When the Portsmouth press officer distributed the team sheets at Fratton Park on Sunday, you could almost hear the visiting journalists gulp.
The reaction to the team selection was a combination of fear and dark foreboding - a certain loss, it was assumed, was on the cards.
Roy O’Donovan had added to his name to the list of injured players in the build-up to the match, taking the number of medical absentees to seven.
Darren Carter, who had been impressive in central midfield at Burton Albion on Boxing Day, served a one-match suspension.
This was a true ‘bare bones’ selection, with two scholars on the bench and a first-year pro (Ivan Toney) making up the numbers despite not being match fit.
Matty Harriott, ‘fresh’ from a loan spell at Conference South club Hayes & Yeading, played the full 90 minutes in midfield; David Moyo, whose most recent football was with Stamford of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, got in 55 as another player - Luke Norris - got injured.
But the depleted team far exceeded the expectations of them with one of the better away performances of the season.
It was not an action-packed game and it must be said that Portsmouth looked a poor side who will be comfortably beaten by other sides in the division.
As an exercise in proving the squad has plenty of spirit, though, it was a very worthwhile one.
They played with no fear in front of a vast crowd and had a few chances to win the game, notably when Moyo was cynically fouled in the game’s final few minutes.
It was also a significantly good result - and display - for caretaker boss Andy King.
Whatever his faults might be (and so far they seem to begin and end with an association with the old Aidy Boothroyd regime), the group is definitely playing for him.
They could easily have got him dismissed with a woeful display but there has been no ‘David Lee moment’ this time around, and that bodes well for the spirit and unity within the group.
Whoever takes charge of the team in the next few days, will - on this evidence - have a committed set of players with which to work.
And that will be a good start.
Didn’t have any real saves to make and handling and kicking was fine throughout ...6
A strange performance, with basic errors mixed with some very bright pieces of play ...6
Enjoyed his physical battle with Agyemang and got the better of the big striker ...6
Saw a lot of the ball as the Cobblers frustrated the home crowd by keeping possession at the back ...6
Shrugged off an early shoulder injury to battle through the pain barrier and make a contribution ...6
Was once again the Cobblers’ best attacking player and sliced the defence open once or twice ...7
Made a good return to central midfield and played with a good intensity throughout ...6
Contributed arguably his best performance for the club but needs to trust his shooting instincts more ...7
Has played some of his best football in the past couple of games, although he was in and out of this one ...7
Struggled to build a momentum of attacks and was well marked out of it by his full-back ...6
Has shown a couple of bright moments before limping out of the proceedings with a thigh strain ...6
DAVID MOYO (for Norris 38)
Isn’t really the answer right now but led the line well and almost snatched a late winner ...6
ISHMEL DEMONTAGNAC (for Emerton 85)
Not used: B Heath, Hooper, M Heath, Toney, Roberts