Mansfield Town boss David Flitcroft believes Keith Curle is the right man to take the Cobblers ‘to the next level’.
The Stags manager brings his promotion-chasing side to the PTS Academy Stadium on Saturday, desperate for three points to keep them in the driving seat for a top three finish in Sky Bet League Two.
Northampton are in a transitional period, working out what it’s probably going to look like next season now they are safe and how to rebuild. He is the right man to take them to the next level where they want to goDavid Flitcroft on Keith Curle
But he is expecting a real battle for those points against the Cobblers, as he has a more than healthy respect for the ‘incredible professionalism’ of Curle, and is well aware how organised his teams can be.
“Northampton knew they wanted a top professional in and that’s what they’ve done. Keith Curle’s work at Carlisle was pristine and professional,” said Flitcroft.
“They are in a transitional period, working out what it’s probably going to look like next season now they are safe, and how to rebuild. He is the right man to take them to the next level where they want to go.”
Mansfield’s 4-0 thrashing of the Cobblers at Field Mill back in September proved to be the final game in charge for Dean Austin.
He was sacked a day later to allow Town to hire Curle instead, and Flitcroft feels that in the long term that decision will pay dividends.
“Before we played them at home you could tell something just wasn’t right,” said the Mansfield boss, who has also managed Barnsley, Bury and Swindon Town.
“It was a strange atmosphere before and during the game, and the manager was subsequently sacked after it, which is never nice.
“So Keith has taken over a difficult situation.
“You can see he almost wants to get to the end of the season and put a Keith Curle stamp on it, and that stamp is incredible professionalism and a way of playing.
“I think he is trying to understand what he has in the squad and what he needs to build out from that.
“At times, with that, you get a bit of uncertainty in your squad. But he is a highly professional operator, a great manager, and some who I have pitted my wits against down the years and found to be a tough operator.
“Northampton are a massive club in our league and a very good club. So we will look forward to representing as Mansfield Town and we are looking forward to the game.”
Mansfield are closing in on promotion, although they know there is no room for error.
They are level on points with third-placed Milton Keynes, a point ahead of fourth-placed Bury and four clear of fifth-placed Tranmere.
The Stags have overcome a bit of a blip to win their past two games, and Flitcroft is preparing his players for five more big battles - starting with the Cobblers this weekend.
“Any league two game at this time of the season can turn into a war of attrition and that’s something we have got - players who can deal with that,” said the Mansfield boss.
“We have a brilliant goals conceded column, we are resilient and we have warriors and an incredible energy in the team.
“We have to combat whatever style of team we come up against. Our team is equipped to do that.
“We are away from home and our last away performance was certainly the best we’ve had this season (Mansfield won 4-1 at Exeter City).
“Over the past two weeks the lads’ stats and energy is exceeding expectations, and I am delighted with our form.”