Milton Keynes Dons boss Karl Robinson has played down the two-division gap between his team and the Cobblers ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup third round clash at Sixfields, stating ‘we are almost just one league apart’.
With the Dons battling against relegation in the Sky Bet Championship and the Cobblers vying for the title in league two, Robinson feels the teams are far more evenly matched than the respective divisions they play in would suggest.
And he is anticipating a very difficult afternoon at a sell-out Sixfields.
“We are almost just one league apart to a certain extent, with us being bottom of ours and Northampton being at the top of theirs,” said the MK boss.
“So it just shows you how far they have come, and their staff and all of their players have been excellent.
“They have brought in some very good players that we know can cause a threat on any given day, and the manager is a very good manager who has really turned the fortunes round at Northampton.
“We have to fully focus on this game, which is a very difficult one for us.
“It is a sell-out, we sold our 900 tickets within the first week, so that shows you the importance to the fans of that game.”
Robinson has been an interested observer of the Cobblers’ fortunes over the past few years, watching their battles against relegation out of the Football League, and the financial woes that beset the club earlier this season.
He says he is delighted the club has survived and is seemingly starting to prosper, and he believes the ‘strength and unity’ that has developed through some difficult times can only make like more difficult for his players this weekend.
“It has been disappointing to see what Northampton have had to go through over recent years, but the strength and the unity of everybody there has really stood them in good stead to hopefully sustain the success they are having at the moment,” said Robinson, who has managed Dons against the Cobblers three times in cup competitions previously, winning two and losing one.
“We know how hard this game is going to be.”
Robinson has already confirmed he will be making changes to his team for the trip to Sixfields, but he insists that the squad he does select will be more than capable of progressing to the fourth round.
Indeed, he expects his players to win.
“We aren’t taking it easily at all, and there will be 100 per cent effort that goes into the detail and preparation, and the players that play, if they want to stay in the team for Tuesday (when Dons play Burnley), will have to put a shift in on Saturday,” Robinson told mkdons.com
“There are so many reasons why the players have to play well, there is no hiding place. The players are ready and raring to go.
“When you see my team I don’t think there will be many players that aren’t ready.
“There are a lot of players in there that are top players, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t go into the game and win.
“As you’ll see when the team sheet comes out, there aren’t a great deal of wholesale changes, there are tweaks here and there, but the team is littered with as much quality as we possibly can.
“So there can be no excuses at all, and we want to win the game and we want to be a part of this competition for as long as we can.
“The club has reached a certain level, and it would be nice to surpass or even equal the best run we have had in the competition, and to do that we are going to have to win in round three.”