THE BIG MATCH

Northampton Town make the short trip to Oxford United on Saturday off the back of four wins in five npower League 2 fixtures, form that has moved them to within a point of the Play-Off places.

The Cobblers were comfortable 3-0 winners at home to Morecambe in midweek and that lifted them up to ninth. A victory at the Kassam Stadium could take them as high as third, but a number of other results would need to go their way if they were to move into the automatic promotion places.

Aidy Boothroyd's men are full of confidence and the former Colchester United boss wants to maintain their recent progress, whilst remaining realistic.

"We are very buoyant at the moment," Boothroyd commented on www.ntfc.co.uk.

"We are grinding out results, playing well and the players are very upbeat and we are looking forward to our next game.

"We are in a nice position but nothing gets won in November and if we don't maintain what we have been doing or take anybody lightly then the table can soon be turned."

Oxford, meanwhile, are struggling and sit 18th on 21 points. It is a far cry from last season, when they were challenging near the Play-Offs, and the start of the season, when the U's were sitting in a lofty position after three wins from the opening three matches.

They have become the division's inconsistent side and come into the match with the Cobblers off the back of a 2-2 draw against Barnet, their fourth match since their last win, against Wycombe Wanderers.

In that draw against the Bees, the U's saw a last-minute header bounce away off both posts and first-team coach Mickey Lewis told Yellow Player that he is hoping for a change of fortunes.

"You don't want to talk about it but even the best manager in the country, Sir Alex Ferguson, has said that you need a bit of luck, and we really haven't had any.

"But you only had to see the lads training this week because they were absolutely terrific. They believe in what we're doing and are really keen to get results.

"We just have to keep working. The manager works 24/7, the staff all do the same and the players are receptive to everything we are doing, but obviously we just need to get some results."

Chris Wilder will be without injured duo Tom Craddock and Deane Smalley and will also have to make do without defender Johnny Mullins, who was recalled from his loan spell by parent club Rotherham United.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Another key match in npower League 2 sees third-placed Cheltenham Town host bottom of the table Barnet.

Despite their contrasting position in the standings, both sides actually come into the tie on similar recent form - the Robins losing their last two and the Bees with no win in three.

Barnet have actually lost just once in seven, though, with a defeat being followed by two draws and it was that midweek draw, against Oxford, that saw the Bees drop back to the bottom of The Football League

A win against the Robins would more than likely change that, although they would need other results to go their way if it was to happen.

The London club bolstered their squad with the signings of three players this week - Andy Iro from Stevenage, George Barker from Brighton and Hove Albion, as well as Dutchman Melvin Holwijn - and they could all make their debut this weekend.

Despite successive defeats prior to this match, Cheltenham remain in the automatic promotion places. They will need to collect a victory if they want it to stay that way, though, with seven teams able to reach their current 32-point mark this weekend.

Boss Mark Yates wants his team to learn their lessons and get back to winnings ways, telling www.ctfc.com: "We don't become a bad team overnight. We have had two really tough games against two really decent opponents.

"Plenty of teams have lost two on the spin in this division so far and there will be plenty more but we need to address it and we have been looking at that as a staff over the last few days.

"The players must also look at themselves and not get carried away about being third in the table and they must realise why we are there and kick on.

"There's not a great deal wrong but we must re-find our energy and drive that we know we have. I do not like the manner in which we lost and I don't like the goals we conceded but we must learn from that quickly.

"It's Barnet at home on Saturday and they will not make it easy for us but we must put the defeats behind us. We are up in third on merit and it's important we get back to our normal selves."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Leaders Gillingham will hope to get back to winning ways, after a midweek loss against Exeter City, when they travel to Accrington Stanley on Saturday.

The Gills went down 3-2 against the Grecians, which cut their lead at the summit to four points after second-placed Port Vale beat Bristol Rovers 4-0, and they will want to maintain that lead on their trip to Lancashire.

Exeter, meanwhile, moved up to seventh with that midweek victory and now host Rotherham United.

Port Vale will hope to build on their Tuesday evening 4-0 success, and keep up the pressure at the top, when they visit Aldershot, who could hand a debut to defender Michael Hector after he joined on loan from Reading.

Wycombe currently sit in the other relegation spot, alongside Barnet, and they entertain Burton Albion this Saturday off the back of a midweek away triumph at Rotherham. That was the Chairboys' first win in seven outings and will give them plenty of confidence ahead of the Brewers' visit.

Southend United and Rochdale are two of the division's form teams - with both not losing in five - and they go head-to-head at Roots Hall. Rochdale sit sixth but would be overtaken by the Shrimpers if they are defeated in Essex.

Elsewhere, Torquay United will hope to add to their one away victory so far this term when they travel north to play York City, who have become the division's draw specialists, with five of their last eight outings ending level.

Fleetwood Town and Bradford City are the other two sides making up the top seven and they are both on the road this weekend. The Cod Army visit Dagenham and Redbridge, while the Bantams travel to the West Country to play Mark McGhee's Bristol Rovers, who have lost five of their last six to sit 21st.

AFC Wimbledon and Plymouth Argyle sit in the two positions directly above the Pirates, and they meet Morecambe and Chesterfield respectively, in the remaining npower League 2 fixtures.

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