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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Northampton have the tools to topple toothless Robins

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Northampton striker Andy Williams
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Northampton Cheltenham
Poor home results are undermining Northampton's Sky Bet League Two promotion push but the Cobblers have a great chance to bank their first home win of the season when taking on struggling Cheltenham this weekend.

Two points separate 18th-placed Northampton from Cheltenham but that gap is likely to widen significantly over the next eight months.

After keeping the bulk of the squad who were narrowly relegated last season and adding winger Junior Morias and striker Andy Williams, Northampton were hoping to be among League Two's front runners.

High expectations have not been met by early-season results but Dean Austin's side have not been too far away from piling up the points.

Across their three home league games this season they have won the aggregate shot count 52 to 24 and collected just two points from nine.

Part of the problem could be put down to wasteful finishing but Northampton's pool of strikers are talented enough to flourish in the fourth tier and their luck should change soon.

And, if they can get their noses in front against Cheltenham, it may be tough for the visitors to respond.

Cheltenham have had two managers this season – Gary Johnson and caretaker-boss Russell Milton – and are heading for a third with Michael Duff (Burnley's under-23s coach) set to take charge after the weekend.

But their main problem is a lack of quality, especially in attack since the summer sale of star striker Mo Eisa, scorer of 23 league goals last season, to Bristol City.

The Robins have scored just three goals in six league games and they may have to do some shrewd business in January to have a better chance of avoiding the drop.

3pts 8-11 bet365, Betway

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Southend v Peterborough
Sky Bet League One leaders Peterborough lost their 100 per cent record with a 1-1 draw at home to Doncaster last Saturday but Steve Evans' side have a great chance of bouncing back with a win over mid-table Southend at Roots Hall.

Peterborough have been securing good results despite not faring particularly well on shot statistics.

The Posh have had fewer shots in all of their six league matches but they have been making the most of their opportunities thanks to the quality they possess in attack.

Six-goal striker Jason Cummings is joint-top of the third-tier scoring charts and Matt Godden has netted four league goals since a summer switch from Stevenage.

Peterborough's strikers are being well serviced by fleet-footed winger Sikiri Dembele and their potency on the counter-attack has been a key aspect of eye-catching away wins at Rochdale (4-1) and Plymouth (5-1).

Peterborough are far from being the finished article and need to gain more control of games if they are to match Sunderland and Barnsley stride for stride in the promotion race. But they are a dangerous side and look attractively priced.

Southend were leading the League One shot statistics in the early part of the season but performances and results have tailed off as the injury list has mounted.

And manager Chris Powell admits to facing a tricky selection with ten to 12 players likely to be absent.

Midfield duo Timothy Dieng and Sam Mantom are struggling with injuries and Harry Lennon (toe), Dru Yearwood (hamstring), Ted Smith (shoulder), Sam Barrett, Rob Kiernan (both knee) and Luke Hyam (ankle) are definite absentees.

The situation is made even worse by suspensions for goalkeeper Mark Oxley and winger Michael Kightly plus international call-ups for Cyprus defenders Harry Kyprianou and Jason Demetriou.

Powell admits Southend are "going through some choppy waters" and his injury-ravaged team could be the latest to be sunk by Peterborough's slick attack.

Peterborough +0.25 on Asian handicap
3pts 17-20 bet365

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Scunthorpe v Rochdale
Stuart McCall has kicked off his reign as Scunthorpe manager with a couple of draws – 1-1 at Accrington last Saturday and 0-0 at home to Wolves Under-23s in the EFL Trophy – and can secure a first victory when his side host Rochdale at Glanford Park.

Scunthorpe decided on a change of manager, replacing Nick Daws with McCall, because they thought the players should be doing better.

But they have been competitive in most of their games and their six-point tally is only one fewer than mid-table Rochdale, who are pleased with their progress under Keith Hill.

The Iron had a few injury problems early in the season with key winger Josh Morris and influential midfielder Funso Ojo missing games but both are back to full fitness and can play a big part in lifting McCall's men up the table.

It promises to be a tricky match for Rochdale, who look undeserving favourites.

Rochdale rode their luck to win 1-0 at Coventry last Saturday but regular defender Ryan Delaney is on international duty with the Ireland under-21s.

Delaney's absence could give Scunny the encouragement they need to register a first home win of the season.

Scunthorpe draw no bet
2pts 21-20 Hills

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Northampton's pool of strikers are talented enough to flourish in the fourth tier
E.W. Terms
Sky bet