Fixture: Exeter City v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, November 17, 3pm kick-off
Venue: St James Park, Exeter
Forecast: 11c, sunny spells
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Sam Foley (suspended – 3/3), Junior Morias (suspended – 1/3), Shay Facey, Leon Barnett, Ash Taylor, Dean Bowditch, Matt Crooks. Exeter: Christy Pym, Troy Brown, Hiram Boateng, Alex Hartridge
Betting: Exeter 6/4, draw 12/5, Cobblers 2/1
Form guide: Exeter: WLDDD; Cobblers LWWWW
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-4-2): Cornell; Odoffin, Turnbull, Pierre, Buchanan; Powell, McWilliams, O’Toole, Bridge; Hoskins, van Veen. Exeter (4-4-2):
Last time out: Lincoln City 3 Northampton 2 (Bridge, van Veen) Exeter City 2 (Tilson, Abrahams) Blackpool 3
Most recent meeting: Saturday, April 16, 2016: Exeter City 0 Cobblers 0
Record v Exeter: P113 W51 D33 L29
Opposition view: Exeter boss Matt Taylor: “Northampton are a good team. We watched them several times under their previous manager and they had the players there, it was clear to anyone that watched them. They had the players there they just didn’t have a real structure to play off and, obviously, Keith Curle has gone in there and given them a structure.
“They won’t be too dissimilar to the Carlisle teams in the past, you look at managers from previous clubs, so we have an idea of what to expect. We watched them against Lincoln and Crewe, they’re a good team, but we’re not a bad team ourselves.
“We’ve picked up a couple of disappointing results but we’re looking to bounce back this weekend. They’ve got good players there, but so have we so I’m expecting a high-quality League Two game.”
Cobblers connection: Swansea City midfielder Matt Grimes spent last season on loan at the Cobblers. He scored four times and made 13 assists, but Grimes was initially a product of the Exeter City youth academy. He made 58 appearances for the Grecians, scoring five goals, before sealing a big-money move to Swansea. Grimes has been a regular in the Swans team in the Championship this season and recently signed a new long-term deal at the Liberty Stadium. Other players to have played for both clubs are Hiram Boateng, Alex Nicholls, Andy Woodman and Steve Phillips.
Jeremy Casey’s preview: Setbacks have been few and far between for the Cobblers since the appointment of Keith Curle as manager.
The former Carlisle United boss has made turning the fortunes of what was a listing ship of a club around look impressively easy.
From being in serious relegation danger, Curle has steered the Cobblers 10 points clear of the bottom two, and to within touching distance of the promotion play-off places.
There has only been one defeat in his seven Sky Bet League Two games in charge – at title-chasing Milton Keynes Dons – with the team having won their past three to move up to 16th in the table.
The momentum is very much with the club, although there was a rare blip last weekend with that 3-2 FA Cup first round defeat at Lincoln City.
And how the team reacts to that loss when they take on Exeter City at St James Park tomorrow could really be a signal as to what the Cobblers fans can expect from their team for the rest of the season.
Can the team shrug off that Sincil Bank loss and get back to the business of winning in the league?
Will the players’ confidence be affected by Bruno Andrade’s late, late winner for the Imps?
Losing to a last-minute strike at the home of the league two leaders is not exactly something to be ashamed of, and the character shown in that fightback from 2-0 down to 2-2 has ensured that the momentum that has been building hasn’t really been affected.
From briefly being around the Cobblers camp this week, and speaking to the manager, the mood is upbeat and I would say the indications are that normal service will be resumed this weekend.
A trip to take on an Exeter side that has lost the past two play-off finals is obviously not an easy one, but the Grecians are currently going through a bit of a tricky patch.
After Paul Tisdale left the club in the summer following 12 years at the helm, Matt Taylor got off to a flying start as Exeter won six of the opening nine league games to put themselves right in the promotion picture.
They are still fifth in the table, but they haven’t won in the league since October 13 and have dropped 10 of the past 12 points on offer to them.
In striker Jayden Stockley Exeter possess one of league two’s hottest properties, but he too has been struggling for form, and hasn’t scored in his past five games.
It looks a good time for the Cobblers to be heading to the south west – their first trip to St James Park since Chris Wilder’s team clinched the league two title there with a 0-0 draw in April, 2016.
Town are targeting a fifth win in six league games, and their squad could even be boosted by the return of some of their injured players this weekend.
Curle won’t give out any sort of injury news to the media, but he did hint this week that some players were close to returning, with the likes of Shay Facey and Ash Taylor the favourites - although neither will walk straight back into the team such has been the impressive performances of the Town defensice in recent weeks.
Key man Matt Crooks missed out at Lincoln last weekend with the ankle injury he picked up in the win over Crewe, and Saturday could be too soon for him.
Town are also without the suspended Sam Foley and Junior Morias, who must be kicking himself after getting sent off at Sincil Bank.
The former Peterborough United man has been out for two months with a hamstring injury, and now thanks to a fixture list bereft of midweek fixtures faces a further month on the sidelines through suspension.
His absence will be a source of huge frustration for Curle as he would have boosted the team’s attacking options significantly.
Regardless of that, and even if some of the walking wounded don’t return, this Town squad has proved over the past month that they have more than enough to compete in this division.
To expect a win at Exeter may be asking too much, and although I wouldn’t rule it out I would imagine a share of the spoils would be a satisfactory result.
Prediction: Exeter City 1 Cobblers 1