Chris Wilder believes the Cobblers will this weekend face a Plymouth side who will feel it is their time to deliver a promotion to Sky Bet League One.
The Pilgrims finished 10th last season and go into Saturday’s game at Sixfields (3pm kick-off) sixth in the table and with ambitions of at least reaching the play-offs.
Manager John Sheridan made only minor adjustments to his squad in the close season, with his most notable work being the permanent transfer of striker Reuben Reid, who has scored nine times in the current campaign, to Home Park.
And Wilder, who scouted Argyle in their 3-0 FA Cup second-round defeat at Sheffield United on Saturday, believes they will be close to winning automatic promotion this term.
“I went to watch them on Saturday, it was about a five-minute walk down the road (from his home), and they were competitive,” he said.
“They’ve got a good, strong squad and John has had to take his time in terms of getting the players in that he wants.
“Like myself, you want to get that change around really quickly, but he’s now just putting his own stamp on the club.
“I’m sure they’ll go close to being a top-seven team and pushing into the top three.
“Like a lot of teams they are looking for that consistency but they were unlucky on Saturday.
“They have good players right through the team and John has already had a promotion out of this league so they’re maybe thinking it’s their time to deliver.”
With goalkeeper Jordan Archer suspended, Matt Duke is in line for a recall in goal and Wilder has every confidence the change will be a seamless one.
“I said all along that Jordan would have to play well to keep Matt out of the team and he has done that,” he said.
“It was unfortunate for him because that was his first real mistake in a first-team shirt for us and it’s a double whammy because he’s suspended now as well.
“Matt comes in and he’s a quality player who certainly doesn’t weaken us.”