So to the most important weekend of the season. The Cobblers travel to Bradford for a game that we, at the very least, need to take something from. No-one at the club is being drawn into talking about a relegation fight but tension is mounting on the terraces, particularly with the tough run of games coming up. A bad time to go to rejuvenated Bradford then, who seem to have turned the corner away from their own battle against an unlikely drop under new boss Peter Jackson.
It wasn’t long ago that the Bantams were in our position, looking nervously behind them as Peter Taylor’s regime failed to bring about the expected promotion challenge. Victories over Rotherham and Morecambe have propelled them away from trouble though and that could be the danger that the home side will be back to their confident best. It’s a struggle the Cobblers need to man up to and fight for their lives. There will be a small band of Town fans making the trip north with hearts on their sleeves when they’re not in their mouths so the players need to wake up and play for them at least.
Gary Johnson has brought in a fourth loan signing, replacing the outgoing Craig Hinton with Doncaster’s Byron Webster and the centre back goes straight into the squad. Liam Davis played in the midweek behind closed doors friendly at QPR and will be pushing for a recall on the left hand side. Johnson got a look at some of his fringe players in that game so we could see some new faces in the squad.
Bradford could bring Kevin Ellison back in for Scott Dobie but joint top scorer David Syers is expected to start from the bench. Michael Flynn and Jon Worthington have been in fine form to keep Dobie out of the team in recent weeks.
It’s most certainly squeaky bum time. Going to Bradford last season in the final away game we thought that we could still make the playoffs. Defeat there pretty much ended that hope…defeat tomorrow would leave us facing something far more serious.
Elsewhere in League Two…
There’s a massive game this evening in League Two with leaders Chesterfield taking on fourth placed Rotherham at the B2Net Stadium. The Spireites are just a few wins away from promotion and defeating one of the sides pushing for a top three place will go a long way to paving their surely inevitable path into League One. Rotherham, four points off the pace as they chase Wycombe in third, are without a win in four games.
Also tonight, Southend welcome Hereford to Roots Hall. Despite dropping into the bottom half this week, defender Luke Prosser still believes his side can make the playoffs. They need to get back into the fight quickly though and will see a game against a nervy Hereford side, who have slipped back into trouble, as an ideal one to get back on track.
The heat in the playoff fight has intensified with just two points separating fourth and eighth. Torquay’s midweek win at Bury means that they are the form team going into a weekend when they could jump back into the top seven as they travel to Macclesfield, who rescued a late point against Lincoln on Tuesday night.
The sides occupying those coveted playoff spots will be nervously looking over their shoulders as they hit this crucial weekend. Port Vale go to an Accrington side that have won their last four at home, scoring three goals in all but one of those victories. Meanwhile, Gillingham also face a tricky away game at Burton. The Gills were one of the only top sides to win last weekend and will be favourites against an Albion team still trying to escape the reach of Barnet and Stockport.
Yet another biggy comes at the New Meadow with Shrewsbury hosting Wycombe needing to bounce back from their 5-0 defeat in Devon last week. With only a four point gap separating the sides it’s a big chance for the hosts to make some ground up.
Second placed Bury will be hoping for a return to form after they missed a big chance to close the gap on Chesterfield in the week. Finishing in the top three will be all that’s on their minds though as they prepare for a home game with Cheltenham at Gigg Lane. Three defeats in four have surely ended the visitor’s playoff hopes but they need points to ensure they don’t drop any further down the league and salvage what was a positive first half of the season.
It’s not just the top half of the table where there’s big games either. Morecambe fans are being taken to Barnet on free coaches laid on by the club in a bid to get a real atmosphere going for a crunch six pointer. There will, of course, be a little sideways glance from Cobblers fans to this result as well.
Stockport have been in big trouble all season and if they’re to give themselves any hope at all they need to come away from Aldershot with all three points. Ray Mathias has taken charge until the end of the season after caretaker Peter Ward was asked to stand down in a board meeting last Monday and Mathias got his first point a day later in a goalless draw with Burton. The Shots have taken seven points from their last three games, though, so it’s a tough task ahead.
Also on Saturday, two sides hopeful still of the playoffs meet as Oxford take on Crewe at the Kassam. Crewe overtook the U’s on Tuesday as they beat Southend while Oxford were losing at home to Stevenage. Borough try to keep their dreams of a top seven place alive when they play Lincoln at Braodhall Way.