Tom Vickers’ Oxford United versus Northampton Town preview

HE'S OUT - Ryan Cresswell misses the trip to Oxford United after being sent-off for two bookings at Stevenage on Saturday (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
HE'S OUT - Ryan Cresswell misses the trip to Oxford United after being sent-off for two bookings at Stevenage on Saturday (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
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Fixture: Oxford United v Northampton Town (Sky Bet League Two)

Date/kick-off time: Tuesday, April 14, 7.45pm

Venue: Kassam Stadium

Weather forecast: 16C, clear

Outs and doubts: Oxford: Will Hoskins (ankle), Patrick Hoban (dead leg), George Baldock (quad). Cobblers: Ian Morris (knee), Kaid Mohamed (broken metatarsal), Marc Richards (Achilles), Tom Newey (ankle), RIcky Holmes (knee), Ryan Cresswell (suspended), Jason Taylor (suspended).

Betting: Oxford 6/4, draw 12/5, Cobblers 21/10

Form guide: Oxford: DDWWLL, Cobblers: LLDWLL

Possible line-ups: Oxford United (4-4-2): Ashdown, Baldock, Mullins, Wright, Skarz, Roofe, Collins, Rose, O’Dowda, Hylton, Vassell. Northampton (4-4-2): Duke, Moloney, Diamond, Collins, Horwood, Hackett, Carter, Byrom, D’Ath, Toney, Gray.

Last time out: Oxford drew 0-0 at AFC Wimbledon, Cobblers lost 2-1 at Stevenage.

Most recent meeting: Tuesday, October 21: Cobblers 1 Oxford United 3.

Tom’s preview: At the past couple of pre-match press conferences, there has been plenty of talk about perspective.

The need to look upon how far Cobblers have come in recent times, and not to dwell on how far they have to go.

The latter can be sorted in the summer, when boss Chris Wilder reassesses his squad for a renewed promotion push.

And the former will come into sharp focus on Tuesday night, when Town travel to Oxford United.

It will, of course, be the first time Wilder has gone back to the Kassam Stadium since leaving his role as U’s boss in January last year.

At that time, Oxford were sixth, 23 points clear of the beleaguered Cobblers, who were rock bottom of the Football League.

But this week, the bullish boss takes his team to his former stomping ground in a very different position.

While Cobblers survived last season and are now comfortably ensconced in mid-table - they sit 11th - Michael Appleton’s Oxford are six points behind in 16th.

It is a remarkable reverse in fortunes and while Cobblers fans may be aggrieved that their play-off dreams now appear to be over, they can seek solace in history.

The club has come a long way under Wilder and there are real signs of improvement.

In contrast, Oxford’s supporters may be irked by the lack of progress since the previous campaign.

However, both sides can at least be content in the knowledge that they will have another shot at Sky Bet League Two next season.

The same can’t be said for Cheltenham, Tranmere and Hartlepool, who all face a fight for their Football League lives in the coming weeks.

Cobblers were in that position last season - and however disappointed they may be about the likelihood of missing out on a top-seven spot, at least they are safe.

Now, perhaps, it’s time to indulge in a little schadenfreude.

To revel in the misery of others and enjoy a relaxed final few weeks of a campaign that has been a real rollercoaster ride.

The facts and league position suggests Cobblers are a club on the up.

And though there is no doubt points, play-off places and, ultimately, prizes bring enjoyment, so too should safety and the knowledge that things are heading in the right direction.

Tom’s prediction: Oxford United 2 Cobblers 2