Aidy Boothroyd feels Port Vale are fully deserving of their place as challengers for the npower League Two title this season.
Vale will be promoted with just a draw against Town on their own ground on Saturday afternoon (3pm kick-off) but could still catch league leaders Gillingham and take the silverware.
Northampton need a win if they are to stand any chance of taking third place, but a more likely outcome for Boothroyd’s men is a crack at the end-of-season play-offs.
Micky Adams’ Valiants have more lofty ambitions than that, and underlined them during a January transfer window in which they signed seasoned professionals Lee Hughes, Darren Purse and former Sixfields loan star Daniel Jones.
Now they are on the doorstep of league one and Boothroyd feels it is a position that the side - who have been in the top three since September - fully merit.
“Micky has been around a little bit and I think they’re better than us in terms of the depth they’ve got,” he said.
“You’re talking about two good football teams who know how to play and who are both very good when it comes to set-pieces.
“They’ve been around a bit and Micky knows the league a bit better than I do because he’s been in it for longer than I have.
“They have progressed well this season and they are where they are on merit. They deserve to be looking to go up automatically.”
Vale are hoping to set a league two attendance record for the season, set by Bradford City 13,461 for their game against Rotherham United on Tuesday night, when they play host to the Cobblers.
Around 9,000 tickets have already been sold for a match in which Vale will be huge favourites to win.
“They will have a huge crowd in,” said Boothroyd.
“I think there will be about 13,000 there and they need a result to get automatic promotion.
“We need to get a result to cement our place in the play-offs or to enhance our own chances of automatic promotion.
“I’m expecting a tough game. I went to see them against Burton Albion expected a 0-0 draw and they won 7-1, so I know what they can do when they’re at it.
“But I’ve also seen them when they’ve been stopped and teams have caused them problems.
“We’re aware of all their strengths – they’ve got a player who has scored 33 goals (Tom Pope) and there’s a reason for that.
“There are also a lot of other good players in a very good Port Vale team.”