Saturday sees the start of a very important month for Northampton Town, as the Cobblers hope to pull away from the dreaded relegation zone.
Northampton’s last two matches have ended in the Cobblers picking up two points, drawing against Oxford United at Sixfields and Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park. The most recent match, against Oxford, was a frustrating one for the fans and the team, as Town saw many chances wasted while breaking through a poor Oxford defence. The match was covered with controversy, but nothing to do with the referee for once.
The controversy surrounded manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and his decision making, mainly his substitutions. In the second half, after playing incredibly well, winger Gboly Ariyibi was taken off by Hasselbaink to a chorus of boos, with the fans annoyed at the choice of player leaving the pitch. With no offence meant to fellow winger Sam Hoskins, Ariyibi was the standout player throughout the match, so to take him off was clearly the wrong decision, or at least it seemed.
After the match, Hasselbaink stated that the American loanee had suffered a hamstring injury and that was the reason for taking him off so early. Despite this, Ariyibi seems to be 100% fit and available for selection this Saturday so it is yet to be confirmed as to whether Ariyibi genuinely had a problem with his hamstring or whether Hasselbaink was making an excuse to cover up his mistake. Either way, the Cobblers fans are not very pleased with their manager, and at the full-time whistle, more boos were heard.
These seemed unnecessary though, as the side still managed to pick up a point against a team higher up in the table. It was a frustrating match, but booing the team off was maybe not needed. Hasselbaink didn’t take too kindly to this, and moaned about the fans after the match, which has led to a divide between those fans who are loyal to the manager and agree with the comments he made, and those who are angry about the comments and will continue to get on his back.
As for team news, striker Kevin Van Veen remains a doubt after picking up a knee injury against AFC Wimbledon last month. Hasselbaink said:
“Kevin is progressing but perhaps not as quickly as we would have hoped,” said boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
“He trained on Monday for the first time and we are pushing him a little bit harder.
“We need to see how he reacts to the training but I think he will be touch and go for the weekend.”
Long-term injuries to Aaron Phillips and Aaron Pierre keep them out for Saturday’s match but there are thankfully no other concerns as of Friday. One player that will be available for selection is striker Kevin Luckassen. Luckassen signed for Northampton on Thursday afternoon on a contract until the end of the season following spells at AZ, Ross County, Slovan Liberac and, most recently, SKN St. Polten. The signing of Luckassen gives Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink another attacking option with the injury to Kevin Van Veen and the slightly out-of-form Chris Long.
A win for the Cobblers could see them climb as high as 18th with results going their way. A draw or loss could see Northampton drop into the relegation zone, if Fleetwood Town are able to pick up a win against Plymouth Argyle. Other fixtures that could affect us include MK Dons’ trip to Bradford City, Blackpool’s tricky trip to league leaders Blackburn Rovers, Oldham Athletic’s trip to strugglers Bury and AFC Wimbledon’s home tie against Oxford United.
My score prediction: 1-1.