Justin Edinburgh says Saturday will see the Cobblers face their ‘biggest test’ since he took charge of the club when Sky Bet League champions-elect Sheffield United roll up at Sixfields.
Chris Wilder’s team are six points clear at the top of the table and just one win away from securing promotion to the Championship.
They are the division’s highest scorers with 78 goals in 41 matches, have won more games than any other team (25), and in Billy Sharp possess the division’s leading scorer, with the lifelong Blades fan having netted 26 times - four clear of the next best, Bury’s James Vaughan.
Edinburgh feels he has taken charge of higher pressure matches since taking over from Rob Page in January, but in terms of quality of opposition, Sheffield United are on another level.
“Sheffield United are a team full of men,” said the Town manager.
“They are a team probably plying their trade in a league below where they should be, but you still have to go and get that success, and they have done that.
We have watched the past three or four games and they are playing with a real swagger and it is going to be tough, but we are not too far away ourselves from being a good team and we look forward to the challengeCobblers boss Justin Edinburgh
“They are a powerful team full of momentum, optimism and belief.
“We have watched the past three or four games and they are playing with a real swagger and it is going to be tough, but we are not too far away ourselves from being a good team and we look forward to the challenge.
“This is probably the biggest test we have had so far since I have been here, in terms of the team we are playing.
“Perhaps we have had more pressure on other games at home, against teams like Coventry and Charlton, but I think this is a really good one for us.”
Edinburgh has faced the Blades this season when manager of Gillingham, but it was early in the campaign when Wilder’s men were struggling, having claimed just four points from their their opening five league matches.
United ended up winning at the Priestfield Stadium with a stoppage time penalty conceded in strange circumstances, and Edinburgh believes it is a moment Wilder will look back on as a key one in their season.
Edinburgh joked: “We set them on a really good run!
“It was a quite bizarre end to the game, when one of our players gave away a penalty for the most bizarre handball I have ever seen. What he did was something that would have been at home in a basketball match.
“It was a scrappy game, but I think from then on Chris and his team haven’t really looked back.
“They are the things you look at as defining moments in your season, and that might be one of them because they didn’t play particularly well.
“But they got the win that sort of set them on the road, but we are fully aware of what they are about.
“They are a good side, but I think we are at the moment, and I look forward to challenging them and seeing if we can put a dent in their promotion challenge.”
Cobblers supporters will be well aware of some of the imaginative free-kick routines United assistant boss Alan Knill is capable of coming up with, and Edinburgh says Town will have to be on their toes for them as well.
“If they have a variation, you can’t always know what is coming, so I I think we have to be on our toes and fully aware,” said the Town manager.
“But this is more about how we go and impose ourselves, and of late we have done that very well whoever we have come up against, and hopefully we will do so again.”