Can the Cobblers keep up the momentum of three successive victories without conceding a goal? Or will there be an immediate new manager bounce for Carlisle as Keith Millen takes charge of his first game in charge of the Cumbrians?
The Cobblers are well and truly back on track thanks to three wins in seven days last week and no goals conceded. If the Mansfield and Stevenage wins were par for the course, the victory at Tranmere was a massive boost to the confidence that we can be sustaining a promotion challenge this season. The new system that’s getting the very best out of the likes of Mitch Pinnock and Kion Etete has helped the Cobblers to turn a corner and we sit in the top three going into the weekend.
At the other end of the table, Carlisle have struggled so far this season having threatened the upper echelons of League Two under a year ago. With Keith Millen appointed as their new boss earlier this week, though, it could be a much trickier game than it might have been a week ago.
The Cumbrians went top of the table on 2 January this year following a 2-0 win at Walsall but didn’t play again until the end of that month as six games were postponed due to weather, floodlight failures and Covid. The momentum was lost and Chris Beech couldn’t keep his team in the reckoning with a raft of draws in April as they tried to catch up with games ending any hopes of securing even a playoff place.
This season, Beech couldn’t halt the slide and was given his marching orders after a 3-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers. Assistant manager Gavin Skelton took temporary charge for a 1-0 home defeat to Tranmere and then draws at Newport and at home to Oldham before Keith Millen was appointed as their new boss on Tuesday.
The reaction to the appointment has been pretty mixed with many United fans bemoaning the fact that they’re not getting in someone with more experience as a manager. Millen has been employed as, and has been recognised as a very good, coach since calling time on a playing career that stretched for twenty years with Brentford, Watford and Bristol City. His only experience as manager in England was his spell managing City between August 2010 and October 2011 but he has been effective as a coach and occasional caretaker manager at Crystal Palace and MK.
Millen then spent a season at Swedish side Örgryte IS before looking for top jobs back in England and doing some specialised coaching within the England set up with the FA. Carlisle answered the call this week and links up with Director of Football David Holdsworth having played with him at Watford. It’s another point of discussion among Carlisle fans that Holdsworth has helped to appoint another of his friends to the top job but there’s also a sense from some that Millen should just be given a chance to get his side out of a relegation battle.
Not that the man himself will allow any mention of the ‘r’ word though. In one of his first interviews, Millen said, in response to a question about his new teams’ league position,
““But you can’t do anything about that (the league position). All you can do is concentrate on Saturday. We’ve got 30-odd games still to go; I don’t understand why people would think that far. If it was five games to go, it’s a different conversation: then you know the pressure’s on, when you know you’ve got to win games.”
Millen will have had just two training days to work with his new squad ahead of the trip to Sixfields but will be desperate to kick his tenure off with a good result.
Last time out
One to watch
Zach Clough came to prominence with some quality showings for Bolton Wanderers when he was 19, breaking through the Trotters’ academy. Spells at Nottingham Forest and Wigan followed to lesser success and Carlisle snapped him up in the summer. Clough only has two goals to his name so far but will be looking to impress the new manager and he’s a player with real attacking quality for this level. Defender Rod McDonald also makes a welcome return to Sixfields!
Sam Hoskins picked up his fifth booking of the season last weekend and will sit out this one thanks to the one game suspension that comes with it. Joseph Mills and Sid Nelson are long term absentees, though Mills has progressed slightly this week with his cast coming off.
Carlisle are still without goalkeeper Magnus Norman with a leg injury. The experienced Mark Howard was signed on a short term deal earlier this month to cover between the sticks.
The Cobblers were victorious in the last game between the two sides with Scott Pollock scoring his first ever Town goal to break the deadlock back in October 2019. Sam Hoskins put the gloss on the scoreline late on and there was no second match between the sides that season due to the pandemic ending the league season early.
Ollie Yates is the man in the middle at Sixfields this weekend. Yates last took charge of a Cobblers game in the 2-2 home draw with AFC Wimbledon on the opening day of last season.
Charles: Cobblers 2-0 Carlisle
Danny: Cobblers 2-1 Carlisle
Neil: Cobblers 7-1 Carlisle
Jefe: Cobblers 6-0 (Koiki hattrick, Etete with two, Roberts with one straight from a goal kick)
A Cobblers fan all his life, Danny is the most down to earth football supporter from Northampton.
While at university in Southampton, Danny kept up to date with all things NTFC from afar, sharing his thoughts on his ‘A Load Of Cobblers’ online blog.