Boss Chris Wilder is delighted with the competition for places in his title-chasing Cobblers squad.
Following the January transfer window, Wilder has acquired a very strong 21-man squad with every player targeting a match day start.
It means the manager will have genuine headaches in selecting his 18 for every game, but that is how he wants it going into the final 18 matches of the season.
The squad strength was highlighted last weekend when Lawson D’Ath couldn’t even make the 18 for the 2-0 win over York City, and new signings Danny Rose and Luke Prosser had to make do with ‘unused subs’ roles on the bench.
Options are aplenty for Wilder, but he says he isn’t going to allow that to over-complicate things and will be sticking to a consistent line-up whenever he can.
Indeed, despite the acquisition of Rose and Prosser, and D’Ath’s recovery from injury, Wilder named an unchanged starting 11 for the York game, and the manager said: “There has to be competition, but there has to be a sensible way about it.
“If Adam Smith makes a mistake, I am not going to suddenly leave him out and put Ryan Clarke in.
“You have to play well to get into the team, and you have to play well to stay in the team, but there always different situations.
“That might be a change in formation, or as we have done in the past two or three weeks in resting players when we feel it is right for them to come out of the team, and then put other players in to freshen things up.
“That will be the case right the way through to the end of the season, and I have a great group of players that are desperate to play.
“The players always want to impress in the behind-closed-doors games, and in training.”
Wilder has already spoken of the attitude of the players not involved on a regular basis, and but he has highlighted how impressed he has been number two goalkeeper Clarke.
When he signed from Oxford United in the summer, Clarke would have anticipated being the main man between the sticks at Sixfields, but that has not been the case.
Adam Smith was handed the gloves at the start of the campaign and has excelled, so much so that Clarke has been restricted to just four appearances in cup competitions, with the 33-year-old yet to feature in Sky Bet League Two.
He hasn’t played at all since the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat at Millwall in November, but he hasn’t let his head drop, and Wilder has been delighted with the player’s attitude.
“I have Ryan Clarke, you look at him and he has had a really good career, and he would have been expecting to start this season,” said Wilder.
“We went with the decision at the start of the season to go with Adam Smith, and he has been sensational.
“But Ryan’s effort and dedication, and driving Smithy on, coming in every day in a difficult situation for a player, but he has got his head down.
“I have always said this, and I will take my time and pay a lot of attention and put a lot of work into the players that aren’t playing, because their role is as important, if not more important, than those that are playing.
“The players that are playing, that takes care of itself on a Saturday and a Tuesday, it’s ‘there you go, you’re playing, I am putting trust in you to go and put on a performance’, but the attitude of those not playing has been phenomenal, and it has to be if we are to succeed.”
The Cobblers return to Sky Bet League Two action on Saturday when they travel to Leyton Orient.