Oxford United may be managerless and in a state of some disarray, but Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink insists they are not ‘a team to muck about with’.
The Us arrive at Sixfields on Saturday on a run of six defeats in their past seven games, with the sacking of Pep Clotet last month failing to halt a slide that has seen United slip from play-off contenders to the fringe of the Sky Bet League One relegation battle.
Indeed, a win for the Cobblers on Saturday will see them just one point behind their fierce rivals from down the A43 as the season enters its final stretch.
Oxford have this week been linked with a move for former Wales international Craig Bellamy to become their new manager, but as it stands, they will be under the charge of caretaker Derek Fazackerly at Sixfields this weekend.
Fazackerly has overseen four defeats in his five matches in temporary charge, although the one victory was a good one at promotion-chasing Charlton Athletic three weeks ago.
And Hasselbaink is wary of underestimating a squad of players that, until the turn of the year, was setting their sights on challenging for a place in the Championship rather than fighting to stay out of league two.
The players they have were the ones there earlier in the season, and it is not a team to muck about withCobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
“Oxford are a very technical side that is very good going forward, and they have a little bit more pace now up front,” said the Cobblers boss.
“They are now a little bit more direct, and that makes them a dangerous side
“The players they have were the ones there earlier in the season, and it is not a team to muck about with.
“So, you have to strip it down and look at them, look at what their strengths are and really make sure we know about that and we cope with those strengths.”
The Cobblers are aiming for a rare league double this weekend, as they were 2-1 winners at the Kassam Stadium when the sides met in November.
On that occasion, goals from Ash Taylor and Chris Long secured the points.
Town have an excellent recent record over the Us, having won five of the past six meetings between the sides, although the meeting at Sixfields last season ended in a 0-0 draw.