Chris Wilder was delighted to be back at Sixfields on Saturday - and very pleased with the testing workout the Cobblers gave his Sheffield United team.
Two penalties from Blades skipper Oliver Norwood secured a 2-0 win for the Premier League outfit, who were given a decent examination by Keith Curle's men, particularly in the first half.
Town were out of the blocks quickly and were the better side in the early exchanges, before the Blades' quality told and they dictated play for the bulk of the match.
They weren't able to score from open play, with David Cornell making three excellent saves, but Wilder was still satisfied with the Saturday afternoon shift put in by his men.
"It was always going to be competitive, and I think if I was in the opposition dugout I would have had the same approach," said the Blades boss.
"We are all professionals, we all have pride, and Keith didn't want his team to just roll over, which they didn't.
"They started the better of the two teams, and we have then managed to get a foothold in the game."
The home fans weren't happy with the award of either penalty by Northampton whistler Andy Woolmer, for trips by Remeao Hutton and Joe Martin, and Wilder could understand those frustrations, as well as the competitive nature of the game petering out in the second half.
"I know there were two contentious decisions that the supporters will possibly be having a pop at me for, but Andy the referee, who is from Northampton as well, he had the best view in the house on them.
"It was good play from us to get ourselves into those positions, but the game died a little bit in the last 20 or 25 minutes.
"I should imagine it's the same with all of these pre-season games up and down the country, they start well and then fade away.
"We have structured our pre-season to face different kinds of tests, and it was good for us."
A crowd of close to 4,000 turned up at the PTS Academy Stadium, and although Wilder's focus was on what Sheffield United were doing, he did acknowledge the Town supporters who waited around at the end of the game to applaud him.
The 51-year-old was making only his third return to the club he left after leading them to the Sky Bet League Two title in in May, 2016, and he enjoyed it.
"I am delighted to be back here," said Wilder. "There was a healthy crowd in, it was good to see a lot of old faces, and everybody knows how much I enjoyed my time here."
It has been a bit of a struggle for Town since Wilder's departure, and he admits he would love to see them enjoy success again.
"I am not one of those managers that when he walks away wants a club to fail so I get looked on in a better way," said the Blades boss.
"I want Northampton to achieve something, I am very close to Kelvin (Thomas) and know how hard he has worked with the board, and I know how difficult it has been over the past two or three years
"But I am hopeful the Cobblers can pick up some good results and have a successful season under Keith."