Jefferson Lake’s Cobblers v Barnet preview: Plenty riding on Sixfields showdown

BITTER MEMORY - Barnet's players celebrate one of their goals in the 4-0 demolition of the Cobblers at Underhill earlier this season
BITTER MEMORY - Barnet's players celebrate one of their goals in the 4-0 demolition of the Cobblers at Underhill earlier this season
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When the fixture lists for the current campaign were released in June of last year, the Cobblers’ season-concluding game against Barnet was one that was immediately highlighted as certain to generate interest.

Barnet, the perennial strugglers, at Sixfields to face a team in whose modern history they have played a big part and one who - it was hoped - would be challenging for something special.

Both parties have lived up to their end of the deal.

The Bees go into a final-day fixture with their Football League status at stake for a fourth successive season.

And the Cobblers need a win for play-off momentum and to repair the still-open wounds that were inflicted on them in the 4-0 savaging at Underhill in October.

Barnet are almost the team the club’s supporters love to hate, whether when providing the opposition for the first game at Sixfields in 1994 and duly spoiling the party with a late equaliser or crossing swords in their Barry Fry-led early days in the league.

Images of the aforementioned Mr Fry running down the County Ground touchline in red football shorts in the early-1990s remain painfully vivid in the memories of some Town supporters.

Two decades later and Fry’s name above the managerial door has, in a lower-league plot twist that is surreal and effective in equal measure, been replaced by that of Dutch maestro Edgar Davids.

The former Ajax and Juventus midfielder will pair his trademark sunglasses with playing kit on Saturday - Davids is the current manager but is also still a competent player, and trusts nobody more than himself with assignments like destiny-defining matches at Sixfields.

Barnet can get away with a defeat, if AFC Wimbledon fail to better their result against Fleetwood, but they cannot rely on that and the word on the grapevine is they will come to Northampton with an attacking mindset,

So, as well as their supporters providing the kind of partisan atmosphere the Cobblers can expect in the play-offs, their players will also assist with the ‘dress rehearsal’ nature of the afternoon on the field.

The play-offs will be at the back of everybody’s mind at Sixfields on Saturday.

Supporters will be keen to hear of scorelines from elsewhere to find out who the side will be playing next week in a bid to seal a first visit to Wembley since 1998.

The players, too, will be harbouring such thoughts and that is entirely understandable.

But they will also know that against Barnet they can progress their claims for an increased involvement in the crunch games.

Aidy Boothroyd has kept his cards close to his chest in terms of what his selection might be but the strong performances by one or two of the less regular players at Port Vale, combined with the return to fitness of several season campaigners means the manager has a healthy stock from which to select.

Stakes can be claimed, momentum can be increased and form can be hit.

Tipping Barnet into the non-League abyss, in the ultimate act of revenge for the 4-0 defeat at Underhill in October, would be an added bonus.