seven of his 34 games in charge.

But that record alone, although far from satisfactory, would not have attracted too much ire.

After all, some managerial appointments simply don’t work out.

Some managers just don’t fit certain clubs, and Johnson had enjoyed real success elsewhere.

But what sparked fury was comments in an interview after he vacated his Sixfields post.

Johnson’s grandiose words about the job he had done struck a chord.

He could have gone quietly, accepting things didn’t go too well and moved on.

But he didn’t, and the decision to try to use hyperbole when describing the part he had played at Town did not sit well.

And he is likely see that on Saturday.

But while some Cobblers fans opt to focus on the past for a few minutes at least, they will hope to see a few more indications that the future will be far brighter.

The signs were certainly good at Oxford on Tuesday, with Chris Wilder’s side bossing possession and creating the lion’s share of the chances.

In the end, they were frustrated by the concession of a late goal, for the second time in as many games.

But with the play-off bid now a distant dream, Cobblers did at least show the character and the build-up play needed to succeed at this level.

They were certainly a side worth watching, perhaps more so than in many recent managerial eras, Johnson’s included.

And this weekend, the new breed will hope to create more good memories that overshadow some of the bad ones that are likely to be stirred up by the sight of the opposition manager.

Tom’s prediction: Cobblers 2 Cheltenham 1