As a former Bristol Rovers player, Aidy Boothroyd is fully aware the Cobblers’ Tuesday night opponents have underachieved this season.
After installing Mark McGhee as manager in last season’s January transfer window, it was hoped Rovers - who, along with Bradford City contest the title for league two’s sleepiest giant - would form part of the 2012/13 promotion pack.
But such dreams failed to materialise and a 4-1 loss to York City a week before Christmas consigned the club to the league two relegation zone and McGhee to the sack.
Things have improved substantially at the Memorial Stadium since John Ward took up the manager’s job, and Rovers come to Sixfields (ko 7.45pm) on the back of just a single defeat in their past seven games.
Boothroyd fully understands the weight of expectation on anyone representing the club - after all, he did make 16 appearances for them himself as a tough-tackling right-back in the early-1990s.
And he also understands how Ward works.
The two shared elbow room in the Colchester United dug-out for just under a year before Boothroyd moved to Coventry and Ward stepped up in his place.
All of which adds to what will be the Cobblers’ latest attempt to build on their excellent home record and maintain a promotion push.
“I thought we got what we deserved when we played down there earlier in the season,” said the Town boss, for whom the 3-2 defeat at October provided a sign of the difficulties to come for his team away from home this season.
“Tom Eaves caused us all sorts of problems but he’s gone back to Bolton now, and gone back out on loan again.
“They are a team that has been struggling for most of the season, but they are a big club for this division and the bookies fancied them for promotion this season.
“I know how big a club it is because I’ve played for them.
“They’ve got some good players and a good manager and it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve picked up.
“They’ve brought some good loan players in and we’ve got to make sure we don’t become another statistic on their record and that they become one on ours.”
Football’s nature dictates that reasons can be found to make any fixture appear difficult, especially at a time of the season when the play-off system means even the most mediocre of mid-table clubs don’t call time on their season until spring has well and truly sprung.
Rovers’ recent run has put substantial daylight between themselves and the bottom two - six points to be exact - but they are not safe yet, and recent experiences of tight games against Wimbledon and Plymouth has proved the ‘no easy games’ cliche to be as true as ever for the Cobblers.
“We’re due a good performance and I’m looking forward to the game,” said Boothroyd.
“Both teams seem to be better in the first half so maybe the fans should go to the cinema for the first half and then turn up at half-time.
“It will be an interesting game because I’ve seen them a couple of times under John and they’ve got players that can counter-attack and that can play a bit.
“The games against Plymouth and Wimbledon were difficult games but it’s really all about what we do and we certainly need to tidy up one or two individual performances.”