Match Preview: Northampton Town v Oxford United

Northampton Town v Oxford United: League One

The final game before Christmas sees the Cobblers welcome Oxford United to Sixfields on Saturday with the U’s looking to build on Des Buckingham’s first win in charge last weekend and Town hoping to sit in the top half by the time Santa does his rounds. The thought of a place in the top half at Christmas would have been something we would have bitten anyone’s hand off for when we were looking ahead to the season in August and Jon Brady and co have once again pushed not just to meet expectations but to smash them.
 
2023/24 has begun just as 2022/23 ended – with dramatic highlights, backs to the walls and gutsy performances and a playing style that has seen us take to League One very well indeed. There have been obvious bumps along the road but, for the most part, it’s been thoroughly enjoyable with the heroes from last season stepping up to the higher level and pushing themselves to new heights.
 
Saturday will see us tested once again with the visit of old rivals Oxford United, who are holding onto a place in the top six and look to be one of the favourites for promotion. With another big crowd expected, Christmas spirits in the air and two teams who enjoy attacking, this should be a belter!

 

The Opposition

Oxford were in danger of dropping out of League One in the wrong direction last season with a dreadful run of form under Karl Robinson bringing to an end the former MK bosses’ time at the club. There was genuine fear that a club who had previously flirted with promotion were about to be relegated back to League Two but the managerial change was made just in time for safety to be assured.
 
Liam Manning came in and stabilised the side, making them hard to beat in his first few games before picking up vital wins over Cheltenham and Forest Green to confirm their place in League One for this season. Manning took them on a fantastic run at the start of this season too and had them in the top two for most of the early running. Ten wins from their opening twelve games was a signal that Oxford were back in business but another unexpected twist was about to occur.
 
Manning, only in the job for eight months, was called on by Championship side Bristol City to replace Nigel Pearson and the U’s were again on the hunt for a new head coach to try and continue Manning’s work. Des Buckingham quickly emerged as the favourite for the role and everything about his appointment made sense. Buckingham was born in Oxford, is an Oxford fan and worked under Chris Wilder at the club before moving to have success in New Zealand, Australia and India in top roles. Buckingham won the Indian Super League with Mumbai City and was voted as Coach of the Year by the Indian Players Football Association, returning to England highly recommended and sought after.
 
It hasn’t been plain sailing so far with the first league win coming as recently as last weekend but there’s a sense that some of his ideas and abilities to change games are already coming through. Expect to see a lot of attacking intent and plenty of emphasis on wing play from the U’s this weekend – it should be a cracker!
 

Last Time Out

The Cobblers drew 2-2 at Carlisle United with a late equaliser from Keiron Bowie earning us a point. Oxford picked up their first league win under Des Buckingham as they saw off Burton Albion 3-0.

One To Watch

Playing just behind the front line for the Us is the exciting Rúben Rodrigues. The Portuguese midfielder has the ability to turn a game in an instant and scored twice last weekend to take his tally for the season to six.

Rodrigues joined Oxford from Notts County in the summer having helped them to promotion back to the Football League and is a maverick style player that no-one enjoys playing against. 

Team News

Lee Burge, Aaron McGowan and Danny Hylton are all close to returning for the Cobblers but Louis Appéré hasn’t returned to training yet and is a major doubt for the weekend. Ben Fox and Ali Koiki will be missing until at least the end of January and Tyler Magloire is still a long way off a return yet.

Oxford will hope to welcome back Billy Bodin after he missed the victory over Burton but Marcus Browne is missing with a hamstring injury and Kyle Edwards is out until the New Year. Greg Leigh, Stephen Negru and Sam Long are also unavailable. 

Line-Up Prediction

Match Officials

Craig Hicks is the appointed referee on Saturday. Hicks was last in charge of the Cobblers on the final day of last season as we were promoted at Tranmere. Daniel Flynn and Daniel Cook are running the lines and Ryan Head is fourth official.

Prediction

There’s absolutely goals in this one as Oxford look to come and attack the Cobblers. So I’m going for a second 2-2 draw in a row.

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