Northampton v Derby | Friday 24th January 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
We’re slowly but surely starting to reach the real crunch period of the FA Cup and Friday night’s televised action between Northampton and Derby opens up the 4th Round proceedings.
It is League Two versus Championship at Sixfields, and everything is in place for a potential upset. Both teams are in good form, so enter this contest in high enough spirits.
Cobblers on a roll
Keith Curle has been in the Northampton hot-seat for a year and a bit now, and he’s now beginning to see the sort of team that he wants. They’ve reached this stage of the competition by beating Chippenham, Notts County and impressively Burton Albion to earn them a crack at the Rams, whilst they’re going great guns in league action, too.
NTFC find themselves positioned inside the League Two play-off positions before any of their rivals play this weekend, with a cluster of clubs separated by only a few points in the top-seven chasing pack. They’re on a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions, which also includes a hard-earned away win at Salford City.
Curle has conjured together an all-action squad, but also a clinical one, as well. By far the most interesting statistic I’ve come across in a while is the fact that although Northampton are the joint-third highest scorers in the league, they’re actually in 16th place in relation to the amount of shots on goal they’ve had.
This shows Town don’t need many opportunities to score, and this Derby back four will have to be more than aware of this.
Derby finding ways to win
I, like most, haven’t been entirely convinced by Derby this season under Dutchman Phillip Cocu. Even now, whilst they’re enjoying a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions, they’ve not necessarily been the most convincing within that period. Having said that, they did win away at Crystal Palace to reach this stage of the cup, albeit a much-changed Eagles outfit.
Within this six-game run, each of their four victories has been by a one-goal margin. It is also a positive to come out on the right side of these close encounters, but it also means the margin for error is so small. Therefore, those four wins could have easily been draws, or worse.
I’m not prepared to go overboard by the addition of Wayne Rooney either. Clearly he has made an impact on the pitch, but this Friday will be the 34-year-old’s fifth game in 23 days, and he’s played every minute of every game in this run.
Whilst we’ve touched upon Northampton not necessarily creating a lorry load of chances considering the amount of goals they’ve scored, the situation is clearer when it comes to Derby.
County are ranked 22nd in the Championship top scorers table, and 19th in the total shots on goal standings. Sure, Rooney provides additional creativity but they’re not one to blow teams away and that is what gives Northampton a real shot on an upset on this occasion.
The betting angles
I certainly don’t envisage a high-scoring game on this occasion, mainly due to the reasons mentioned above. Also take into the account the fact that Northampton played in midweek away at Leyton Orient, and it gives the League Two men a tough, but not impossible, task of beating their second-tier opposition.
We can’t deny that Derby have started to offer more in recent times and with them firmly in mid-table, you could argue this is a more important game for them than it is promotion-chasing Northampton. It is a good distraction for Derby, especially in the wake of a possible point’s deduction hanging over their heads. Under 2.5 Goals (21/20 VBet) represents decent value, in my eyes.
Curle has been bemoaning their recent schedule and suggested the need to rotate his squad, and that just places some doubt in my mind and that’s why I’m backing Derby here, although a Draw/Derby HT/FT (39/10 Marathon) selection means it should be tighter to begin with and open up later on.
Northampton actually have an excellent first-half record this season, so Derby should show full respect and both will push to win this, and Derby’s class I feel should tell eventually.
Northampton v Derby – Draw/Derby HT/FT (39/10 Marathon)
Northampton v Derby – Under 2.5 Goals (21/20 VBet)