Concerned Coventry City boss Tony Mowbray admits the Cobblers will ‘smell an opportunity’ to shock his depleted side in Saturday’s FA Cup first round clash at the Ricoh Arena.
The Sky Blues are flying in Sky Bet League One and well on course for promotion back to the championship for the first time since 2012.
But they have been hit by injuries and suspensions ahead of the visit of the Cobblers, as well as parent clubs Newcastle United and Liverpool not allowing teenage stars Adam Armstrong and Ryan Kent to become cup tied.
Mowbray says his squad is down to the ‘bare bones’, and admits Chris Wilder and his team will make the short trip across the county border into Warwickshire in confident mood.
“Northampton are doing well, on a high and will be coming here to the Ricoh in a positive frame of mind and probably see it as a good time to be coming to play us,” said Mowbray.
“There’s no complacency because, if anything, I am sure they will be able to smell a real opportunity and we have to make sure we rise to that challenge
“They have got some very experienced players, they’re not a team of young kids, and a lot have played at this level (league one) and done very well at this level
“Their captain and centre-forward Marc Richards has scored a remarkable number of goals at this level so we have to be conscious of their strengths
“We’re mindful of a team on the front foot and ready for us.”
More encouragement for Northampton as they prepare for Saturday’s tie is that Coventry have struggled against league two oppostion in recent months, failing to win in four pre-season friendlies against Portsmouth, Luton Town, Cambridge United and Oxford United, and then going out on penalties to Yeovil Town in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, having drawn the game 0-0.
They also lost at home to non-League Worcester City at the same stage of the FA Cup last season, so there is every chance Coventry will be a little edgy.
Mowbray insists he and his players are well aware of the quality lower league teams possess.
“There’s a perception sometimes that we just have to turn up and steam roller over the top of a league two side but we didn’t do that in pre-season; in fact we didn’t beat any league two side,” said the former West Bromwich Albion, Celtic and Middlesbrough boss.
“I don’t think there’s a huge gulf between teams at league one and two and we won’t be taking anything for granted. We have to win our personal battles.
“Northampton are 18 places higher than Yeovil so it suggests they’ll be better than them so we’re not complacent. Their manager saw us play this week and they’ll be ready for us.”
City’s squad is so threadbare ahead of Saturday’s match, that three youth teamers have been given squad numbers and are expected to feature against the Cobblers.
The players are Ben Stevenson, Dion Kelly-Evans and striker Bassala Sambou - who scored four times in Coventry’s win at Walsall in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday night - with the trio likely to be on the bench.
“We need to dig in really deep and find the energy reserves,” admitted Mowbray.
“We are at the bare bones and will register three young boys to make up the bench, boys that wouldn’t normally be anywhere near.
“The team picks itself and I am pretty hopeful that will be good enough to win the game.”
Mowbray is also concerned that the fact his team played in midweek, beating Barnsley 4-3 on Tuesday night, while the Cobblers have had a free week might be a problem.
City also had to fight back from 2-0 down at half-time to beat Peterborough 3-2 last Saturday, and Mowbray said: “We ended up having to dig into a game on Tuesday night that with a little bit more focus we’d have seen out more comfortably and been able to take our foot off the gas and yet we had to go to the full 90 minutes in the end.
“The game last Saturday was one where we had to find huge energy reserves to perform in the second half and it has taken a lot out of them.
“You can feel that in the training where their energy levels have been low key so we have had to take a bit of the fire out of training in the hope that their energy levels will have been replenished come matchday.”