Chris Wilder believes that Ivan Toney is being targeted by opposition defenders for rough treatment - and he is delighted with how the teenage striker is handling it.
In recent weeks, defenders from both Stevenage and Cheltenham have attempted to bully Toney with some strong-arm tactics, trying to provoke a reaction from the youngster.
He has to learn and I think we are seeing that. He is being physical, he is linking things up, he is doing a lot of good things, and he has to handle that physical part of the gameChris Wilder on Ivan Toney
But the 19-year-old, who was sent-off on Boxing Day after an off the ball tussle with Bury defender Hayden White, has simply got up and got on with the game on every occasion.
And at times he has even given some of those defenders a taste of their own medicine.
A case in point was on Saturday when, after he had clashed with Toney off the ball, Cheltenham’s Craig Braham-Barrett was on the end of a thumping tackle from Toney.
The challenge was a beauty and 100 per cent fair, but it would have certainly left a lasting impression on the Robins defender.
“Ivan Toney will get targeted, and he will get targeted on Saturday, because John Mousinho targeted him when we played Burton at Sixfields,” admitted Wilder.
“That is something Ivan is going to have to learn to deal with, and I was delighted with his attitude on Saturday.
“Three or four months earlier, because he had been smashed off the ball and elbowed, he would have gome through that boy in the first half, and there would have been the possibility of a red card.
“But he made a fantastic challenge, his reaction was great.
“He has to learn and I think we are seeing that. He is being physical, he is linking things up, he is doing a lot of good things, and he has to handle that physical part of the game.
“If people do target him then he should relish it and rub his hands, because he is a strong boy.
“He has to make sure he is competitive, and doesn’t get himself into the situation where he runs the risk of getting sent off or picking up daft bookings, but we want everybody to be competitive.
“If I am a centre half and I leave a bit on somebody else, and then somebody leaves a bit on me then I think I am in for a tough afternoon, that is part and parcel of the game.”
And Wilder believes that Toney has the perfect teacher to learn from at Sixfields in the shape of striker Marc Richards, who certainly knows how to handle himself.
“Rico is a great example for Ivan to look at,” said the Cobblers boss.
“He plays the game in the right way, he is physical and takes the big hits as well, which you are always going to have to do.”