League 2 : Northampton Town- Carlisle United
I previewed United's trip to highflying Southend at the end of last month ......
Hosts are 8-1 (goals scored -conceded) at home before the break, Carlisle have the worst first half goal difference of -13 in the division, with no one else even reaching double figues. We spoke about them earlier this month ahead of a trip to Luton Town .... Carlisle have won three of their last five and those points have seen them pull away from the drop zone, but they do not do draws, just three all season (10%) and if there is to be a winner today , it will surely be the Hatters, Town won the reverse fixture 1-0 and United have underperformed big time against the stronger teams in the division and have picked up just one point from a possible 36 against teams currently in the top nine, losing the last nine and conceding at least two in the last six.
They lost that 1-0 and have subsequently lost 3-2 at home to Wycombe Wanderers, so are now 0-1-13 against top 9 teams, losing 11 in a row and conceding at least twice in 7 of the last 8 ! Given that and the fact that my eldest daughter, who is "lucky" and always sees lots of goals, is going to this with a bunch of Southend supporting friends from Uni, I have to take a little on the hosts. United have had a long week of prep, manager Phil Brown had everyone in for a lengthy extra training session last Sunday after the loss at Stevenage and I expect a reaction. The visitors have a relegation six pointer on Tuesday at home to one of the few teams below them in the table and their attention might quickly turn to that if things are not going well this afternoon.
They lost that 2-0 and I have it on "good authority" that they were clueless that day, anyway, they are now 0-1-14 against top 9 teams, losing 12 straight and conceding two or more in 8 of 9 . United are back in trouble, just three points above the drop zone and in real danger of a second straight relegation, that will concentrate the mind, but the truth is they have got used to losing over the last two seasons, winning just 22 times and losing 44, so twice as many times and let too many of those games against the stronger teams slide without too much of a battle.
Town are not a top 9 team, at least not yet, but they are 10th and have been playing at top 3 level for several months and are 9-2-2 since the turn of the year 5-0-0 at home to bottom half teams, the Cobblers are closing in on a playoff spot and I can see no let up from them this evening. We also spoke about their improvement last month, ahead of a visit from Morecambe ....Home boss Chris Wilder makes a habit of late season charges up the table and looks on course for another. His team have won their last four with an 11-1 goal difference, including clean sheets against promotion rivals Newport County and Exeter City, they have conceded just one goal from open play this year and perhaps most noteworthy of all, was the 5-1 win at Accrington Stanley last weekend, where they played 52 minutes with ten men and scored three goals after the dismissal of Ryan Cresswell, who is suspended today. Wilder and Town took some tough decisions in the transfer window and were ruthless in their dealings and also ambitious, apparently turning down a big bid from a top Championship club for one of their promising youngssters (Ivan Toney) . He is not getting a huge amount of game time as top scorer Marc Richards with 15 goals is on fire. Only Shrewsbury Town, who are 12-2-0 have scored more home goals than the Cobblers and supporters feel that right now, Town are playing as well as at any time over the last three seasons. H2h wise, just one defeat for them in 11 starts against Morecambe, they won the reverse fixture 1-0 and can follow up today. Toney scored in that game and could have had at least one, maybe two more in a dominating performance for Town, the visiting keeper was not asked to make a save until injury time and they can complete the double. Morecambe are desperate to bring in one or two bodies on loan, but funds are very tight and someone will have to come off the payroll first and that is proving difficult.
Town have won 4 of their last 5 after adjusting to the injury to top scorer Marc Richards ( see above) and now lose winger Ricky Holmes, on the positive side, striker James Gray has joined on loan from Accrington Stanley and midfielder Joel Byrom returns from suspension, they are 7-1-0 at home when he plays and his energy levels are vital to the team. United created next to nothing in a rare draw (see above) with York City at the weekend and it is games like that which will decide their fate, matches against the other botton half teams, especially those on home soil. United to have one eye on the visit from Morecambe at the weekend and Town to win this. 1.25 units Northampton Town -0.75 ball 2.07 asian line/Sportmarket.