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Northampton Town travel to Fratton Park to take on Portsmouth on Saturday 2nd December in the EFL Trophy second round.
The EFL Trophy, or Checkatrade Trophy as its more commonly known, has received negative press this season and has been boycotted by several fans around the country. Furthermore, managers have seen the fixtures as an unwelcome distraction and have rotated their squads, often resulting in early exits from the competition.
However, Northampton have successfully managed to get the balance between rotating the squad and success in the tournament so far this season, boasting an unbeaten record and arguably some of their best performances have come in this competition.
Despite drawing every game, Northampton progressed through the group stages by winning every game on penalties, earning the bonus point in every game, allowing them to finish on 6 points. Northampton kicked off their campaign with a 1-1 draw with Cambridge United, subsequently beating them 5-4 on penalties in what proved to be Justin Edinburgh’s last game in charge of the club. Conversely, Portsmouth also drew their first match in the cup, 3-3 with Fulham U21’s, however lost on penalties so only earned the one point.
Both teams second group games nearly mirrored the first, with Northampton again drawing 1-1, this time away at bitter rivals Peterborough, again earning a bonus point by beating them on penalties 4-2. Portsmouth also scored 3 goals, beating Crawley Town 3-1 to move top of the group.
In the final round of fixtures, Northampton came from 3-0 down to Southampton U21’s to draw 3-3, again being victorious in the following shootout. This claimed second place in the group for the cobblers, meaning progression to the knockout stages was confirmed.
Portsmouth on the other hand beat Charlton 1-0 away from home to confirm themselves as group winners, setting themselves up for a tie against a runner-up.
Looking at these results, Portsmouth will have to go into Saturday’s fixture as favourites, as Northampton have arguably only progressed due to their penalty exploits.
Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett has recently signed a new contract at Fratton Park, stating that the club are on the rise again, and with 3 wins from their last 4 games, he will be surely tempted to stick with the current starting XI.
Northampton will probably make changes for this game, as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is still trying to piece together his strongest side, and will be boosting by the return of John-Joe O’Toole and Sam Hoskins, so these could get a run out.
Furthermore, there will probably be a couple of defensive changes, with David Cornell, the penalty saving specialist, replacing Matt Ingram and George Smith potentially bought in at left back among other changes. One change fans are hoping for him to make is the inclusion of striker Leon Lobjoit, a regular goal scorer at non-league level recently returning from a loan spell at Nuneaton.
Looking at the current league form between the two sides, all signs point towards a Portsmouth win, as they currently sit just outside the League One playoffs, whilst Northampton struggle away in the relegation zone. However, with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink announcing that some of the fringe players will leave in the upcoming January transfer to make way for new arrivals, don’t be surprised to see a spirited and hard-fought Northampton performance.
With Northampton’s goal-scoring problems also seemingly non-existent in the Checkatrade Trophy, maybe it won’t be as straightforward as it seems for Portsmouth.