Oxford United are on an eight-game unbeaten run, they have lost just once in their past 11 matches, and they are the next team lying in wait for the struggling Cobblers.
A Cobblers team that has lost six in seven, and it is fair to say is on the crest of a slump.
But manager Rob Page insists the trip to the Kassam Stadium is a ‘great game’ for his team to get their season moving in the right direction again, along with the fixtures against promoton-chasing Sheffield United and Bradford City that follow.
“We see this is a challenge, and the Oxford game is another great one for us,” said the Town boss
“You look at the fixtures coming up, and every fixture is tough, but the run of games we have had up to now this month, every team seems to be in and around the play-offs.
“Then you look at the next few fixtures, and we are preparing ourselves for a tough game at Oxford, and we have to make sure, irrespective of who we play, we get a reaction out of the players.”
The Cobblers go into the game on the back of a 3-2 home defeat to Rochdale.
After that loss, Page was locked in the dressing room for almost an hour with his players, but says it was good for everybody to talk,
“We had a good chat after the game on Saturday, and I allowed the players to talk,” said the Town boss.
“We let them talk amongst each other and to say what they demand of each other as well. They had a chat about why there is that level of inconsistency.
“From a work point of view they will be in, and the players want that themselves, which is good, because as a manager you want that work ethic.”
In recent seasons a real edge has developed for the matches between the Cobblers and Oxford.
Even before Chris Wilder switched the Kassam for Sixfields in 2014, there was a genuine rivalry, but that enhanced it - and last season’s battle for the Sky Bet League Two title (emphatically won by the Cobblers) added fuel to the fire.
A win on Monday will see the Cobblers leapfrog Michael Appleton’s men, and Page said: “We had them watched at the weekend, and we have had a couple of reports done on them, and we know they are capable of scoring goals and have a threat from more than one position.
“But it is about us dealing with that, and then imposing ourselves on them, and we aren’t doing that at the minute.
“We have done it in the main this season, but we haven’t done it recently.
“I thought we were very negative in our play against Rochdale in the first half on Saturday, where normally we haven’t been.
“We didn’t push Rochdale back, we didn’t retain the ball, and we have to get back to doing that at Oxford, and put our stamp on the game.”