Saturday’s game at Wycombe Wanderers will give an indication of just how capable the Cobblers are of coping with the pressure that is starting to build on them.
The game at Adams Park will feel exactly like an end-of-season crunch fixture – at least for the away side – who will be backed by a large and expectant away following.
Excitement is starting to build about the season’s final furlong and after the weekend round of matches just seven dates will be left on the fixture list before the campaign reaches its conclusion on April 27.
Barring an horrific collapse, Northampton should now at least finish in the play-offs, but they will have had their appetite for automatic promotion whetted by Port Vale’s recent troubles.
The Valiants’ slide out of the top two for the first time since September 17 means finishing second has become a very real possibility for whichever of the chasing pack can produce the best results from this point onwards.
Such a potential finish to the season brings an extra weight of expectation from the terraces and this weekend’s game will be the first to be playing against such a backdrop.
So we will soon discover if this group of players will thrive on the pressure or if they will crumble under it.
A lot of what happens between now and the end of the season in terms of filling the league positions between second and seventh (Gillingham look a safe bet to finish as champions) will be psychological.
The nature of the division this season is that anybody can beat anybody and because of that levelling out of quality the teams that are successful will be the ones with the greatest mental strength.
The Cobblers proved on Tuesday night at Morecambe that they can cope with moderate pressure in a low-key environment but Saturday’s game will be a completely different proposition.
The incentives for promotion are enormous for a club of Northampton’s size – around a £1m increase in revenue before gate receipts for home games against huge clubs with vast away followings is taken into consideration.
The supporters in the away end at Adams Park on Saturday will be dreaming of potential trips to places like Molineux or the Ricoh Arena next season and of generally better times to come.
They will back the team to the hilt, just as they did at Morecambe and on other trips on a success-starved away schedule this season.
But it’s really all about the players now, and their mental strength.
Things are starting to warm up and we will soon see if the Cobblers can stand the heat.