Back down to business for Cobblers after 'fantastic' FA Cup adventure
Focus returns to promotion push with Vale visit
It's back down to the serious business of trying to win promotion out of Sky Bet League Two for the Cobblers when Port Vale visit the PTS Academy Stadium this weekend.
A terrific run to the FA Cup fourth round had been providing Town with a welcome distraction from the pressures of their league campaign up until Tuesday night when they were beaten 4-2 in a replay at Derby County.
"I thought we put on a very good representation of ourselves," said manager Keith Curle. "The away support was as good as I've seen for a very, very long time.
"Not only just the numbers but how vocal they were as well and even when Derby scored to make it 4-1, the Shoe Army didn't stop singing.
'In hindsight, our best chance was at home when we turned it into a League Two cup game and we had opportunities in that game.
"But it's been a fantastic journey and along that journey we've seen different storylines from going to Chippenham, then Notts County and leading onto playing against Derby County with Wayne Rooney in their ranks. We've been involved in those storylines and that is very pleasing."
The league is Cobblers' bread and butter though, and Saturday's visit of 10th-placed Vale is sure to be another stern examination of their automatic promotion credentials.
"Every game is a different challenge for the players and we're very respectful of the challenges," added Curle, who missed out on the January Manager of the Month award in favour of Plymouth's Ryan Lowe.
"Tuesday was a challenge but we accepted it and now we're back to the league and the challenge is Port Vale.
"They're no different to any team in this division. They have strengths and weaknesses but we need to turn up and we need to impose ourselves on them.
"They've got got some good players and players that I've worked with previously in different stages of their career.
"Cristian Montano, Luke Joyce, Richie Bennett... all good players that I've worked with and they're good characters as well
"They've also got good experience with (Leon) Legge at the back and (Tom) Pope up front. He's a charismatic footballer and an opinionated character but he's a bit of a throwback to the old days and I quite like him and he can score goals."