Chris Wilder has warned Plymouth Argyle that the current Cobblers team will be a very different proposition to the one they met back in August when the Pilgrims claimed a comfortable Sky Bet League Two win at Sixfields.
In what was one of Town’s most ineffective performances of the season, a goal in each half from Graham Carey - following a bad mistake by Ryan Watson - and Jake Jervis sealed a 2-0 victory for an impressive Argyle side, with Josh Lelan’s late sending off setting the seal on a disappointing afternoon.
The Cobblers travel to Devon for the reverse fixture on Tuesday night with both teams sitting pretty at the top of the league, and Northampton in superb form.
Plymouth are top, three points clear of second-placed Town and have won four games in a row, but Wilder’s men have a game in hand and are on a run that has seen them win nine of their past 11 league two games, dropping just five points from the last 33 available to them.
Wilder is the first to admit Plymouth deserved the three points at Sixfields, but he is confident his team can put on more of a show at Home Park.
“I think generally the team is in a lot better shape than where we were in August,” said the Cobblers boss.
“It was early on in the season, they deservedly won the game, but I have to say there was nothing in it in the first half until a mistake by us gifted them a goal.
“In the second half Plymouth were a lot better, a lot stronger than us and I had no complaints about the result on that day.
“Whether it was us not being as good as we have been recently, or them playing at the top of the game I don’t know, but they deserved the result, and I would say they are one of the best teams that have come here in the first part of the season.
“We feel we have grown as a team, we are in better shape, we have shown consistency individually and the team is playing well as a group.
“We have players back as well, Brendan Moloney’s back, Ricky Holmes is back, and we have other players who have settled into the team.
“So while we understand the threats and weaknesses of Plymouth, as they do of us, that game was quite a long time ago and both of us have got to the positions we are in on merit, and on form.
“I listen to news that comes out of Plymouth, and the have had an outstanding first part of the season according to their manager and everybody who watches them, and we are only three points behind them with a game in hand, so we’re not doing too bad ourselves.
“This is a big challenge for us, going to the league leaders after playing a difficult game on Saturday while they had a little break.
“They will know if they have seen us play on Saturday that we are a decent side playing well, individually and collectively.”
The Cobblers go into Tuesday’s game after battling to that 2-2 FA Cup draw against Championship side MK Dons, while Argyle had the weekend off having been knocked out of that competition by Carlisle United at the first round stage.
Having played just three days ago, and with the long trip down to Devon as well, Wilder could be forgiven for worrying that the different preparations will hand an advantage to the home side, but he isn’t convinced that will be the case.
“I’ve been in the game long enough, and you never know until the match starts,” said Wilder when asked if he thinks Argyle will benefit from their mini break.
“We can take the positives from Saturday, and we have come through that game with no injuries, and sometimes players need games.
“Sometimes, when you have had a break and you don’t play on a Saturday, that can work a different way, and you never know how it’s going to go until the players step out on that pitch.
“Saturday was a tough game, and it is a long journey down, but we will have enough time to prepare right and really look forward to a tough battle and a really good game.
“These are the games you want to be involved in, and I always like going down to Plymouth.
“It is a proper football club, really good supporters and there will be plenty of them there making loads of noise, and it is a great game to be involved in and one we are looking forward to.”