Cobblers boss Chris Wilder is expecting Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth to play heavy on his team’s ‘underdog’ tag ahead of Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two showdown between the clubs - and he doesn’t blame him one bit.
The Chairboys come to Sixfields sitting fifth in the table, having only missed out on promotion last season in heartbreaking fashion as they lost in the play-off final at Wembley to Southend United having led going into the last minute of extra-time.
They have spent the bulk of the past two campaigns in the top seven of league two under the stewardship of Ainsworth, with the team - like the Cobblers - having avoided relegation on the final day of the season in 2014.
They have achieved that consistency despite not being among the financial big-hitters in the division, and Wilder knows that Ainsworth and his players will be desperate to claim the scalp of the Cobblers this weekend, especially as Town are the top dogs sitting eight points clear at the summit.
Wycombe are sometimes tarred with the brush of being a direct team, a long-ball team, and although that’s not something Wilder agrees with, he says he wouldn’t be critical even if that was the case.
“We have had some fair old battles against Gareth, and I really like him, and I think he has done a great job at Wycombe,” said Wilder.
“A lot of people thought last season that the wheels were always going to fall off after the start they made, and they never.
“They were basically one pass off going into league one, which would have been an unbelievable achievement, and certainly one that would have been deserved.
“People would then have looked at them this season, and there has not been a big investment, they have kept the group together, added a couple, lost a couple, and they are still in and around it.”
And he added: “Managers have to do the job with what they are given, the finances they are given, the pitches they have to play on, the squad sizes they have to deal with, the size of the budget, the size of the club, and teams all play different ways and I will always respect that.
“Gareth maximises what he does with his group to great effect, and we know they will look at our results and they will play the underdog card which I get, because of the results and the size of our club, and the resources we have.
“There will be no team or manager more determined to put a stop to our run that Gareth and his Wycombe players.”
Ainsworth was at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday night to watch the Cobblers beat third-placed Oxford United 1-0, and the Wycombe boss will have a gameplan to try and claim the three points that will keep his team in the promotion mix.
With the Cobblers going for what would be a club record-breaking ninth straight league win, Wilder accepts it is going to be a tough game against a team that he knows will not give an inch.
“We look at every game on its merits, and we have to alter now and again the way we play at times,” said the Town boss.
“But we are at home and we believe in the way we play and how we go about our business. How they play is how they play, and we have to get on with it, they have to deal with us, and we have to deal with them.
“I played in a team that won two promotions and was called a direct, aggressive side, and we had some really good players - although I wasn’t one of them!
“We had some really good, technical players in the group, and Gareth has at Wycombe, so they will want to come here on Saturday and do well, and will see the game as a free hit for them.
“They are a dangerous opponent we have to treat with a huge amount of respect.
“It is always a tough game against Wycombe because they give everything for their manager, everything for their club, and for their fellow players.
“As we have done with Oxford, doing the double over them, we would love to beat Wycombe and do the double over another really good side, and we have the opportunity to do that on Saturday.”