Cobblers manager Rob Page is convinced he has players capable of ‘hurting’ Peterborough United in tonight’s (October 18, 7.45pm kick off) eagerly-anticipated derby at the ABAx Stadium.
Page has promised his club’s fanbase that all of his squad understand the importance of tonight’s big showdown.
It is the first time these two old rivals have met each other since March, 2009, and an army of 2,500 Cobblers supporters will be heading to London Road to cheer their team on in what is considered to be the club’s true derby date.
The likes of Milton Keynes Dons and Coventry City may be closer to the Cobblers geographically, but the clash against Posh is ‘the’ traditional derby and the match Northampton fans look forward to more than any other.
Only Marc Richards of the current Cobblers’ squad has played for the club in a derby, a Football League Trophy clash in December, 2003.
Gaby Zakuani has played twice before in the fixture, but in a blue shirt, and was actually sent off the most recent time the two sides met, but Posh still went on to win that game 1-0.
“It is a fantastic game for us, and every single player in that dressing room before they go on that pitch will understand the importance of this game for the supporters,” said Page.
“I can assure them that that we will be ready, whatever team we put out there we will be ready.
“Peterborough are a good, attacking football team, so we have to be disciplined in our defending, but we have players in that changing room that can hurt teams.”
The Cobblers go into the match having had players sent off in each of their past three Sky Bet League One matches (Zakuani versus Bristol Rovers, Matt Taylor versus Scunthorpe United, Jak McCourt versus Millwall), and although Page wants his team to be fired up, he wants any aggression chanelled in the right way.
“Every player and every member of staff will understand the importance of the game, but then there is getting that balance right and having calm heads,” he said.
“We can’t afford to have any more ill-discipline, any more sendings off, as we have to have 11 players on that pitch to win because we are playing against a good team.
“But we can be aggressive in many other aspects of the game, in the way we press, in how we close down, and in how we maintain our discipline.
“Being aggressive doesn’t mean you have to kick people up in the air, and that message will be loud and clear, and if we do that then we stand a good chance of winning.
“It is a derby game and the boys will be ready and fired up for it, and it is a game we are really looking forward to.”
Former Posh player Gaby Zakuani is expected to replace Zander Diamond at the heart of the Cobblers’ defence.
The Cobblers boss will be forced into at least one change as McCourt is suspended. Taylor remains banned.
The obvious man to move into central midfield is Joel Byrom, who was a regular last season but has yet to start a game in the league this term.
It’s not ideal for a player that has played just 109 minutes of football this season, and none since August 30 as is the case with Byrom, to be thrown into the heat of a local derby.
But Page is confident whoever gets the nod will be able to cope.
“With two suspended it gives other people an opportunity to come in and claim the jersey,” said the Cobblers boss.
“Using Joel Byrom as an example, he has had limited game time but I could trust somebody like him to go in and give a good account of himself.
“Just like I could with Alfie Potter, and like I could with any of the players that haven’t had many minutes.
“We have the players there, and they are raring to go because they know they have a point to prove. If they get that opportunity they will grab it with both hands I am sure.”