Cobblers players to make the most of rare respite in 'crazy' schedule
Mills relieved to have no midweek fixture
Even for professional athletes whose bodies are designed to withstand intense physical pressure, this season's hectic and unprecedented schedule it starting to take its toll.
It was always going to be a unique season for obvious reasons but it is only in the last couple of months that the relentless nature of the schedule has really hit home for the Cobblers.
On Saturday, they played their 12th game in 39 days, and this current week is their first without a Tuesday game since January 19 – and even back on that date they made the long trip up to Blackpool only to be met by a waterlogged pitch.
Whilst Lloyd Jones described himself as ‘buzzing’ to finally get a week off, fellow defender Joseph Mills was more relieved.
“I think someone mentioned that Saturday was our seventh game in 23 days or something like crazy like that,” said Town's skipper.
“Being a professional footballer, your body is built for playing games and training but it has been quite hectic and quite ridiculous for the last month or so.
“I think it’s been nearly two months since we had a Tuesday free but the lads are professional enough to deal with it.”
With no Tuesday game to plan and prepare for this week, Cobblers can not only rest sore bodies but also go through some tactical work with manager Jon Brady on the training ground.
“We’ll go home and we’ll look after ourselves but it also gives us a chance to work on a few things,” Mills added.
“With all the games we’ve had recently, there’s not really been much time to get on the training field and work on patterns of play and stuff like that, so that’ll be a bonus for us as well.”
Mills is one of those players who should benefit from having an extra few days rest.
The 31-year-old, who has skippered Town in seven of the last eight matches in the absence of regular captain Cian Bolger, has struggled with a minor injury problem over the past couple of weeks.
He limped off during the win over Portsmouth and then missed the defeat at Charlton before returning to play the full 90 minutes against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
“I feel none the worse,” he said. “Obviously I was left out last Tuesday. I tried a fitness test in the morning but it wasn’t any good so we took the decision not to force it.
“I came back in on Saturday and don’t get me wrong, I can still feel it a little bit but I knew I wanted to get through this game.
“We don’t have a midweek game coming up so that gives me some extra time to get some rest and recover and be ready for the next game.”
Mills was part of another impressive defensive effort on Saturday as Cobblers blunted promotion-seeking Doncaster in a largely drab stalemate at the Keepmoat.
It was Town’s sixth goalless draw since the turn of the year and this one undoubtedly belonged in the ‘points gained’ category, although results elsewhere on Tuesday dropped them back into the League One relegation zone.
“I think it’s a good point,” agreed Mills. “They’re up near the top of the table for a reason and they’ve been in good form.
“We knew it would be a tough test but at the same time we have picked up some good results recently and our performances have been getting better and better as time has gone on and I think we deserved a point.”