Chris Wilder admits he would love to select Marc Richards for Tuesday night’s game against Oxford United - but the Cobblers boss insists he will not take any risks with his star striker.
Richards has not played since the 1-0 home win against Portsmouth on March 3 after suffering an Achilles tear.
But Wilder last week hinted that the 32-year-old could be in contention for the trip to the Kassam Stadium.
However, with Cobblers’ play-off hopes all but over after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Stevenage, the manager will not be throwing his 17-goal top scorer straight in.
And he feels Saturday’s game against Cheltenham Town is a more realistic target for Richards.
“I’d love him to be (in the squad for the game at Oxford) and we’ll see today, but I’m thinking that he won’t be,” said Wilder.
“If we can get him on the bench on Saturday that would give us a big lift.
“We want Marc back as soon as possible, but I certainly won’t be taking any risks, especially with the type of injury he has had.
“The Achilles is a dangerous area to be taking gambles on and we won’t be doing that.”
Wilder will be without centre-back Ryan Cresswell and midfielder Jason Taylor through suspension, but he is hopeful on Ricky Holmes, who missed Saturday’s game with a knee problem.
And the manager says whatever team he fields at the Kassam will be expected to deliver a positive result that can set the team up for a strong finish to the Sky Bet League Two season.
“We’ve lost two key players to suspension, Cresswell and Taylor, so they won’t be available but we’ll check on Ricky Holmes and hopefully he’ll be okay,” said Wilder.
“We go there with a strong group and whatever formation I pick, I expect them to go well.
“The key thing is that we finish the season on a high.
“We have an obligation to our supporters. It’s a local game for them and we want them to travel in their numbers.
“We know they might not travel in the numbers they would have had we been more successful in terms of results over the past three, four, five games, but we’ve pushed it right to the end.
“It has been a pretty up and down season and we want to finish it on a high, so we’ll be going there trying to get a win.”