Match Preview: Northampton Town v Cambridge United

Northampton Town v Cambridge United: League One

The Cobblers return from a third international break of the season on Saturday as Cambridge United visit Sixfields looking to recover from a disaster of a performance at London Road last time out.
 
Town have come back from the last two breaks unusually sluggish with performances against Port Vale and, in the first half, against Bolton well below what Jon Brady expects. Brady has said this week that the club have made some changes to their training schedule for these last two weeks in an attempt to come back with higher levels of energy and, though Tuesday night’s defeat was a dead rubber in the EFL Trophy at Milton Keynes, that would have been helpful to a few in terms of getting back on the pitch.
 
So hopes are high of us building on the 2-0 home win over Burton earned just before the break and the return of captain Jon Guthrie should help. That victory was vital in keeping the Cobblers above the bottom four and the carrot now is to start making our way clear of that line altogether. A wounded animal awaits in a Cambridge side smarting from a 5-0 hammering at that blue lot from down the road two weeks ago and they’ll be looking to frustrate and get back to basics in a bid to stave off that relegation zone themselves.
 

The Opposition

Since returning to the Football League in 2014, Cambridge have slowly built themselves back to an established position within the pyramid. The first job was to avoid getting suckered back into the abyss where they spent nine seasons and they did a more than competent job of that before making their big move by finishing second in League Two in 2021.
 
Under U’s fan Mark Bonner, they’ve stabilised themselves at this level. albeit with a dramatic final day of the season escape thrown in last season. United were odds on favourites for the drop back in May going into the last day and needed a victory themselves over already relegated Forest Green coupled with both MK and Morecambe dropping points. They did their own job and learned of Morecambe losing at Exeter before having to wait for an agonising five minutes at the end of their own game for confirmation that MK had only drawn theirs. Safety was secured and Bonner could once again plan for League One football.
 
The summer saw influential figures like Harvey Knibbs, Sam Smith and Joe Ironside leave with a policy of quality over quantity in those coming through the door in the opposite direction. Sullay KaiKai returned to the Abbey after a loan spell earlier in his career while Jordan Cousins was a terrific signing from Wigan. The U’s hit the ground running with four wins in their opening six games but reality hit soon after and they’ve recorded just one victory in League One since September 4.
 
There have been encouraging signs in draws at Derby and at home to unbeaten Portsmouth but the 5-0 defeat at London Road last time out was a hammer blow to fans expecting a lot more fight for their derby fixture at the very minimum. A two-week international break landed at the right time for them in that sense and Bonner’s players will come to Sixfields with a real point to prove on Saturday.
 

Last Time Out

The Cobblers saw off Burton Albion 2-0 at Sixfields two weeks ago while Cambridge were hammered 5-0 by that blue lot from down the road.

One To Watch

Fejiri Okenabirhie is a proven goal scorer at this level and has netted eight times so far this season.

Okenabirhie was on the books at Arsenal and Stevenage as a youngster before moving to Harrow Borough in 2015. Productive spells at Dagenham and Redbridge, Shrewsbury and Doncaster followed before Cambridge swooped for his services in July 2022. After a struggle of a a first season at the Abbey, he’s started this season like a man on a mission and should lead the U’s attack at Sixfields.

Team News

The Cobblers could bring Jon Guthrie back into the fold after the defender played for half an hour during Tuesday night’s EFL Trophy defeat at Stadium:MK. Louis Appéré also got some more minutes in his legs during that one and could be ready to start. Lee Burge, Tyler Magloire, Ben Fox and Danny Hylton remain sidelined and Ali Koiki is a doubt after picking up a hamstring injury at MK.

Cambridge should welcome back Sullay Kaikai after he had to miss the derby defeat for personal reasons. Gassan Ahadme could be pushing for a start after coming off the bench at London Road. 

Line-Up Prediction

Match Officials

Lewis Smith is the referee on Saturday, making it a fairly quick return to Sixfields for him – Smith was in charge on the opening day for the Cobblers’ home defeat to Stevenage. Darren Wilding and Scott Williams are running the lines and Conor Farrell is fourth official.

Prediction

This should be a tight one with Cambridge wanting to get back on form after that disastrous derby day a couple of weeks back. They’re likely to try and stop us playing so there probably won’t be a lot in it but i’ll go for us to nick it 1-0. 

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