Boss Chris Wilder accepts that is it ‘advantage’ to Milton Keynes Dons as he takes his Cobblers team to stadiummk for their FA Cup third-round replay on Tuesday night (ko 7.45pm) - but he is still confident his players can pull off a shock victory.
There was nothing between the two sides 10 days ago when the original tie ended 2-2, and they meet again with the huge prize for the winners a fourth-round home date with Barclays Premier League champions Chelsea.
Milton Keynes are struggling at the wrong end of the Sky Bet Championship, but they kept their heads above the relegation zone with a 1-0 win over Reading on Saturday, and they go into the game against the Cobblers as favourites to progress.
But Wilder’s men, who were 2-1 winners at league one Coventry City in the first round, are on a scintillating run of form that has seen them move level on points with leaders Plymouth Argyle at the top of league two.
The Town boss also felt his team was the better side in the first game against Dons.
Indeed, the Cobblers led that match 2-1 until eight minutes from time thanks to a Ricky Holmes double, and were more than a match for Karl Robinson’s men, who will be wary of the threat Town possess in the replay.
Wilder believes that if his team performs to their best, they have a genuine chance of setting up that dream date against Guus Hiddink’s Blues, a match that will be shown live on BBC1, but he admits they have to reproduce the spark they showed in the original tie.
“Milton Keynes are at home, so it is advantage to them,” said the Cobblers boss. “It is a tough challenge and task we have in front of us.
“When we at our best we can compete, and I think we were pretty good in the first game.
“Tuesday is another night though, and we have to reproduce that, and should imagine Karl (Robinson) will be hoping his team plays a little bit better than they did.
“Nobody has gone through yet, it’s another game, and they will respect us as much as I have total respect for Karl and the coaching staff and their players.”
The carrot being dangled of that date with Chelsea is clearly something the Cobblers would love to get their teeth into, but Wilder says the incentive is just as great for Milton Keynes, who could look forward to a 30,000 full-house if they were to get through to take on Diego Costa and Co.
“It is obvious what’s at stake, what is at the end of the night for one of the teams,” said the Town manager.
“The Premier League champions, as they still are, await in the next round and that is a big, big incentive for everybody connected.
“It is a big incentive for us, but it is just as big an incentive for them if they go through.
“A game that is going to be shown live on television, that will be a sell-out, whether it’s here at Sixfields or at their place, and it is a big prize at the end of this game.
“I should imagine both teams will be going for it to try and get through.”
Robinson rested players for the first game at Sixfields as he rotated his squad, and he is set to do the same again on Tuesday.
That could be an indication that Milton Keynes aren’t taking the game as seriously as Northampton, but Wilder is having none of that.
“The Milton Keynes players are professional footballers for a reason, they have earned really good careers because day in, day out, week in, week out, they have to go about their business in a proper, professional manner, with a desire to do well,” said Wilder.
“No matter what team they put out, the players will be quality players.
“Milton Keynes showed commendable spirit in coming back to draw the first game in what was a difficult game for them.
“It is over to them now, but we are not out of the tie and we have players that, if they play well on the day, and MK are a little bit off it, we can progress and we have to hope that happens.”