Cobblers boss Chris Wilder says Saturday’s friendly with Derby County (ko 2pm) is a ‘great one’ for him and his players.
The Sky Bet Championship club are the first visitors to Sixfields in this pre-season campaign, with Birmingham City also in town next Tuesday.
The opposition represent a marked step up in standard compared to the teams the Cobblers have taken on so far, and Wilder is keen to see how his players respond to the challenge.
To date, the Cobblers have beaten UCL side Sileby Rangers 1-0 and Isthmian League Division One team Weymouth 5-2, and then drawn 0-0 with Isthmian League Premier Division outfit Burgess Hill.
Taking on a Derby County side with aspirations of winning promotion to the Premier League is obviously a whole new ball game.
The Rams are playing their second friendly under new manager Paul Clement, having lost their opener 2-1 at Grimsby Town last weekend, and will provide a stern test.
“A new manager has gone in at Derby, and he will want to put his stamp on the team pretty early,” said Wilder, who knows the questions the Rams are going to pose will be very different to his team’s opening three fixtures.
“We played them in a behind-closed-doors friendly in pre-season last year, and we got an insight into how they played and the quality they possess.
“I imagine they will be a team that will be tipped to go well this season, so it is a great test for us and one we understand will be completely different from the three tests we have had already.
“Defensively we wanted to make sure we were tight in those three games, and the odd opportunities that the teams had to have a little bit of ball on us, or opportunities to go forward, we wanted to make sure we were right.
“We managed two clean sheets and conceded a penalty and goal in the other game, so we have done well on that.
“But with the quality of teams we were playing we were going to have a lot of the ball, which we obviously did.
“Now we are going into two games against Derby and Birmingham City, where the opposition are going to have a lot of ball.
“We have to understand that, and it is different aspects we will be working on.
“From a fitness point of view, we will be worked extremely hard and there is going to have to be a lot of discipline in our play.
“We will have to concentrate, and there will be a lot of leg-work, which we understand, but we also like to think we can get a little bit of the ball and express ourselves and give problems to the opposition in these games.
“Saturday’s game is a great one for us, and one we are looking forward to.”
Derby’s squad is expected to include the likes of former England internationals Darren Bent, Scott Carson and Stephen Warnock, Scotland international strikers Chris Martin and Johnny Russell, Republic Of Ireland interantionals Connor Sammon and Richard Keogh, Austrian international Andreas Weimann, Northern Ireland international Chris Baird, Tom Ince and former Cobblers loan man Alex Pearce.