Cobblers boss Page relishing testing weekend against promotion challengers
As weekends in Sky Bet League One go, the one facing the Cobblers as we move into the year 2017 is right up there with the toughest you can get.
And boss Rob Page can’t wait.
Town, boosted by their Boxing Day win at Oxford United, face a trip to promotion-chasing Sheffield United on New Year’s Eve before hosting another team with eyes on the Championship, Bradford City, on Bank Holiday Monday.
They are two of the most testing fixtures on the calendar this season, with the Blades sitting second in the table, just one point behind leaders Scunthorpe United, and the Bantams in fifth, having lost just three times in the league all season.
The fact the Cobblers play both games in just 48 hours increases the challenge, but Page said: “We have a great weekend coming up of tough fixtures, but we knew that coming into this league.
“As a player and a manager, you want to be involved in games like this.”
Saturday’s trip to Bramall Lane looks to be a particularly daunting one, with a crowd of 22,000-plus expected in south Yorkshire.
Almost 26,000 saw United beat Oldham Athletic on Boxing Day, and it is going to be a special occasion for the Cobblers players, and their anticipated 1,500 travelling supporters.
And Page is setting his sights on claiming what would be a memorable victory against the team now managed by his predecessor at Sixfields, Chris Wilder.
“Sheffield United do have terrific support, and it is going to be a tough game,” said Page.
“There is going to be around 22,000 people there, so it is a great fixture, it is going to be a fantastic atmosphere, and it’s one where we’ll be looking forward to going and having a go.
“Yes, it’s Sheffield United, they are second in the division and playing really, really well at the minute, but I watched them play against Oldham last weekend, and I thought Oldham were unfortunate.
“Sheffield United scored two late goals, but when you have somebody of Billy Sharp’s quality, if you give him half a yard in your box the ball is going to be in the back of the net.
“Oldham switched off for two vital moments and he scores twice.
“So Sheffield United have got quality in their team and we have to respect that, but it is about us going there and imposing ourselves on them, like we did at Oxford.”
“We are not going there to make the numbers up, we are going there to give a good account of ourselves and have a go at getting the three points”
The day is given added significance for Page, as he is a former Sheffied United player.
The Welshman spent three seasons at the Blades, making 128 appearances in the red and white stripes after being bought for £350,000 from Watford, before leaving to sign for Cardiff City in the summer of 2004.
It is a club close to Page’s heart, but he insists all sentiment will be put to one side when he takes his Cobblers team to Bramall Lane.
“I still live in the area and it is a club I have a lot of time for,” said the Town manager.
“I had three great years there under Neil Warnock, and it will be nice to go back, but when the whistle goes it is all about business, and I will be wanting that win.”