Keith Curle admits it is a ‘vitally important’ game, but insists he is placing no extra priority on Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy southern area quarter-final clash with Bristol Rovers at the PTS Academy Stadium (ko 7.45pm).
After a disappointing festive period when the Cobblers claimed just three points from a possible 12 available, they sit in mid-table in Sky Bet League Two.
Town are now a hefty 13 points adrift of the play-off places and a comfortable nine points above the drop zone, so it would seem the best chance of some glory for the club this season lies in this much-maligned competition.
A win over the Gas would see Town into the area semi-finals of the Checkatrade and to within sight of a big day out and Wembley final, but Curle insists it is simply business as usual for him and his players.
The Cobblers will be back in action for the first time since their last-gasp 2-1 New Year’s Day defeat at Forest Green Rovers, and Curle said: “I don’t think you can categorise things, and every time we get an opportunity to perform then we try and do that.
“We have a preparation and build up, and then a performance level that is required from the players, and that’s what it is about.
“That doesn’t change on a weekly basis, so the players are becoming familiar with the format and are taking on information very well.
“Home and away, we want our performance levels to improve, and the better your performance levels, and the more consistent they are, then you try and align that with getting results.
“This is an oppotunity to progress in a cup competition, so it is vitally important.
“The mental preparation, the physical preparation for the players, will be exactly the same as if it was a competitive league game.”
Rovers come to town in decent form, and with Graham Coughlan confirmed as their new manager.
The Irishman has been in caretaker charge since Darrell Clarke’s resignation in mid-December, and has overseen a spike in results for Rovers, who are unbeaten in four, having won three and drawn one of those, and have climbed out of the Sky Bet League One relegation zone.
Like the Cobblers, Rovers were without a game last weekend as their scheduled opponents were in FA Cup action, so there is every chance the west country side will field a full strength team at the PTS.
“We have had a look at some of the data, at some of the clips and team selections,” said Cobblers boss Curle.
“There is a new manager that has come into the fold and there has been an upturn in results and performances.
“He will be not too dissimilar to myself in that he will be wanting a performance from his team, whatever team he decides to play.”
The Cobblers’ only injury concern ahead of the game remains John-Joe O’Toole.
The former Bristol Rovers man is still recovering from a badly bruised foot, and although he is on the mend, he is unlikely to line up against his former club.
New signing George Cox will not be involved, as he is ineligible having already played in the competition this season, for Brightin Under-21s.