Cobblers boss Chris Wilder is urging his players to make the most of their ‘free hit’ when Milton Keynes Dons roll up at sold-out Sixfields in the FA Cup third round on Saturday (ko 3pm).
The Town manager is excited by the tie, and is looking forward to trying to turn the tables on a Dons side that finds itself in the unusual position of being an FA Cup ‘Goliath’ following their promotion to the Sky Bet Championship last May.
After years of being the lower division underdog and enjoying being giant-killers themselves, most notably last season against Manchester United in the League Cup, Karl Robinson’s men are now the ones to be shot at by league two high-flyers Northampton.
Wilder is well aware his team are very much second favourites going into the clash, but he is quietly confident of causing an upset, especially as the Dons are enduring a nightmare campaign on the road, having not won away from home since the opening day of the season.
“It’s not worth turning up if you don’t think you can win,” said the Cobblers boss.
“Milton Keynes are just down the road, and they have done fantasitcally well from where they were to get into the championship.
“I went to watch them against Sheffield Wednesday recently and they were full value for their win, and it is a going to be a different type of game to that we are used to playing in league two.
“They will have a lot of technical players, great movement, and it is a going to be a very, very good team we are up against individually and collectively.
“But it’s a free hit for us.
“They have had a couple of free hits in the past two or three years, I remember them going to QPR and winning in the FA Cup, and nobody will forget the unbelievable performance and result they had against Manchester United last season.
“They know what it is like to create and cause an upset, and we would like to do that to them.
“Dons understand that, it is a local derby, it is a full house again, which is great for everybody and all the players, and we are going to give it a right go.”
Dons are enduring a testing season back in the second tier of English football, and currently sit just a couple of places and points above the relegation zone.
But they are in with more than a fighting chance of surviving, and Wilder is wary of the talent the Buckinghamshire side have at their disposal.
That said, the Cobblers boss also knows that his team possesses more than enough ability and attacking spark to cause Dons problems.
“As I always say when we play teams from the championship and Premier League level, we are going to have to play really well,” said Wilder.
“All of our players are going to have to play at the top of their game, and theirs are going to have players that dip below their usual standards, but that can happen.
“We are hoping it could be our day, but we understand it is going to be a tough, tough game for us.
“There are bigger shocks that have happened in the FA Cup than us beating Dons on Saturday, and we have to believe it is going to be our day.
“We would all love for this run to continue, and for us to get past the third round.
“Saturday is a big day for us, and my players won’t need any motivation and hopefully we can push them to the limit.
“The game will be as easy or hard for them as we make it, and hopefully we will give them problems, it will be a tough test for them, and that’s all we can ask.”