Bristol Rovers boss Joey Barton is expecting Northampton to beat Barrow on the final day of the season and says his side will be ready to ‘freewheel’ against Scunthorpe if they need to boost their goal difference in the battle for third spot.
It looks a two-horse race between Cobblers and Rovers for the last automatic promotion place and Jon Brady’s men will start the day in pole position thanks to their superior goal difference.
Should they beat Barrow, Rovers would need to better their margin of victory by five goals as they host bottom side Scunthorpe.
"We know there are five goals between us and Northampton and we know if we can create opportunities, certainly from the game against Scunthorpe at their place, we know we can create chances against them,” Barton said at his Thursday press conference.
“For us, if we win 1-0, that gives us the best opportunity because Northampton still have to go to Barrow, which is a tricky place, albeit I think Northampton will win there.
“I will be surprised if Northampton don’t win there, but as Salford and Newport showed the other day there are no easy points in this league.
“Phil Brown has been a Premier League manager and done really well at lots of clubs. I think he’s figuring out his squad for next year so I imagine Phil will want to give a good performance in their last home game.
“You have to expect Northampton to win there so we need to make sure we win first and foremost, and if we have the opportunity to win and freewheel a little bit, then obviously we’ll go for it because we want to get that last automatic spot.”
Scunthorpe, who have long since been relegated, played several teenagers in their 1-1 draw with Hartlepool last weekend and Keith Hill is likely to field a similar team at the Memorial Stadium.
On his side’s game plan, Barton added: "We’ve worked through some things in terms of getting more aggressive if we decide to go that way.
"But we know we’ve got a team that’s just lost its league status that has got a lot of young players in it who will be proud and wanting to go out of the Football League putting on a good show and there a lot of young kids there who are just starting out in their careers.
“We expect a physical test and they’ll be wanting to do as well as they can.
“For us, it’s about winning the game first and foremost and making sure we get our 23rd win of the season, getting to that 80-point mark and then we’ll be aware of what is going on in other games.
“But if we’re to give ourselves maximum chance then we must win the game first and foremost. If we get into a position where we can freewheel a bit and then go for it, of course we will do.
“For us, it’s about putting on a good show in front of our fans and giving ourselves the best opportunity we can of clinching that third spot.
“We saw the scores on Monday and a four-horse race became a two-horse race.”