Jim Gannon must decide who to go with at the heart of defence for Port Vale`s home clash against Northampton.

Vale skipper Gareth Owen has been ruled out for four to six weeks having sustained bone bruising to his ankle joint during last weekend`s 1-1 draw at Wycombe - a positive outcome considering it was initially thought he had suffered a fracture.

Fellow centre-back John McCombe missed out altogether at Adams Park having failed a pre-match fitness test on a calf strain, but he should be okay to return against the Cobblers.

That leaves Gannon with a decision to make as to who partners McCombe, with Exodus Geohaghon likely to get the nod ahead of Ritchie Sutton and Lee Collins - who is expected to revert to left-back.

Midfielder Gary Roberts is available despite being handed a three-match ban for his midweek dismissal while playing for the reserves, with the suspension coming into effect for the games against Stevenage, Aldershot and Macclesfield.

Chris Martin continues in goal with Stuart Tomlinson (hip) still struggling, while striker and captain Marc Richards (thigh) is nearing his return but Saturday comes just too soon.

Northampton will be without full-back John Johnson for the clash.

Johnson missed the goalless draw with Barnet last weekend with a knee injury and is still out, while captain Andy Holt remains a doubt with his own knee problem.

Striker Leon McKenzie could return to the starting line-up after being rested against the Bees and Liam Davis is available to return at left-back after recovering from a knee injury.

Former Coventry midfielder Kevin Thornton is now fit after a hamstring problem and could feature for the first time since January 8 as the Cobblers look to extend their unbeaten run to four games.

Former Darlington striker Tadhg Purcell is still sidelined with the serious knee injury which ended his season in August while midfielder Ryan Gilligan has joined Torquay on a month-long loan deal.

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