The Magpies, who are on the verge of a takeover following news of an accepted bid on Thursday, remain in the League Two drop zone despite winning 3-0 at mid-table Stevenage last weekend.
County have gone through three different managers during their season-long battle against relegation, with Kevin Nolan, who became the first managerial casualty across the EFL, replaced by Harry Kewell as early as August.
But Kewell himself only lasted 10 weeks and it’s been left to former Wimbledon boss Ardley to pick up the pieces and drag County to survival. Any positive result against Town tomorrow could see them leap above Yeovil and out of the bottom two for the first time since mid-November.
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However, given what’s at stake for the world’s oldest professional club, Ardley knows it could become a tense afternoon, particularly if the Cobblers start well at Meadow Lane.
“At home, there is an expectation,” Ardley told the Nottingham Post. “I always try and reach out to the fans and show them their importance.
“At every club I have been at, away from home the fans have a tendency to go out and have a few beers and sing throughout the game, and no matter what make it a positive experience and we need the fans to recreate that atmosphere at home.
“Anxiety can be a difficult thing to deal with and if we are feeling that from them on the pitch or if it comes from us to them then it makes the job a bit harder.
“All opposition managers will say ‘let’s keep it quiet and let’s keep it tight so that their crowd get on their backs’, that is what most teams say when they go away from home.
“We have got to say ‘okay, that is what they expect so let’s not make that happen if we are not in the lead at some point early in the game’.
“You never set up a team in any game to be cagey and hope for the best, you always set your team up to win.
“Northampton will turn up here to make a fast start and get in our faces and cause us a problem. We will be saying the same in our dressing room.”
Notts have just six games left in their fight to stave off relegation to non-league for the first time in the club’s long history.
“We are used to being down here,” Ardley added. “We were off the bottom and then we were back on the bottom a week later.
“We have had to fight and scrap just to get into contention. In my mind this will go down to the very last game of the season.
“We have a target that we feel we need to get to and I believe that the other two teams are going to win at least two games and draw a few so you have to get above that.
“You have to keep on top of your mindset otherwise we will get disappointed by falling back down to the bottom of the table, let’s say.
“There will be some twists and turns between now and then and we just have to ride it.”