Fixture: York City v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, December 26, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Bootham Crescent, York
Forecast: Cloudy, 12C
Outs and doubts: York: Stefan O’Connor (hamstring), Emile Sinclair (thigh), Jake Hyde (hernia), Michael Coulson (groin). Cobblers: Paul Corry (knee)
Betting: York 29/10, draw 13/5, Northampton 21/20
Form guide: York WLLLLL, Cobblers LWWWWW
Avg. goals scored/conceded per game: York 1.1/2.0, Northampton 1.7/1.3
Possible line-ups: York (4-3-3): Flinders; Nolan, Winfield, Boyle, Ilesanmi; Summerfield, Penn, Berrett, Fewster, Oliver, Galbraith. Northampton (4-2-3-1): Smith; Moloney, Cresswell, Diamond, Buchanan; O’Toole, Byrom; Potter, Adams, D’Ath; Richards.
Man in the middle: Boxing Day’s clash will be Sebastian Stockbridge’s second Northampton Town match this season after the Sunderland referee was in charge of August’s 1-1 draw at Accrington Stanley. In 16 games this season, Stockbridge has dished out 56 yellows and three reds.
Last time out: York City 2 (Winfield, Berrett) Morecambe 1 (Devitt); Northampton 1 (Cresswell) Portsmouth 2 (Evans, Chaplin)
Most recent meeting: Saturday, February 21, 2015 – Northampton Town 3 (Hackett, Moloney, Toney) York City 0
Record v York City: P49 W20 D16 L13
Opposition view: York boss Jackie McNamara told the York Press: “It’s a big game and the start of a big period for us. Back-to-back victories would stand us in good stead for the rest of the season.
“But Northampton are a top side who are going well and I think the difference between the better sides in this division and those in the bottom half is that they make fewer mistakes and have one or two individuals who can win a game, which I feel we have too. We’ve just got to stop making the silly errors and keep our concentration, but we are getting there.
“It’s important we take our opportunities too, because we don’t want a repeat of the last two matches when we’ve had a nervy last ten minutes.”
James Heneghan’s preview: Despite this being the longest trip that any of the 92 Football League clubs will embark on this Boxing Day – four miles further than Cardiff’s trip to Milton Keynes – Cobblers fans will travel in their numbers once again with their team gunning for another victory which could see them reclaim top spot seven days after losing it.
A few audible groans were exhaled by those in the Northampton area when this Boxing Day trip to York was unveiled back in the summer, but with the Minstermen struggling and the Cobblers flying, this game is an ideal opportunity for Town to get straight back to winning ways following Saturday’s loss to Portsmouth.
The match also marks the halfway point of the season. If the second half is anything like the first 23 games, Cobblers fans are in for one hell of a ride.
Prior to the last round of games, York and Northampton had been on completely contrasting runs of form.
York had lost their last seven league games while Northampton were on a five-game winning run, but the form table was flipped on its head at the weekend.
While the Cobblers were suffering their first league defeat since October 17, losing 2-1 to Portsmouth, York were notching their first win since September 5, beating Morecambe 2-1 to move outside the relegation zone.
Nonetheless, the bookies make Northampton firm favourites for this clash and unsurprisingly so when you compare the two sides’ respective seasons.
Not only are York struggling at the wrong end of the table, sitting third bottom with 15 points from 22 games, but they also hold the worst defensive record in League Two having conceded 45 goals, five more than any other side.
Cobblers’ attacking prowess, which has yielded eight goals in the last three games, will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing a side who have let in goals for fun in recent weeks.
Chris Wilder has already confirmed that he will fully utilise his squad during the traditionally hectic festive period with York the first of three games in seven days.
“I think the players realise this is a group effort over these next eight to 10 days,” said the Cobblers boss. “We will utilise everybody in this period and it’s important everybody is ready.”
That could mean a recall for Sam Hoskins, who can count himself unfortunate to have been nothing more than a bit-part player in recent weeks, while Ricky Holmes’ first start of the season can’t be far away.
Prediction: York 1 Northampton 3