Aidy Boothroyd believes the Cobblers’ back-to-back road fixtures will provide the perfect opportunity to test the effectiveness of a carefully-planned new strategy for away games.
Town go to Southend and Wimbledon in their next two matches, with a trip to Kingsmeadow on Tuesday night coming after today’s contest at Roots Hall (ko 3pm).
Both provide differing challenges, with Southend hoping to feature in the npower League Two promotion race and the Dons’ ambition being simply to stay in the division.
But both represent opportunities for Boothroyd to amend Northampton’s away form, which is among the worst in the division, with the Shrimpers plagued by injuries (notably in central defence) and Wimbledon having won twice in their past 14 outings.
“There has to be a new strategy,” stated Boothroyd. “We’ve obviously got some good things going on at home, we’ve got a system and style that suits us there.
“We have got some good wins away from home but we need to get a lot more. Being 22nd in the away form table is not going to make us successful and so that’s a key area we need to improve on.
“That’s not just against the top teams, it’s against every team we play. This is a key period for us and a real opportunity.
“It is tight and it is tense and we’ve got to find the way to play that suits us away from home in these next two games.
“Southend are looking to get promoted and Wimbledon are fighting for their lives so they will be very difficult games but ones we have to get something out of.”
Town have only won one away game since the second week of November and glimmers of hope, such as the one provided in a battling 1-1 draw at Torquay two months ago, have been in short supply amid depressing losses to the likes of Chesterfield and Rotherham.
Only defender David Artell and long-term injury victims Alex Nicholls and Nana remain on the unavailable list for the Cobblers this weekend, which means the manager will be able to select from a battery of forward players enhanced by the January transfer window recruitment of Roy O’Donovan.
As well as hinting at an extended role for the Irishman, Boothroyd also wants to see his players adopt a more proactive than reactive role in games away from home.
“What Roy brings is something different,” he said. “We’ve got two very strong footballers up front in Clive Platt and Bayo Akinfenwa, they both have a good touch and they can both bring people into play.
“Clive got a good goal at the back post last weekend and Bayo is capable of scoring goals from all over the penalty area.
“There are times away from home when you need to do something a little bit different.
“Playing those two up front at Torquay worked but it hasn’t in other games.
“That’s where Roy comes into the equation. When you’re an opposition manager setting up against us you have to allow for the strong ones but also be aware we have got a player who can get us in behind.
“Then that will stretch the game and allow our midfielders to get on the ball and maybe frustrate our opponents.
“What we seem to have been doing a lot away from home is fighting to stay in games and to get into games rather than putting the onus on the opposition and exploiting their weaknesses, which we have been able to do at home.”