Peterborough United manager Grant McCann expects Northampton Town to be far tougher opponents tomorrow (October 3, 7.45pm kick off) than they were in August.
Posh nailed the Cobblers 4-1 at Sixfields five weeks ago to leave their local rivals next-to-bottom in League One.
They haven’t improved their league position much - they are 22nd in the table and haven’t scored for over 400 minutes - but McCann insists Cobblers are a far superior outfit under recently-appointed manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
The teams meet in a Checkatrade Trophy group match at the ABAX Stadium and a win for either would pretty much guarantee qualification for the knockout stages.
“Jimmy has steadied the ship,” McCann said. “They are a very resolute side who have become hard to break down.
“Northampton won the first two games under Jimmy. They’ve struggled for results since, but they are organised and committed.
“I’m expecting a tough game.”
McCann also expects a reaction from his players following the second-half shambles that led to a 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Oxford on Saturday (September 30).
That result could persuade McCann to play field a stronger team than he originally planned. The likes of Danny Lloyd and Alex Penny are however in contention for a start.
“The lads have reacted well so far to Saturday’s setback,” McCann added. “No-one ever said this season would be easy. There were always going ot be ups and downs, trails and tribulations.
“We remain convinced we are tackling the season in the right way. Perhaps the players need to trust themselves a bit more.
“The experienced lads in the squad like Taylor, Grant and Tafazolli who know how to deal with defeats have been great with the younger lads.
“We need to get back on an even keel and to be strong for a game against our local rivals. Training has been good in the last couple of days.
“We were disappointed with the Oxford result obviously, but we still had a go. We must be as positive again, while tightening up a bit.
“I was pleased with how Danny Lloyd played when he went on as a substitute on Saturday and he in contention for a start. He was positive and his attitude was spot on.”
Injured midfielder Gwion Edwards will miss out again, but is expected to return when Posh are next in League One action at home to Gillingham on October 14. Midfielder Callum Chettle is close to a return to action.
Striker Junior Morias is scheduled for an operation on his injured thigh tomorrow. Ricky Miller is expected to start alongside either top scorer Jack Marriott or teenager Idris Kanu. Centre-back Alex Penny is another possible starter.
Jermaine Anderson is likely to get another opportunity in central midfield after starting his first match for almost 13 months against Oxford.
“I’ve told Ricky to forget about scoring goals and concentrate on working hard for the team,” McCann said. “The goals will come naturally enough for him. He’s only started three games, but we do need to find goals from sources other than Jack Marriott.
“Jermaine was fine against Oxford, but like most of the team he disappeared in the second-half. At his best he will take players on and get into the penalty area and score goals. He will reach those heights again, but we have to be patient with him.”
Cobblers are expected to give a debut to former Nottingham Forest midfielder Lewis McGugan who joined the club yesterday.