Northampton Town v Mansfield Town
The second leg of the League Two Playoffs is upon us and Northampton enter this home leg knowing they need to overturn a deficit, but can take a lot of confidence from their performance at Field Mill last Saturday. Mansfield’s clinical edge gave them a 2-0 half-time lead, but the Stags found themselves having to hold off a strong, direct threat from the Cobblers during the second half. A goal from full-back Ali Koiki leaves them with less of a mountain to climb as well.
Nigel Clough will have seen first hand what Northampton could do to his side at Sixfields. The centre-back partnership of John-Joe O’Toole and Oliver Hawkins put in commendable displays to deal with the set-piece threat providing by Fraser Horsfall and Jon Guthrie. The open-play direct outlet of Danny Rose, coupled with Josh Eppiah, Sam Hoskins and Mitch Pinnock providing creativity when collecting the second ball, is something the whole Mansfield team will need to do better to silence.
Chasing the tie, it’s likely that Northampton will head out the traps quickly to try and bring the aggregate score back level as soon as possible. If Mansfield can hold back the barrage of the Cobblers, things could play into their hands on the counter as more Northampton numbers have to be committed forward. One side needs a goal, the other doesn’t and I expect this to play into the hands of the visitors.
Port Vale v Swindon Town
If the first leg is anything to go by, this return leg at Vale Park could be an opportunity for the Harry McKirdy show to have its second chapter. The in-form forward thrives off being the headline writer and scored an excellent pair of goals at the County Ground, against his previous employer, to give Swindon the advantage.
The Robins have reason to feel confident ahead of the second leg as well. Alongside heading to a Vale Park pitch well-sized for their fluid passing game, Ben Garner’s side have been the best away team in League Two this season, collecting 43 points from a possible 69 on the road.
McKirdy, as well as midfield maestros Jack Payne and Jonny Williams and focal point Josh Davison, could all be goal contributors. Opponents Port Vale were largely unimpressive in Wiltshire and are thankful for a James Wilson goal which makes the aggregate score line respectable. They too possess a high amount of attacking quality though, with the frontline of Wilson and Jamie Proctor combining for 22 league goals and attacking midfielder Ben Garrity providing 12 goals himself.
We saw the ball hit the back of the net three times in an open first leg, there’s little to suggest that we can’t see at least the same number of goals in this second leg. Port Vale need to chase the aggregate deficit, and Swindon Town don’t do sitting back…
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