Christmas is drawing closer, and the mad rush to buy gifts goes on. With a similar analogy being true for teams across the EFL, as the rush to pick up as many points as possible continues, as the festive period comes to a climax.
And with another full weekend of fixtures ahead, there is another opportunity for teams in EFL League One to pick up those precious points.
Two sides that meet on Saturday are requiring points for entirely different purposes, as hosts Northampton Town look to pull themselves away from the relegation zone.
Whilst their opponents Lincoln City aim to overcome recent setbacks to get their promotion charge back on course.
Northampton boss Keith Curle has both Joe Martin and Shaun McWilliams serving the final game of their respective suspensions. Although Cian Bolger will be back to face his former club after being banned in midweek. Joe Nuttall, Joseph Mills and Scott Pollock remain long-term absentees.
In the other camp, Lincoln manager Michael Appleton will be without both Conor McGrandles and Liam Bridcutt who both have calf issues. Centre-back Adam Jackson will also be missing with a knee problem, with the latter two likely to be out until the New Year.
(3-5-2) Arnold, Dyche, Bolger, Harriman, Hoskins, Sowerby, Adams, Lines, Holmes, Smith, Rose.
(4-3-3) Palmer, Eyoma, Montsma, Jackson, Roughan, Gotts, Jones, Grant, Anderson, Hopper, Johnson.
Northampton go into the game off the back of three successive league defeats, with the one in midweek being particularly disappointing. The 4-0 loss away at fellow strugglers Oxford United involved a complete collapse in the second half, leaving the Cobblers in 20th. Which is a performance that will need to be massively improved upon if they are to get anything from a Lincoln side who have only lost once away from home this season.
Meanwhile Lincoln have encountered a bump in the road, in what has otherwise been a very smooth and successful season so far. Back-to-back defeats at home to Sunderland and Shrewsbury Town have seen the Imps drop out of the automatic promotion places and into fourth. However, they remain just two points off the summit, so a win here would get them right back on track, and keep them looking up, rather than down.
Ones to watch
The tall, no-nonsense centre-back will have watched on in horror at his teammates second half display on Tuesday. But will have known it meant he was likely to be thrown straight back into the starting line-up this weekend. He will come up against familiar opponents, facing a side who he spent 18 months at, before being sold by them to his current employers in July. He was just one of the many victims in the mass summer exodus at Sincil Bank, so the Irishman will be looking to prove his worth against them on Saturday.
19-year-old forward Johnson has been impressive since his loan move from Nottingham Forest in the summer. But if there is one aspect of his game that he’d like to improve on, it would be his finishing. Whilst the game against Sunderland was finely poised at 0-0, the youngster had two golden opportunities to score, but put both wide, before the Black Cats scored and ran away with the game. So he will be hoping he can prove his goalscoring ability to Appleton, and take his chances when they come to him on Saturday.
These sides last met during the 2018/19 season in EFL League Two, with Lincoln taking four points off Town as they went on to win the title. They also met in the FA Cup first round that season, with City winning 3-2 on their way to a third round tie with Everton. However, prior that, Northampton had been unbeaten in seven meetings with the Imps between 2005 and 2011, winning four of them. So will therefore be looking to recapture that good form against them here, whereas Lincoln will want to make it four unbeaten, and back-to-back away wins at Sixfields.
The game is available to watch for both sets of fans on each club’s individual iFollow pages. For season ticket holding Northampton fans, the link is obtainable for free.
What the managers have said
Northampton manager Keith Curle has spoken to the club’s website, highlighting how important the fans will be in effecting the game. He said:
“The supporters of this football club are massive and we need them now.
“They know the results haven’t gone exactly the way we would have wanted, but the supporters can play a massive part for us.”
In the other dugout, Lincoln boss Michael Appleton spoke to local media, and is expecting a tough challenge in an unpredictable league. He said:
“They’ve changed their formation in recent times, so it’ll be interesting to see which way they go.
“They’re a team which are desperate for points and it’ll be a tough challenge away from home.
“We’ve already seen this season that the league is unpredictable and anyone can beat anyone.”