‘Play the game, not the occasion’ - that is the message from Keith Curle to his Cobblers players as they prepare for Saturday’s big Sky Bet League Two clash at Milton Keynes Dons (ko 3pm).
Town take on their near neighbours at Stadium MK aiming to make it five matches unbeaten, and fresh from the boost of claiming a first home win of the season in dramatic fashion last weekend.
Andy Williams scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time to see off Forest Green Rovers 2-1, and a large travelling army of Cobblers fans are now expected to make the short trip across the county border to Buckinghamshire.
Town have never won on any of their previous six visits to the home of MK, with last season’s goalless draw the best they have managed, that result bringing to an end a run of five straight defeats.
Curle believes Town are more than capable of claiming something from Saturday’s encounter, but is calling for calm heads within his squad.
“Derby games are fantastic,” said the Cobblers boss.
League positions go out of the window, previous results go out of the window, and it is about managing the emotions on the day and playing the game, not the occasionCobblers boss Keith Curle
“League positions go out of the window, previous results go out of the window, and it is about managing the emotions on the day and playing the game, not the occasion.
“You have to make sure you put in the minimum requirement of the roles and responsibilities required from you within the framework of the team.
“We won’t change our philosophy of approaching the game - it is a challenge, and we look forward to challenges.
“That is the message that we as a management team give to the players.
“We will give them challenges within the overall challenge of winning the game, that individually they aim to come out on top in.
“If they do that, and you have more players coming out on top of their indivual challenges, then the more chance you have got of winning the game.”
Curle has a very healthy respect for MK manager Paul Tisdale, with the pair having come face to face as opposition managers on many occasions over the years, most memorably in the league two play-offs a couple of seasons ago, with Tisdale’s Exeter edging out Curle’s Carlisle.
Tisdale quit his long-time role with the Grecians to take over at Stadium MK in the summer, and Curle is in no doubt he will be a success at his new club.
MK have enjoyed a good start under their new boss, having lost just once in the league this season, and now they have started to turn draws into wins, they have moved into promotion contention, rising to fourth.
“The manager has a very good knowledge of this division, and also operating at the top of this division,” said Curle. “He has his playing philosophy, he has had a longer period of time than myself to embed those fundamentals he wants into his squad.
“I have a lot of time and a lot of respect for Paul for the jobs he has done previously, and for the job I think he will do at MK Dons.
“He is not someone who panics, he is very calm in his approach, and he is somebody I have time for on and off the pitch.
“On a Saturday afternoon he wants to win games of football, and so do I.
“MK Dons will have a way of playing, a style of play that is probably in its infancy with Paul, but it is down to us to go down there and interrupt the way they want to play the game.
“We then have to implement ways in which we think we can cause them problems.”