With the January transfer window entering its final week, managers across the EFL will have to focus on making their squads the best they can be to ensure a smooth transition into the second half of the season.
For Saturday’s hosts Lincoln City, it is a case of potentially strengthening an already impressive squad in order to keep their promotion chase going in League One.
Meanwhile their opponents Northampton Town are fighting at the other end of the table, so will hope they any new additions will be able to help guide them to safety.
But for this weekend, the focus turns entirely to the 90 minutes of football between the two.
Lincoln boss Michael Appleton will have both Conor McGrandles and Harry Anderson back after spells out. Thanks to their extended break due to two straight postponements, the only current regulars unavailable are Theo Archibald and Lewis Montsma.
In the other camp, Northampton manager Keith Curle has also had to cope with postponements, which has given centre-back Alan Sheehan extra time to recover from injury, with there being a possibility that he could feature on Saturday. Otherwise there are no fresh injury updates.
(4-3-3) Palmer, Eyoma, Jackson, Walsh, Edun, McGrandles, Bridcutt, Grant, Anderson, Scully, Johnson.
(3-5-2) Arnold, Harriman, Bolger, Horsfall, Hoskins, McWilliams, Watson, Sowerby, Mills, Rose, Ashley-Seal.
Lincoln have had their last two fixtures against Shrewsbury Town and Gillingham called off for different reasons, so their last game was over a week ago, when they easily dispatched of Accrington Stanley 4-0 in the EFL Trophy. Their last league match was a draw against fellow promotion chasers Peterborough United, although they will be hoping for a win here against a side that they are expected to beat.
Northampton have also had their last two games postponed, with both the call offs against Blackpool and Oxford United being due to the weather. So therefore their most recent game also came in the Trophy, losing 2-0 at home to MK Dons. The only other game they’ve managed in 2021 was a goalless draw at home to Sunderland, with their last league defeat coming against Lincoln in December, so will be hoping to avoid a repeat on Saturday.
Ones to watch
It was confirmed this week that young Lincoln forward Brennan Johnson would be remaining at the club for the rest of the season, after the deadline for Nottingham Forest to recall him had expired. That was a huge boost to the club, keeping hold of a player that has seven goals so far this season is vital for their promotion push. Two of those seven came against Northampton in December, so he will be aiming to repeat his goalscoring touch when he comes up against them again on Saturday.
In terms of goalscoring, Northampton have struggled this season, managing just 19 goals, which is the worst in the league. It also makes them the only side to have a ratio of less than a goal a game, which means that the forwards need to start producing in the final third. In terms of threats, wideman Sam Hoskins has four goals this season, including in their last league win at Gillingham, so eyes will be on him to hopefully deliver again, because goals win games.
It was just five weeks ago when these sides met in the reverse fixture, and as previously mentioned, Lincoln were comfortable winners. Goals from Johnson, Tom Hopper and Anthony Scully were enough to send the Imps into the automatic promotion places, which they have not since fallen out of. Prior to this, they met three times in the 2018/19 season, with Lincoln winning two and drawing the other. Northampton have not come out on top against City since a 2-1 win in January 2011, so will want that victory on Saturday for the first time in a decade.
How to watch
The game is available to watch for both sets of fans on each club’s individual iFollow pages. For season ticket holding Lincoln fans, the link is obtainable for free.
What the managers have said
Lincoln manager Michael Appleton spoke to the club’s media ahead of the game, believing that their opponents are in a better placed than when they last met. He said:
“They’ve made a couple of signings which is going to strengthen them.
“They’ve had a couple good results since we played them. They’re certainly in a better place than when we played them in December.
“They’ll be looking to improve a bit over the second half of the season and establishing themselves in League One will be their main objective.”
In the other dugout, Northampton boss Keith Curle spoke to the club site, explaining that his side are ready for both Saturday and the challenge ahead. He said:
“Lincoln have had a good level of consistency this season and our challenge is to go there and upset them.
“We’re ready for Saturday. We’re well prepared and looking forward to the run of games we’ve got coming up.”