If ever a reminder was needed of the relentlessness of the football season, it is a First Round League Cup tie just a few days after that release of emotion on Sunday. With a fraction of the fans, a fraction of the atmosphere and a fraction of the on-pitch quality, this is very much an occasion for the hardcore football weirdos – even at a time when going to the football is such a novelty.
Expect second-string on second-string action here, with the game decided by whichever side fancies the outside chance of getting smacked by a second-string Premier League side the most in the next round.
For a man who won his first trophy as a manager in a meaningless cup competition, Mark Robins has quite a large level of contempt for meaningless cup competitions. Anyone expecting to see Sunday’s heroes back in action is going to be in for a surprise. It is entirely possible, perhaps even a certainty, that there could be as many as 11 eleven changes to the starting line-up.
The only areas where players who started on Sunday may be involved again in this game are at centre-back, where this is a shortage of available, senior players, and possibly at left wing-back, where Ian Maatsen could be handed minutes to help build his fitness levels. Additionally, the three substitutes on Sunday – Michael Rose, Jodi Jones and Tyler Walker – seem likely to start this game.
Otherwise, this is an opportunity for fringe players to build fitness as they look to break into the starting line-up. All eyes will surely be on whether the maverick, Bright Enobakhare, is involved in this game, with his talent capable of lighting up what is likely to be an otherwise forgettable contest. The aforementioned Tyler Walker may well be eyeing up this game as an chance to build some confidence in front of goal ahead of potentially usurping Martyn Waghorn’s potentially fragile position in the starting line-up.
Last Time We Met
The last time the Sky Blues took on Northampton Town was among one of the club’s lowest ebbs. On the way to relegation from League One and returning to Sixfields – a place associated with another low for the club – there was a parlous mood among the away end. With Russell Slade doing his best to stink things out on the pitch, an early red card for Jordan Willis was all that was required for the atmosphere to boil over.
With the game disrupted by flares and fans making their way onto the pitch, Coventry City slumped to a 3-0 defeat that left them bottom of the League One table, adrift of safety by eight points. It is remarkable to think now that such a successful period for the club was just around the corner.
The Manager – Jon Brady
With Northampton Town having slipped into League Two last season, the club appointed caretaker manager, Jon Brady, who did an okay job in steadying the ship towards the end of the previous campaign. The Australian has some managerial experience from a six-year stint with non-league side, Brackley Town, but has earned the job at Northampton Town as a result of rising through the ranks at academy level.
Just how wise a decision it is to appoint a caretaker manager after a short-term bounce last season remains to be seen. Brady is at least assisted by former Cobblers manager, Colin Calderwood – who was reportedly influential in Blackpool’s promotion from League One last season as an assistant – and has benefited from the club appointing further experience in the scouting department in Martin Foyle, which has seen the club recruit aggressively in the summer transfer market.
Who To Look Out For?
As ever, the question with these League Cup First Round ties are just how seriously either manager is likely to take the game. It makes predicting a potential starting line-up and danger-men all that more difficult. Excuses in, here are a handful of players who may catch the eye for Northampton in this game.
One player who may, quite literally, be the most noticeable in a Cobblers shirt will be Kion Etete. A former Notts County youngster who earned a move to Tottenham Hotspur, the nineteen year old stands at six foot and six inches. He could well be partnered by the exciting youngster, Caleb Chukwuemeka in attack, but it is rumoured that the loan deal for Etete involves Chukwuemeka going the other way.
Instead, Etete may have a former Coventry City target in attack, in Danny Rose. The former Mansfield striker is an energetic presence up front who could unsettle a relatively inexperienced Coventry City backline with his desire to press and surprising leap on him.
Out wide, one of Mitchell Pinnock or Dylan Connolly is likely to start in this game and could cause the defence problems with their skill and directness. Additionally, forward Sam Hoskins’ energy in wide areas could be another area where the Sky Blues back-line is caused problems.
Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost
With both managers likely to rotate heavily, a big question is whether a second-string Coventry City line-up is strong enough to still be able to expect to cruise to victory against a League Two side. It is not just a question of talent, but also motivation. The prize of an upset against higher-level opposition for Northampton Town could make this a tricky game for the Sky Blues, especially if the Cobblers score the first goal.
Nonetheless, the possibility of both Bright Enobakhare and Tyler Walker starting in this game really should tip the balance in favour of the Sky Blues. If the duo are anywhere close to top form in this game, it should be too much for a League Two side to handle. Whether either are at a level of fitness or motivation to get close to their top form this early into the campaign remains to be seen.