Fixture: Northampton v Carlisle United
Date/kick-off time: Tuesday, March 17, 7.45pm kick-off
Venue: Sixfields Stadium, Northampton
Weather forecast: 6C, rain
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Ian Morris (knee), Kaid Mohamed (broken metatarsal), Ben Tozer (knee), Ricky Holmes (knee), Marc Richards (Achilles). Carlisle: Anthony Sweeney (leg)
Betting: Cobblers 4/5, draw 11/4, Carlisle 4/1
Form guide: Cobblers WLWWWD, Carlisle: DLWLLL
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-2-3-1): Duke; Moloney, Cresswell, Collins, Horwood; Byrom, Taylor; Hackett, O’Toole, D’Ath; Gray. Carlisle (4-5-1): Hanford; Young, O’Hanlon, Archibald-Henville, Grainger; Potts, Kennedy, Griffith, Dempsey, Rigg; Wyke
Last time out: Cobblers beat Tranmere 1-0 (Cresswell), Carlisle drew 0-0 at York City
Most recent meeting: Saturday, December 20, 2014 - Carlisle 2 Northampton 1 (Richards pen)
Chris Hackett will come in for Ricky Holmes, and knows he needs to recapture the form of which he is capable if he is to fill those particular shoesJefferson Lake
Cobblers connection: Several players connect the two clubs, as well as the man responsible for one of the most memorable moments of modern football history. Martin Wilkinson was in the Carlisle dug-out when goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scored the goal against Plymouth Argyle which kept the Cumbrians in the league in 1999 in an unforgettable piece of sporting drama. Wilkinson left Carlisle the following summer and became chief scout at Sixfields shortly afterwards, where - by virtue of a kind of footballing Peter Principle - he was first-team manager for seven months in 2003, overseeing the club’s relegation back to the fourth tier.
Jefferson Lake’s preview: Keith Curle may have inadvertently done Chris Wilder’s team talk for him tonight with his assertion in the Carlisle News & Star that the Cobblers’ defence is their Achilles heel.
Such comments are unlikely to sit too comfortably with either Wilder or his back four, who have conceded three goals in their past five games.
If anything, it is the other end of the pitch where form has decline - where once Northampton were a swashbuckling and high-tempo attacking force they have more recently become a more resilient side; the fact the win over Tranmere was secured by a headed goal from a centre-back emphasises that further.
Not that they aren’t trying to play the kind of fast, passing football which saw them storm to wins over Newport, Accrington and York City.
It’s just that the players are tiring and - in the case of Marc Richards and Ricky Holmes - starting to get injured.
A lot will depend, not just tonight but in the weeks to come, on how they cope with the absence of those two players, their leading goalscorer and perhaps most consistent attacking midfielder.
Chris Hackett will come in for Holmes and knows he needs to recapture the form of which he is capable if he is to fill those particular shoes.
In Richards’ number nine role, James Gray has done fairly well and certainly brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm but needs to get on the scoresheet sooner rather than later.
The confirmed loss of Holmes is a substantial blow but it is one softened by the return from suspension of Joel Byrom, whose set-piece delivery and ability to dictate the pace of a game from central midfield are cornerstones of the team’s 2015 tactical shape.
This game is the final midweek fixture at Sixfields. Unless, of course, the team can finish inside the play-off places. Interesting times lie ahead.
Prediction: Cobblers 2 Carlisle 1