Cobblers boss Aidy Boothroyd rates his side’s trip to Bradford City on Saturday as a game between two sides who cannot afford anything but a win.
The Bantams were rated as one of the pre-season favourites for promotion from npower League Two this season but have seen their chances of going up diluted by an excellent Capital One Cup run.
Bradford reached the final of that competition and although they were routed 5-0 by Swansea City at Wembley the achievement is an enormous one for a club in the bottom tier of English football.
Although it has also produced financial benefits it may have undermined the club’s aim of reaching league one this season, with Bradford five points off seventh-placed Exeter City but with a game in hand.
Such statistics make a home win vital for Phil Parkinson’s men if they are to stand a chance of promotion, while Northampton know they cannot afford any more slips themselves if they are to finish in the top three.
“Bradford have to win if they want to maintain their bid for the play-offs and we have to win if we want to maintain our run to the top three,” said Boothroyd.
“And it’s a game between two teams that know each other inside out because we’ve already played each other three times this season.”
Boothroyd’s first visit to his home town club came when he took Town there for an FA Cup first-round replay in November, the third of three games between the two sides in quick succession.
Bradford won on penalties that night after a thrilling 3-3 draw that reunited several old friends, and the same will be true of the weekend match.
“Bradford is my home town club so I always look out for their results,” he said. “Between myself and Andy King we know the staff there pretty well too.
“I know Phil Parkinson from when he was at Charlton Athletic and when he was Alan Pardew’s assistant.
“And Andy and I know Steve Parkin because he was the captain when we were all together at Mansfield years ago.”
If the Cobblers’ management team are to put one over on their former colleagues they will need to improve an away record that is comfortably the worst of the top-seven sides in league two.
Although improvements have been made recently the team has still only won one of their past seven road fixtures but Boothroyd was pleased with how his team played at Cheltenham, especially in the second half, and wants to see those advances maintained.
“You look for reasons why but we have got into a habit of bouncing back quickly from defeats away from home,” he said.
“At the start of the seasons there were reasons why our away form was so poor and we identified them and addressed them.
“Since then we have improved away from home and I was really pleased with the way we played in the second half at Cheltenham.
“So we’re going in the right direction and we need to make sure we keep doing that; you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”