While it’s an embarrassment to lose 6-1 in any game, I would still argue that last Saturday’s capitulation against Bradford was worse as well as a potential defeat of any kind in this forthcoming game against Northampton. Tuesday’s result says a lot about the state we’re in at the moment, but it’s a result that’s easier to move on from simply because it came in the League Cup rather than the league.

The worry is that a heavy defeat for our first XI in a game that didn’t really matter, and one which comes in the midst of a packed schedule of fixtures, affects the ability of the players to physically and mentally in a game that is probably the most important of the season so far to win. Tony Mowbray didn’t have much choice but to pick the 11 players he ended up choosing, but losing by that margin puts further pressure on the team to bounce back.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

With no new signings having arrived this week and no-one looking like they’ll be back to full fitness in time, Tony Mowbray doesn’t have much choice but to name a similar 11 to one that has lost by an aggregate score of 9-2 over the past two games. This may be a time though to take Ben Stevenson out of the side just to protect him in what could be a toxic atmosphere for this game. I would expect a recall for Ruben Lameiras which may see us return to the 3-4-3 shape we’ve played over the first few games of the season.

The other call to be made is between Ryan Haynes and Lewis Page in that left wing-back slot. It’s starting to look like Haynes might be the better option out of the two, calling into question Mowbray’s judgement in signing Page in the first place. We did need someone to challenge Haynes’ position, but Page doesn’t seem to be demonstrably better than him and it’s hard to see what’s gained by exposing a young Premier League loan player rather than seeing what our own player can do with a run of games.

Last Time We Met

We last played Northampton relatively recently when we faced up to them in FA Cup back in November. Shorn of several key loan players to international duty and the instructions of their parent clubs, it was hardly surprising that it was a fairly toothless performance. Northampton didn’t create much but were very well drilled at the back and countered with efficiency in the first-half to twice take the lead with only a Jacob Murphy goal offering hope that we could actually win the tie.

How Are They Doing?

After losing Chris Wilder, as well as wingers Ricky Holmes and Nicky Adams, and midfield engine Danny Rose, it looked like it would be difficult for Northampton to start the season with momentum having won League Two last season. New manager Robert Page has made some fairly big changes to a winning formula but has kept them as solid as his Port Vale side were last season.

The Cobblers are yet to lose in the league this season and have done so via conceding just two goals in their first four games. They also enter this game with the momentum of having knocked Premier League West Brom out of the League Cup on penalties on Tuesday night. You’d imagine that they’ll fancy their chances in this game.

The main man thus far has been Alex Revell, brought to the club by Robert Page this summer. The hulking centre-forward is a classic, experienced, lower-league target-man striker but he also has the odd wonder goal in his locker. Of the two league goals Northampton have scored this season, both have come from his boot, with the first being credited as an own goal from the opposing goalkeeper.

Swansea loanee Kenji Gorré has caught the eye with his pace and trickery out wide. With the wide threat that Gorré poses and the physicality of Alex Revell up front, that’s a pretty classic smash-and-grab away day formula set for Northampton with the rest of the side set-up to soak up pressure and occasionally threaten from set-pieces, not least because they have the deliveries of former Portsmouth and Burnley man Matty Taylor to call upon.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

The other key man for Northampton is goalkeeper Adam Smith, who has kept up his impressive form from their League Two title winning season. The former Leicester City youth-teamer was sacked along with Scunthorpe’s Tom Hopper and Barnet’s James (son of Nigel) Pearson following an incident on a post-season tour last season, but has forged a reputation for himself as a player after some commanding performances in goal over the last season.

In ex-player watch, Aaron Phillips has started in most of Northampton’s games thus far this season after arriving this summer. The decision to release him was probably justified but the lack of a replacement for him makes Mowbray’s call seem stranger and stranger with each passing game. Phillips has acquited himself fairly well but may not feature due to the return of first-choice right-back Brendan Moloney from injury.

Prediction

There’s no doubt about it, this is our most important game of the season. The negativity has been growing and growing over the summer and a poor start to the season has only confirmed everyone’s worst fears. A win here would be the first small step to countering that negativity, a defeat here would eliminate any small amount of optimism left in most Sky Blues’ fans hearts.

Northampton are set-up to frustrate us and prey the sense of self-doubt that comes after a poor run of results. Not only that, but the Ricoh Arena is a big, and fairly close, day-out for Northampton fans, which just adds to the sense that this might be the perfect away day for them.

For some reason though, I still have hope that we can kick-start our season in this game and start to grow into the season. Probably because I don’t want to think about losing this game, but I’m going for a 2-1 victory for the Sky Blues.

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2 thoughts on “Preview: Northampton Town

  1. There is a great sense of realism in your narrative, albeit the prediction is perhaps overly optimistic; in fact to your credit you say so…

    I feel for Mowbray albeit I do not know if he is, like Pressley, running on a shoe-string, or just less talented than we thought.

    Our problems though rest with Sisu…, aside from the ancient history of Northampton past – which continues to disenfranchise a lot of suppporters – the decision to sell Maddison, underhand at the last moment, the decision to sell Vincelot – ditto- and the persistent distraction of behind the scenes of legal action, which reflects bad decision-making by inept managers and leads to partners distrustful of their motives.

    There is no new ground, Butts was never a goer and our landlords do not trust Sisu. The Alan Higgy situation is also farcical as Sisu knew a 2017 lease review was ahead but as with the Ricoh assumed they were the only kid in town… Our owners are poisonous, they are the reason the good folks of Coventry are reticent about turning up this season…

    That said, what we have on the pitch we have to support… you mention the questionable disposal of Philips, what about Aaron Martin!!! The using of kids is dangerous in this league, we know that and I agree with your sentiment on Stevenson. However, we are mis-managed. Losing Rose, Jones, Sordell and Thomas is also desperately unlucky for Mowbray…, I also wonder if Connor Thomas would have stayed in lesser terms and flourished now as we are lacking physicality in midfield, but we have not reached this situation quickly and look at the manager’s rational for player release at the end of last season…, where are the better replacements?

    Sisu’s financial predicament with the club and Mowbray’s perhaps more questionable transfer dealings are going to make for a relegation battle methinks. However, we cannot be rid of the former and there is probably no better for us than the latter; who would want to come to a joke club like Coventry these days – Robins got it right.

    And so I think your scoreline for Northampton is correct but maybe the wrong way around; I hope not though. A defeat would have serious implications for attendances and firmly place us in a relegation zone.

    All the best and thanks for the preview.

    Clive.

    Sent from my BlackBerry — the most secure mobile device — via the EE Network

    Like

    • Hi Clive,

      Thanks for the comment. I wouldn’t set too much store by my prediction, made more in hope than expectation.

      It’s hard to tell what decisions at the moment are Mowbray’s alone or affected by the way the club is run. The decisions to let Martin, Phillips & Conor Thomas to go seem to be Mowbray’s call, possibly down to the belief that better quality replacements would have been in prior to the start of the season. Have we been unable to get Mowbray’s targets because the budget was cut or was he being overly-ambitious? We’ll never know, probably a bit of both.

      I really fear what the atmosphere would be like were we to lose this, it wouldn’t be pretty. This game looks like it could well define our season.

      Like

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