Boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink says the Cobblers are going to have to be disciplined in their shape to ensure they stand up to Oxford United’s patient passing game.
Town travel to Grenoble Road for their Sky Bet League One encounter on Saturday (ko 3pm), and Hasselbaink is anticipating a testing afternoon against Pep Clotet’s team.
Oxford set out to pass the ball, to really pass through the thirds, through the lines with short passes, trying to get players between the linesCobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
The Spaniard has instilled a patient, possession-based game at Oxford since taking over from Michael Appleton in the summer, and the Cobblers manager says it is vital the team keep their shape to counter the home side’s efforts.
“Oxford set out to pass the ball, to really pass through the thirds, through the lines with short passes, trying to get players between the lines,” said Hasselbaink.
“They try to get your players out of position, so your shape is out, and then they can have the space to penetrate and get two-on-one opportunities in wide areas, and in the middle of the park.
“It is going to be very important for us to keeP our shape for as long as possible, and to work from our shape.
“Then we have the ball, we also have to try and hurt them and have the calmness and braveness to keep the ball, and try to give them a lot of problems.”
The Cobblers go into the game off the back of a five-match unbeaten run, and having claimed their first away win of the season at Gillingham three weeks ago.
That was a big moment for the players, and Hasselbaink admits it was a relief to finally break their duck on the road.
But he says it means nothing ahead of the trip to Oxford, who will pose a very different threat to the teams they have played on their recent run of good form.
Asked about the effect of sealing that first win on the road against the Gills, Hasselbainl said: “It will help, it will help to make the players believe that they can do it.
“But the match starts from scratch, it starts from nothing, and you have to start all over again and advance the battle.
“You have to be ready for whatever comes to you, so you can adapt and handle it.”