Cheltenham v Northampton | Monday 22nd June 2020, 20:00 | Sky Sports
It is very much advantage Cheltenham after their 2-0 first leg triumph at Sixfields over Northampton. Michael Duff’s men very much ‘did a job’ on Thursday night, and it probably all turned on Wigan loanee Owen Evans saving an early Ryan Watson penalty.
The Robins would score through a set piece and then add another with a few minutes remaining, whilst in-between they did rely on Evans on some occasions, but in truth they never looked like losing.
Former England international Keith Curle will have been disappointed to see his team concede in the fashion that they did, and it presents them with a mammoth, but not impossible, task to turn matters around to try and book a spot at Wembley Stadium against either Exeter or Colchester.
Cobblers weren’t in the best of shape prior to the regulation League Two campaign being forced to a halt. They huffed and puffed and tried their best to get back into the match, but Cheltenham defensively looked like an outfit who indeed had the best defensive record in the league this season. Duff, a former defender himself in his playing days, has set this team up to be hard to beat and clinical in attack, and they were exactly that in the first tie.
The question is what have Northampton got left in locker. They ultimately need to produce the perfect performance to at the very least take this one to extra time. The worry for them is that Cheltenham are unbeaten in their last seven at Whaddon Road, and won six of those in question. That included a 2-1 win against Northampton back in February, and Duff would gladly take a repeat.
Form should really go out the window considering we’ve had an enforced three-month break, but the reality is that Northampton have lost seven on their past nine in all competitions, including three of their latest four away. Home advantage hasn’t been counting for much across in German football since returning, and Northampton really need a big, big display on Monday, but Cheltenham have things in complete control.
There has only been four occasions in league action this season when Cheltenham has conceded two or more goals in a game. The last of those came in the 2-1 defeat to Forest Green all the way back in November. Every league game since then they’ve conceded a maximum of one goal in any match, so absolute everything is pointing towards the Robins getting across the line in this tie.
The reality is that Northampton will have to have a go at some point, possibly not right away, but eventually. Both teams will have had one game to blow off the cobwebs after over 100 days out of action and it could be that we may see a better version of both teams this time around. That would be a worry for Northampton as they really need Cheltenham to underperform.
I didn’t see enough from Northampton in the first leg to believe they can turn things around, but at the same time I’d worry backing Cheltenham outright as they don’t necessarily need to go gung-ho for goals themselves.
I think Cheltenham Double Chance has to form part of the equation, and I’ll add Under 3 Goals to form a bet-builder at 21/20 (Bet365). Cheltenham could easily keep another clean sheet here, whilst Northampton may again just lack the desired end product to really make a game of this.
Cheltenham v Northampton – Cheltenham Double Chance and Under 3 Goals (21/20 Bet365)