Saturday, December 8th 2012
After a week of cup distraction it’s back to the good old ‘bread and butter’ of league action with high flying Cheltenham Town in town for a big game at Sixfields. The Cobblers were on a fine run of form until Oxford ruined things two weeks ago by inflicting a 2-1 defeat on us before Leyton Orient dumped us out of the JPT on Wednesday night.
The visitors come to town looking to keep hold of, and build on, a top three place as they attempt to go one better than last season’s foray into the playoffs.
Rubies gunning for glory once more…
Cheltenham were beaten semi-finalists in the playoffs last season but began this campaign steadily with new signing and ex-Cobbler Shaun Harrad making his mark in front of goal. Harrad has hit six goals so far and made his mark in Monday’s FA Cup Second Round game with Hereford by pouncing to open the scoring before the Bulls hit back. The away form is a slight cause for concern for them, though with just one point collected in the last four league trips albeit at leaders Gillingham. If they can get back into the groove at Sixfields, the Gills will be well in their sights, though with just six points separating the teams going into this weekend.
Bayo ready to feed again?
Bayo Akinfenwa should be raring to go again following his cameo from the bench on Tuesday and Cheltenham are one of his favourite opposition. The big man has scored eight times against the Rubies in as many games for the Cobblers and Gillingham over the last four seasons and has entered double figures for this season already.
Cheltenham top scorer Shaun Harrad was a key figure in keeping the Cobblers in the Football League in 2011 before he was sold to Bury by Gary Johnson. Harrad went on to join Rotherham on loan last season before signing for the season at Whaddon Road in the summer.
Rubies goalkeeping coach Steve Book is the son of former Cobblers keeper Kim Book, the man who was hit for six by George Best in 1970.
Cobblers defender Clarke Carlisle is still waiting on clarification as to whether he has served his one match ban through the JPT tie. If he has he should go straight back into the squad for this one. David Artell and Luke Guttridge are still out with long term injuries and Alex Nicholls will be missing for the rest of the season. Bayo Akinfenwa and Chris Hackett should return after being rested from the start on Wednesday night
Cheltenham’s Sido Jombati and Lawson D’ath both returned to action for the reserves in midweek and could stake a claim for a first team place tomorrow. Chris Zebroski was ill earlier this week but is looking likely to recover in time for the trip to Sixfields.
Previous Six Meetings…
03/03/12: Cheltenham 2-2 Cobblers (League Two)
Ben Tozer and Bayo Akinfenwa gave the Cobblers a surprise two goal lead at Whaddon Road in the first half but the hosts hit back in the second as Darryl Duffy slotted in a penalty before clinching a point for his side in stoppage time.
20/08/11: Cobblers 2-3 Cheltenham (League Two)
In the second home game of last season, Darryl Duffy opened the scoring from the spot for Cheltenham on eleven minutes but goals either side of half time from Arron Davies and Bayo Akinfenwa steered the game in our favour. The Rubies had other ideas though and Duffy got on the end of a cross from ex-Cobbler Josh Low to level it before Low himself won it ten minutes from time.
08/01/11: Cobblers 1-1 Cheltenham (League Two)
The first of many draws in 2011 saw Billy McKay give the Cobblers an early lead before Wes Thomas netted the equaliser just after half-time.
09/10/10: Cheltenham 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)
Dean Beckwith’s red card at Whaddon Road saw the Cobblers reduced to ten men within the opening quarter of the game. It took until the hour mark, though, for Cheltenham to take advantage and Brian Smikle scored the winner.
27/02/10: Cobblers 2-1 Cheltenham (League Two)
After a goalless first half, things came to life in the second. Bayo Akinfenwa put us in front and Marley Watkins looked like he’d earned a draw for the visitors. But Seb Harris scored his only goal for the club with five minutes to go to settle it.
05/12/09: Cheltenham 2-2 Cobblers (League Two)
In a see-saw battle, Barry Hayles opened the scoring before Bayo levelled just a minute later. Hayles was again on target on the half hour mark but Akinfenwa matched him, sealing a point just after the break.
The man in the middle…
Andy Davies is the referee at Sixfields on Saturday. Davies has already taken charge of a Cobblers game this season in the 3-2 defeat at Plymouth with this season his first in the Football League. So far he’s shown thirty three yellow cards and one red in eleven matches during the campaign.
Hopefully all Cheltenham eyes will be on Tuesday night’s cup replay with Hereford with the knowledge that the winner sets up a home game with Everton. That’s one way we could pick up a big win but a lot could rest on how the visitors keep hold of Bayo Akinfenwa and stop his obligatory goal against them. I’m thinking it’ll be a close one with a score draw one that both might well be happy with. 1-1.