Boss Page insists Cobblers can be a match for promotion-chasing Bolton
Boss Rob Page believes the Cobblers have already proved they can be a match for the best that Sky Bet League One has to offer - and says they are going to have to do it again at Sixfields on Saturday (ko 3pm).
High-flying Bolton Wanderers are the visitors this weekend, with the match concluding a tough week of fixtures that has seen the Cobblers narrowly edged out 1-0 by two other promotion chasers in Peterborough United and Bradford City.
Phil Parkinson’s men have won seven of their past eight league matches - their only blip a 1-0 defeat at Posh - and it’s a run that has kept them very much in the title race as they sit third in the table, level on points with second-placed Sheffield United and six points behind clear leaders Scunthorpe United.
And it is the standard of Cobblers’ performance in their 1-1 draw against table-toppers Iron at Glanford Park back in October - a match that saw Town play the final 30 minutes with 10 men after Matt Taylor’s red card - that Page says his players have to match ahead of facing the Trotters.
“We are fully aware of the quality Bolton have, but go back to the Scunthorpe game, and the level of performance we gave against a team that has been outstandingly consistent at the top,” said the Town boss.
“We went to Scunthorpe and could have won that game with 10 men, and we have to look back at games like that, where we have more than held our own against the top teams in the division.
“We need to take the confidence and belief from that, even though we are having an indifferent time at the minute, because the defeats we have had, we haven’t been played off the park and been battered, we have been in the games.
“I think we could be sitting here with an extra two points on the board, having not particularly played well, but we have to take belief going into Saturday’s game and give a good account of ourselves.”
Bolton will be making their first visit to Sixfields, with the two clubs not having met in the league since the 1989/90 season.
Wanderers have been living the high life for a lot of the years since then, and spent 11 successive seasons in the Premier League from 2001 onwards, twice qualifying for the UEFA Cup, before being relegated into the Championship in 2012.
That was the beginning of a tough financial time for the club that very nearly saw them go out of business last season.
The club just about survived, but they were relegated to league one, where they have again started to flourish.
The squad still contains players that have Premier League and Championship experience with the likes of Jay Spearing, David Wheater, Mark Beevers and Sammy Ameobi, and in 21-year-old Zach Clough, their six-goal top scorer, they have unearthed a real talent.
Page admits Saturday’s game is going to be a real challenge for his players, but that he’s confident they can rise to the occasion.
“Zach Clough is a terrific player, he got the goal against Coventry in their last game with a great finish,” said the Town boss.
“Gary Madine, who I have played with and worked with, is another terrific centre forward, so they have got an abundance of quality in the team.
“But we knew coming up to this level that you are going to be tested coming up against opposition like this, and that is why we are in the game, we want to play against the best in our division and Bolton are up there at the minute.
“They are pushing for promotion and rightly so, and it is a fantastic opportunity to go and give a performance against one of the best teams in the division.”
Saturday’s meeting is only the 11th between the clubs in competitive football, with the Cobblers winning the most recent clash, claiming a 2-1 victory at the Reebok Stadium in the league cup back in 2008 thanks to two goals from Adebayo Akinfenwa,