John-Joe O’Toole says the Cobblers know exactly what they’re going to face at AFC Wimbledon - but admits the hard part is dealing with it.
Neal Ardley’s men have won four of their past five Sky Bet League One matches at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
If we address the problems that we had on Saturday, which wasn’t good enough, then I don’t see why we can’t go there and winJohn-Joe O’Toole
They hadn’t conceded a league goal in 2018 until they were beaten 2-0 at Doncaster Rovers on Saturday, and they followed that up with a 2-1 defeat at rock-bottom Bury on Tuesday night.
Those results mean they go into Saturday’s clash just one point ahead of the Cobblers, who know a win will see them jump at least one place up the table, if not more.
But O’Toole recognises that is easier said than done.
“Wimbledon are doing pretty well at home at the minute and it is a tough place to go,” said O’Toole.
“I can’t remember winning there too much, and it’s a tough place to play.”
The Cobblers, who lost 1-0 to Rochdale last weekend, were actually 1-0 winners in south west London last season thanks to a late Matt Taylor penalty, but there hasn’t been much between the sides in the past few seasons, with the clubs being promoted together in 2016.
The Dons were 1-0 winners at Sixfields earlier this season, with Harry Forrester scoring the only goal of the game.
Ardley’s side are athletic, they have pace and they can be direct, but they can also play some good football, and they are a team that O’Toole respects.
“You know what you are going to get at Wimbledon,” he said.
“You know it is going to be physical and I think their squad is quite good now, probably better than it has been in previous years.
“The manager is very thorough and has done unbelievably well, but if we address the problems that we had on Saturday, which wasn’t good enough, then I don’t see why we can’t go there and win, and then kick on again against Gillingham next week.”
The Gills are at Sixfields next Tuesday, and this is a quickfire double that could see the Cobblers make real progress in getting away from the bottom four, if they can get the right results.
Key to that will be O’Toole, who has been a revelation in a new attacking role, virtually up alongside striker Chris Long rather than in his natural central midfield spot.
He has scored four goals in the past five games, a run that saw him win the EFL League One player of the month award, and he says he is enjoying his new role.
“I do like playing up there, it is quite different and I am still learning and picking up bits and bobs,” said O’Toole.
“It is good playing alongside Longy, as he has a lot of ability and I try to give him the ball as much as I can and he can work his bits of magic.
“Then I will do what I can to get on the end of things, and I am enjoying it up there.”
Whether O’Toole stays in such an advanced role for the longer term is one of the many selection posers for manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
The Dutchman signed two strikers last week in Kevin van Veen and Boris Mathis who will both be chomping at the bit to play, and O’Toole knows he and everybody else is going to have to be at the top of their game to earn a place in the team
“I think generally, the manager has added quality to the squad and I think that can only be beneficial,” said O’Toole.
“Everybody will be pushing for places, everybody wants to play, and if you’re not pulling your weight there will be somebody to step in.
“Everybody will be fighting for their place, and only the best will get in.”