Cobblers boss Rob Page is hoping to have the luxury of being able to field his strongest side in tomorrow’s (November 19) derby with Peterborough United at Sixfields - something he couldn’t do at the ABAX Stadium last month.
The two sides met just four weeks ago across the Cambridgeshire border, and Posh eased to a 3-0 win against a much-changed Cobblers team, due to suspensions and an experimental team selection from Page.
With midfielders Matt Taylor and Jak McCourt unavailable as they were both banned, Page opted for an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation, with the decision ultimately backfiring.
Town played those three central defenders for the only time to date this season, while John-Joe O’Toole was left on the bench as Joel Byrom was given a first - and to date, only - league start of the campaign alongside Paul Anderson and Sam Hoskins in central midfield, with Alex Revell and Marc Richards both starting up front.
The manager insisted after the game that the defeat was more down to his team’s failure to deal with set-pieces - Posh’s first two goals came direct from corners - rather than the selection, and he stands by that belief.
But he is also relieved the squad goes into tomorrow’s’s rematch in much better shape than they did for last month’s fixture, with key man Taylor definitely available and McCourt likely to feature, having recovered from a neck problem picked up in the FA Cup win over Harrow.
Former Posh defender Gaby Zakuani is also expected to start after returning from international duty with DR Congo.
JJ Hooper is a doubt after suffering a thigh strain at Gillingham last weekend, but Page said: “Hopefully we will have some good news on Jak McCourt and JJ Hooper, and it will be nice to go in with a full-strength squad with no suspensions.
“We missed certain players at Peterborough, and hopefully I will have a headache trying to pick 11 from a full-strength squad for Saturday.”
Page felt 3-0 was harsh on his team at London Road, and with the score at 2-0 in the second half the Cobblers did have a spell of pressure where they had opportunities but didn’t take them.
“The ball just didn’t drop for us on the night,” said the Cobblers boss.
“There are many times this season where you have seen a melee in the box and you are waiting for the ball to hit the net, but that night it hit one of their defenders and went for a corner, or it hit the post, or the bar and it didn’t drop for us.
“Even at 2-0 I think JJ should score at the far post, and if he puts that in then it is 2-1 and we might have even gone on to get a draw, but it is all about fine margins.
“We miss that chance, and then they go up the other end and get the third goal on a counter-attack.”
Page is demanding a quick start from his team this weekend, saying: “I thought we grew into the game in the second half at their place, and we will be looking to do that from the first minute on Saturday.
“It is about us worrying about ourselves and imposing ourselves on them
“We will respect them and what they are all about, because they have some good players, are a good team, and are on a good run at the minute, but it is our home fixture, it’s our home pitch, we are in front of our home fans and we need to impose ourselves on them.
“We are really looking forward to this game, let’s put it that way.”