Following a disappointing defeat at home to Tranmere last weekend, City embark on the first of two away trips in a matter of days with a visit to a side putting together a run that could mean a late dash towards the playoffs. The revolving injury door continued apace with Ryan Bowman missing the match with a thigh strain, but better news came in the shape of Nicky Law returning to the bench. If Law is fit enough to start Matt Taylor will surely slot him straight in, although that might be at the expense of Matt Jay who would rightly feel hard done by having scored twice and played well in the three matches since deputising. Elsewhere Taylor may look to go with the wingback system favoured at Lincoln which could therefore accommodate both Law and Jay, the latter playing further up the pitch in a support striker role.
Northampton, continuing to be beset by off-field issues surrounding the building of a new stand, perhaps allowed their eyes to drift from the ball on the pitch and go into Saturday’s encounter 16th in the table. Keith Curle was brought in to replace Dean Austin and has seen gradual improvement, with the Cobblers now on a five match unbeaten run following successive away wins at Stevenage and Crewe. Curle’s side will not have given up hope of a late surge putting them in the playoffs, although a nine point gap in March may be just too much. Like City post-Stockley the lack of a regular goal scorer may be their undoing, experienced striker Andy Williams heads the league scoring charts with eight, although former Scunthorpe striker Kevin Van Veen is overall top scorer with 10. John-Joe O’Toole is vastly experienced at this level and will be the player most likely to pull the strings.
On a few occasions this season City have been unable to hold a lead once the clock has ticked over 90 minutes, and the reverse fixture was one such occasion. Northampton led through Billy Waters, but City had come back to lead through Taylor and Stockley. However, the latter proved his scoring prowess extended to both penalty boxes with an injury time own goal. City’s last visit to Sixfields was in Northampton’s championship-winning 15/16 season, the signs being ominous in August when City were trounced 3-0, the scorers Jason Taylor, Ryan Cresswell and Marc Richards. The sides have met frequently in league competition with Northampton comfortably ahead, winning 47 times to City’s 28, 30 matches finishing level. Details of the last 18 games between the two side can be found at http://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?p=9878
Match officials for this game are:-
Referee: Andy Haines
Assistants: Nicholas Cooper and Joe Clark
Fourth Official: Gregory Read
Nine games in charge of Exeter games for Andy Haines, details at http://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?s=haines