Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is demanding his Cobblers players rediscover their ‘intensity’ for Saturday’s Sky Bet League One trip to play-off chasing Scunthorpe United (ko 3pm).
The Town boss was disappointed by his team’s lacklustre performance in Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat to Gillingham at Sixfields, bemoaning the lack of sharpness and composure.
He knows the Cobblers are going to have to be at the top of their game to get anything from their trip to Glanford Park, a stadium where they have never won, but he believes they are capable of doing so if they get their game right.
Scunthorpe are fifth in the league one table, and well placed for another tilt at the play-offs, having lost in the semi-finals last season.
But they are not in the best of form, having only won one of their past seven games, and failing to win any of their past three home fixtures, losing two of those.
They haven’t won at Glanford Park since beating Bury on New Year’s Day, and Hasselbaink says he wants a reaction from his players after that painful Gills loss.
“You always have to play everybody, so they are what they are,” said the Cobblers boss of Scunthorpe.
“We need a reaction, another reaction, and we need to be on the front foot and thinking forward.
“We have to have that intensity that makes us good, and if we do that, we can take the game to them.”
The Cobblers have never won at Glanford Park since the Iron moved there in 1988, and haven’t won a fixture at Scunthorpe since way back in 1980, when Town triumphed 2-0 at the Old Showground.
We need a reaction, another reaction, and we need to be on the front foot and thinking forward. We have to have that intensity that makes us good, and if we do that, we can take the game to themCobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
But Town have drawn on their past three league visits to Lincolnshire, and haven’t lost there in the league since November, 2006.
Hasselbaink was unaware of the Cobblers’ poor record at the Iron, but when he heard he immediately saw breaking that hoodoo as a challenge.
“The record is what it is, and it gives us more encouragement to win there for the first time, and to try to get a result,” said the Dutchman.
“It is a nice, tight little ground where they put you under pressure, but they are a good footballing team and hopefully we can try to put them under pressure.
“We want to take the game to them, and who knows? It might be the time for us to have fortune over there.”
The Cobblers will field at least one ex-Scunthorpe player in midfielder Matt Crooks, and they could include a second in their squad if Kevin van Veen recovers from the dead leg he sustained at AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.
The 26-year-old only made the switch from Glanford Park to Sixfields last month, moving for an undisclosed fee, and is sure for a hostile reception from sections of the Iron faithful.
If that is the case, and if he is fit to play, Hasselbaink is backing van Veen to rise to the challenge.
Asked about how tricky it is to go back to an old club so soon after moving, the Cobblers boss said: “It is not easy, but it is one of those things and it is another game and you fire him up.
“Kevin he is a very quiet guy, very much within himself, but very confident also.
“I think he will relish the opportunity, he is Dutch so he will feel that he can conquer the world, take everybody on and all that kind of stuff. That is how we are in Holland!
“But I do think he will relish the opportunity and challenge, if he is selected.”