Cobbers boss Aidy Boothroyd rates Southend manager Paul Sturrock as being among the best coaches he has pitted his wits against.
The two will go head-to-head at Roots Hall on Saturday (3pm kick-off) as Sturrock aims to improve his club’s ninth-place standing in npower League Two and Boothroyd bids to put right a poor run of away form that has returned only three wins all season.
Northampton assistant manager Andy King is ‘good mates’ with Sturrock and the two are planning to go out for dinner after the game, with King buying.
But until that point there will be no friendship, with the teams separated by a single point in the table and both harbouring ambitions of a finish in the division’s top seven.
For Boothroyd, there is also a nagging annoyance at the way in which the August meeting between the sides was settled - Ryan Cresswell scoring an injury-time equaliser to ensure honours ended even at 3-3.
“My biggest issue in the game earlier in the season is that we were the better team on the day and didn’t win,” said Boothroyd.
“That is the thing with Paul Sturrock’s team and that’s why I’ve got so much respect for him. I’ve come up against him three or four times now and no matter how badly his teams play, they get results.
“That’s down to him and down to the way he sets them up.
“He’s as good as I’ve ever come up against and you never know quite what he’s going to do.
“He’s very unpredictable in a lot of what he does. The game here was like a Saturday night punch-up with people taking turns to hit each other.
“It ended up being a 3-3 draw when it should have been a 3-0 win for us and it wasn’t because we made some bad individual mistakes.”
Boothroyd has spoken of a need to produce a new tactical formula away from home, an exigent requirement in the wake of the 3-1 savaging at the hands of a rampant Rotherham a fortnight ago.
If the team are to gain any kind of result at Roots Hall they will need winger Chris Hackett to replicate the form he showed in last week’s win over Rochdale.
“Chris has been outstanding from the first minute of the season and because of that teams are setting up differently now,” conceded Boothroyd.
“That means we have to come up with a plan to get him on the ball more and get him in more dangerous positions.
“But all season - and especially at home - he has been outstanding for us.”