Fixture: Port Vale v Northampton Town, Sky Bet League Two
Date/time: Saturday, September 15, 3pm kick-off
Venue: Vale Park, Burslem, Stoke-in-Trent
Forecast: 17C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Junior Morias (hamstring), Daniel Powell (hamstring), Shaun McWilliams (foot). Port Vale: None
Betting: Port Vale 21/10, draw 23/10, Cobblers 6/4
Form guide: Cobblers LLDWLD, Vale: DLLLWL
Possible line-ups: Northampton (4-3-2-1): Cornell; Facey, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan; Crooks, Foley, O’Toole; Hoskins, Bridge; van Veen. Port Vale (4-4-2):
Brown; Clark, Legge, Rawlinson, Hannant; Whitfield, Joyce, Oyeleke, Conlon; Pope, Miller
Last time out: Northampton Town 1 (ven Veen, pen) Cheltenham Town 3; Forest Green Rovers 1 Port Vale 1
Most recent meeting: March 14, 2017: Cobblers 2 (Phillips, Matt Taylor) Port Vale 1 (Hooper)
Record v Port Vale: P68 W29 D20 L19
Opposition view: Port Vale boss Neil Aspin: “I don’t treat Northampton any different to Forest Green Rovers. I know for a fact they should have more points than they have. They’ve dominated teams but not got results, they’re a better team than the position in the table would imply”
Jeremy Casey’s preview: The Cobblers are already reaching a critical stage in their season.
It has been a bad start to the Sky Bet League Two campaign, with just one win claimed from seven Sky Bet League Two matches, but it is still just a start.
There is an awful long way to go, but it is getting close to the stage where the tone will be well and truly set for the season ahead.
As the quarter point of the campaign approaches, the table takes shape and teams begin to get their heads around whether they are going to be challenging at the right end of the table, or fighting to stay away from the other.
The Cobblers are in desperate need of a win or two to get themselves clear of the bottom of league two, and ensure they are aiming high.
On the face of it, Saturday’s game offers up a great chance for them to get a second win of the season, and get themselves a few places up the table.
Vale are just three places and one point better off than Dean Austin’s men having suffered a similar start to the campaign, and are without a win in their past four games.
They were beaten at home last time out by Newport County, and it could be a good time for the Cobblers to be travelling to Burslem.
It is definitely a great chance for the players to prove they have it in them to produce the goods, which is something they failed miserably to do against Cheltenham last weekend.
Town have at times this season shown real promise, they have played attractive football, they have created plenty of chances, but they haven’t got the results.
They need to do start doing that, and quickly.
Austin has been bemoaning his team’s lack of bite in both boxes, and it is clear for anybody who has seen the team that they are not clinical enough in attack, and are also soft in defence, all too easily offering up clear chances for the opposition.
Austin is the manager, and ultimately the buck stops with him, but this is something the players selected to do the job have to sort out.
The manager has backed his squad to the hilt this season, he is always talking them up, saying how much quality the group possesses.
And having spoken regularly to different players, they clearly enjoy working under Austin.
So it is now time the players repaid their manager’s faith and belief in them.
A manager can do all the work he wants in the week to prepare a team, but he can’t do anything if players then go out and miss chances, over-hit crosses, miss tackles, fail to mark people, fail to track runners, and allow opponents free headers in their own penalty area.
All three goals against the Robins last week should have been stopped with basic defending.
But a series of errors and a lack of conviction all over the pitch allowed Cheltenham to walk away from the PTS Academy with three points.
You can guarantee that Port Vale, with their battering ram of a forward Tom Pope leading the line, will have seen those goals and will get at the Cobblers from the off on Saturday – and the Town players have simply got to stand up and be counted.
Austin has hinted he may make changes for the trip to Vale, and it could mean a chance for Leon Barnett to come into central defence, but what the Cobblers really need is a change in mindset.
They need to go out on to pitch with an ‘over my dead body’ attitude, and be determined to win every single personal battle.
If they do that, and concentrate on getting the basics right, and then, hopefully, the results will follow.
Prediction: Port Vale 1 Cobblers 1