Oxford United boss Michael Appleton admits there is ‘not a lot of love lost’ between him and the Cobblers supporters.
Town travel to the Kassam Stadium on Boxing Day and take on the Us for the first time since securing the Sky Bet League Two title last season, with Oxford a massive 13 points behind in second place.
Despite that gap, and the fact the Cobblers beat Appleton’s team 1-0 both times they met, the Oxford boss publicly insisted on many occasions his team was ‘the best footballing side in the division’.
Indeed, when his team eventually sealed promotion and second place on the final day of the season, Appleton said: “This will cheese off a few Northampton fans as this year’s been fantastic and all credit to them... I’m probably going to upset people saying this but I think we have been the best team in the division.”
Even if it may have been said a little tongue in cheek, it was something the Town supporters not surprisingly latched on to and derided, and last season there was also the added edge that the Cobblers were steered to the title by Chris Wilder, who quit the Kassam in January 2014 to manage at Sixfields.
It is a game that is not strictly a local derby, but definitely has an added edge.
Oxford have sold 10,000-plus tickets for the festive fixture, and Appleton is looking forward to locking horns against the Cobblers once again.
“We will be more than prepared for the game against Northampton, and we are all looking forward to it,” said Appleton.
“It is obviously going to have a little bit of extra spice because of the competition we had last season with them.
“They won the league, we finished second, and the season was great for both sides for different reasons, and there is not a lot of love lost between some of their supprters and myself!
“But that is part and parcel of football.”
Oxford are currently 11th in Sky Bet League One, and are unbeaten in eight games in all competitions, losing just one of their past 11.
Confidence is high in their camp, but Oxford are only three points above the Cobblers, and Rob Page’s side will go back above them in the table if they win at the Kassam.
That is something that attacker Alex McDonald doesn’t want to happen, and he has told his team mates to be wary of the Cobblers, despite the fact Town have lost five of their past six in the league.
“It is always hard coming against these teams who haven’t really performed to the level they think they should be doing,” said McDonald, who played in the Us’ 1-0 loss against the 10-men of Town at Sixfields last season, but not in the Cobblers’ 1-0 win in Oxford in February.
“They are on a losing streak they want to end and we just hope we are not the team that changes their fortunes.”