Southampton vs. Brentford
Saturday December 11, 15:00, St Mary's
Two of League One's improving sides face one another on the South Coast on Saturday as Southampton and Brentford return to action following postponements last weekend.
Both the Saints and their Capital City opponents were in the bottom four in the early weeks of the season, but now they both have an eye on a push for the top six in the second half of the campaign.
For the Hampshire club, that revival and optimism ahead of 2011 has coincided with the arrival of Nigel Adkins from Scunthorpe as their new manager following the surprise sacking of Alan Pardew.
Southampton were in the drop zone when the Liverpudlian took charge, but have collected 24 points from the last 12 games to elevate themselves to within a single point and two places off the top six.
That fine run includes an unbeaten seven matches at St Mary's under the new boss - with just two goals conceded. Promotion rivals Oldham and Bournemouth have both been beaten, and fancied Peterborough were recently seen off 4-1.
It's in stark contrast to the games played on home soil before Adkins arrived - with both Rochdale and Plymouth leaving with all three points and Leyton Orient taking home a share of the spoils.
The hosts will undoubtedly go into Saturday's game confident of extending their good recent form therefore - albeit it's form befitting the pre-season favourites in the third tier.
Key men for the Saints include League One goal machine Rickie Lambert and midfielder Adam Lallana - both with six goals to their name. Lee Barnard with five goals is another goal threat for Adkins's men.
Visitors Brentford will know they're in for a stern examination of their recent revival on the trip down from London therefore.
Andy Scott's men were propping up the rest of the division as recently as the beginning of October with just nine points taken from their first 11 matches.
Since then, they've taken 16 points from a possible 21 to move to the safety of 13th - just four short of the play off positions.
That run has included four victories on the road - including winning at Plymouth, Tranmere, ending Exeter's long unbeaten home run, and beating high-flying Colchester.
Indeed, only the top two sides - Brighton and Charlton - have better away records than the Bees, meaning they'll be quietly confident of taking something away from their visit to the South Coast.
To do so, they'll be relying on front duo Gary Alexander and Charlie MacDonald who have both scored six goals so far this term. Striker Robbie Simpson, on loan from Huddersfield, has also bagged himself five.
Given Southampton's strength at home and Brentford's away record - allied with both teams being bang on form - this could be a highly competitive match.
It's difficult to look past Saints however, who - on their own ground - couple defensive solidity with a potent attacking threat. It should edge this game their way.
Nobes' Prediction: Southampton 2 Brentford 0