Fleetwood Town return to the Sixfields Stadium on Saturday in the npower League 2 to play Northampton.
By David Mitchell
Three seasons after facing Northampton Town as a Blue Square North side in the FA Cup First Round, Fleetwood Town return to the Sixfields Stadium on Saturday in the npower League Two play-off places. Andy Mangan's injury time header gave Town all three points in a 1-0 victory at Highbury back in September.
Graham Alexander's side defend a five match unbeaten run at Northampton and will be buoyed by the impressive win at leaders Port Vale on New Year's Day. With a fourth clean sheet for the new boss, Town have the best defensive record in the division since Alexander's arrival with a consistent back five.
The manager has been understandably delighted with his side's response over the Christmas period:
'I've got to be pleased with the points we've gained. It has been a thoroughly professional performance from the lads. Despite the holiday period, they have obviously prepared properly away from the club as well as at training. This is a pleasing attitude which we need to take forward. In a nutshell, we are looking to win a game of football.'
The key January transfer window is beginning to yield results with Town's new signings, winger Gareth Evans and midfielder Mozesh 'Mozzi' Gyorio, eager for action. Another looking to make an impact in the coming weeks is Anthony Barry, back on the bench at Port Vale. Those who missed the New Year's Day victory through injury are likely to remain unavailable.
The Cobblers are one of five League Two clubs with eight home wins and have won 72% of their points at home, form which has taken Aidy Boothroyd's side to 10th, four points from the play-off positions with games in hand on those above.
A 3-1 home win over Dagenham and Redbridge on New Year's Day was their fifth in the last six home games and proved welcome after two successive postponements over Christmas. Alexander does not necessarily regard this as a negative for Northampton:
'The postponements might be a benefit as they will not have had as heavy a schedule.'
However, for Boothroyd, his side looked 'ring-rusty' and the manager attributed this to the enforced break in action. In an interview with the 'Northampton Chronicle and Echo', he recognised the importance of the coming weeks:
'The result has given us the platform to push-on for the play-offs. We've got games in hand but we are going to be playing against teams around us now and it's important we build on this win. The most important stat is the score line in the next game.'
Boothroyd is keen to put right September's narrow defeat in Lancashire:
'We travelled a long way, Danny (East) shouldn't have been sent off, we defended well against a good team and got beat in the last few seconds. We need to put that right but it won't be easy.'
Graham Alexander could be meeting up with a familiar face from both Burnley and Preston days in the shape of defender Clark Carlisle. Carlisle has played five times for the Cobblers on loan from York and Boothroyd revealed to BBC Northampton that he was hoping to get a deal sorted in time for Carlisle to face Town.
The Cobblers leading scorer in the league is Ade Akinfenwa, with 14 goals. Akinfenwa is one of the few survivors on either side from the 2009 Cup tie. His goals have helped ensure that the Cobblers have not had a no score draw for 16 league games.