Cobblers boss Jon Brady is confident his side can handle the pressure of being the favourites to win promotion on the final day of the season as 12 months of hard work all comes down to 90 minutes at Barrow.
Planning for this season started from the moment the final whistle blew at Sunderland, Town’s last game in League One before heading back down to the fourth tier. After taking permanent charge a few days before that game, Brady then overhauled the squad, assembled a new coaching staff and was influential in changes to the recruitment structure behind the scenes.
Cobblers were not necessarily expected to compete for promotion this season – certainly not automatically – but they are ahead of schedule and will secure an immediate return to the third tier with victory over Barrow tomorrow, unless Bristol Rovers score at least six goals against Scunthorpe.
"We have worked extremely hard all season,” said Brady. “I don't think anyone really sees the work we have done and that work started straight after the Sunderland game at the end of last season.
"We worked hard to put a strong group together. There will be time for reflection at the end of the season when it's done and dusted and we will reflect on what went well and what could have been better.
"But there are no pats on the back given out right now.”
With expectation comes increased pressure and Cobblers will start the day as strong favourites to finish third.
"The belief is strong and we know we are competitive,” Brady added. “The work-rate and the way we have played in the last few games has been really good and really strong all over.
"We will approach the game in the best way we can on Saturday and we just really looking forward to it to be honest.
"I think we have had a lot of focus and noise from the outside for the last four or five weeks so I feel the players are use to it and it's the norm for us.
"If you want to be in this position, I think you have to take it onboard and enjoy it and thrive on it."
Giving a player’s perspective, Louis Appéré said: "I think we will manage fine. These are the games you want to play in. It's exciting and we are all looking forward to it and can't wait to get started on Saturday.
"We are expecting a difficult game. I think we can just focus on ourselves, that's the main thing, and do what we can to impact it and hopefully that will be enough.”