Cobblers boss Keith Curle admits it is no surprise to him that his former club Carlisle United are pushing hard for promotion from Sky Bet League Two this season - but believes the Cumbrians are ‘beatable’ as they head to the PTS Academy Stadium on Saturday (ko 3pm).
Carlisle come to town on the back of a six-match winning run that has taken them up to fifth in the table, to within just one point of the automatic promotion places, and only six behind leaders Lincoln City.
I know some players don’t like a challenge, some players don’t like being faced back towards their own goal, and some people will shy away from certain challenges. But the flip side of that is I know they have players with pace, a good range of passing, a good eye for opportunitiesCobblers boss Keith Curle
Curle is well aware of all the strengths and weaknesses of the Cumbrians, as it was he who signed the majority of the squad that is performing so well this season.
The 55-year-old left Brunton Park at the end of last season, having spent more than three years in charge there, and although he knows exactly how good Carlisle are, he also believes the Cobblers can send them packing this weekend.
Asked about the challenge of facing the division’s in-form team, Curle said: “We set up to beat them, it’s as simple as that, and luckily I know a lot of the squad, and I know a lot of the fabric and foundation of that football club, and they are beatable.
“They have some good players, they are playing with a lot of confidence, and arguably you would say there are a lot of players there who are out of contract and playing for their futures.
“So it’s no surprise to me the players are performing at this time of the season.
“It will be a good challenge for us, and that is what it is and that is how it will get set to the players.
“It is a challenge playing against players where we identify their strengths and weaknesses and try and nullify those strengths and exploit those weaknesses.”
Does the fact Curle knows the Carlisle playing staff so well give him and his Cobblers players an edge ahead of the game?
“Not really,” said the Town boss, who is looking for his team to end a run of just one win in their past 12 games.
“I know what certain players in that team don’t like, I know some players don’t like the physicality and I know some people can hardly stand on their right leg!
“I know some players don’t like a challenge, some players don’t like being faced back towards their own goal, and some people will shy away from certain challenges.
“But the flip side of that is I know they have players with pace, a good range of passing, a good eye for opportunities in and around the final third, and players, when push comes to shove, will be in the right place at the right time.
“On their day they have very good players and on another day they can look slightly disjointed.
Bizarrely, for a team on such a good run, they arrive at the PTS under caretaker managers Paul Murray and Tommy Wright.
The pair are at the helm due to the fact that John Sheridan left the club last week, and has since taken charge at National League strugglers Chesterfield.
Curle admits he wasn’t too surprised at the turn of events, but says regardless of who is in charge, the players will continue to perform.
“Everybody inside the football industry hears rumours, but I knew Carlisle would do okay this season because of the structure and the framework of the team that had been left behind,” said the Town manager.
“The previous regime inherited a good structure, with good players with a good mentality and a good mindset.
“They also had a desire, and an incentive scheme and package that was designed so that if the players played well, they earned more money.
“So it was in everybody’s interest for them to have a good season, even more so the players who were already there.”