Another game away from the League but a familiar face and an opponent we’ve already come up against. Does another glorious run start this weekend? Here are some things to look out for:
1) The Cobblers (All Northampton Town stats are League only)
We travelled to Northampton on the opening weekend, picking up a fortunate 3 points thanks mostly to Matt Green and Josh Vickers. Our opening game is also notable for including Eardley’s only assist this season. The Cobblers would have certainly felt hard done by to come away with nothing in the opener. They had significantly more possession (58%), 11 more shots, and 6 more shots on target. It took an inspired performance from our number 1 (more on him later) to keep them out and they’ll surely be eager for revenge.
Things didn’t pick up much for Keith Curle’s side since our visit and they’re languishing in 16th in League Two. They struggled to adapt to life in League Two and picked up just 1 win in their opening 12 games. In the 5 since then, however, there’s been a change. They’ve won 4 of this last 5, their form only blotted by a respectable 1-0 defeat at MK Dons. They beat Forest Green and thumped National League-bound Macclesfield 5-0 with Matty Crooks scoring a first-half hat-trick. As anyone who saw our opener, including Danny Cowley, knows, this won’t be a pushover.
2) Josh Vickers
I’ve seen some talk about Vickers of late which has questioned the decision to re-select him and send Grant Smith out on loan. For me, it’s the correct decision. Josh is a very well-rounded ‘keeper and I think he’s suffering from the short-term memory of football fans. We’ve seen him pull off some outstanding stops at vital times as well as being less prone to errors than most at this level.
His save percentage is currently at 77% and he’s kept 3 clean sheets. For comparison, Smith’s save percentage for the Imps is 71% and Slocombe’s is 63%. I feel that much of the calls for Smith to be first-choice stem from his association with a really good spell of form for the side. That’s undoubtedly true, Grant leads the way both in terms of how frequently we scored and conceded when on the pitch.
However, I would question the influence a ‘keeper necessarily has on this. The defenders undoubtedly performed better in Smith’s tenure. This can be seen in the fact that Smith only faced an average of 2.1 shots on target per 90 minutes while Josh has faced an average of 3.7. Poor Sam Slocombe has not been helped by playing behind our second string and has consequently faced an average of 5.7 per 90 – not including the shootouts in which he has performed admirably.
3) Matt Green
I think almost everyone was delighted for Matt to bag a brace in the Checkatrade and no doubt even the most ardent of Checkatrade haters wanted him to bury that chance denied by a great recovering challenge. Although he hasn’t always looked clinical when featuring off the bench this season, his numbers are now looking really impressive.
Green has played just 35% of the total minutes available despite making 20 appearances and has scored 5 and assisted 2 (including the penalty he won and dispatched himself). Those 7 goal contributions place him joint 3rd in the squad behind Akinde and Andrade and level with Anderson. However, he’s done it in far less time and his minutes per goal contribution is almost half an hour better than his closest rival (Green’s is 106, Akinde’s is 135). He’s already bagged the winner once against the Cobblers, can he do it again?