In-form Fleetwood will have Cobblers boss Hasselbaink guessing
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink admits he will be playing a guessing game as the Cobblers travel north for their crunch Sky Bet League One relegation clash with rivals Fleetwood Town on Saturday (ko 3pm).
The Cod Army have enjoyed an upturn in the past few games, with new manager John Sheridan making his presence felt after taking over from the sacked Uwe Rosler.
The German oversaw a total collapse of form before losing his job, with Fleetwood losing eight matches on the spin.
They are now unbeaten in four, with a run of three draws followed by a crucial 2-0 win at fellow relegation battlers Rochdale on Tuesday night.
Sheridan has certainly shaken things up at the Highbury Stadium and fully utilised the squad at his disposal, so much so that Hasselbaink admits he will be unsure how they are going to line up until the match actually starts.
And that being the case, he says he and his players are going to have to be able to react to any situation.
“Fleetwood are now a little bit more positive, they are a little bit harder to beat,” said the Cobblers boss. “They are very solid at this moment in time, and are working from that basis.
“The past three matches they have played in a different system each time, so it is going to be a guess for us what system they will use.
“We have to be flexible, we have to be able to change our system when the match starts, but they had a good win at Rochdale and they have got some good players.”
A win for the Cobblers will see them leapfrog Fleetwood in the table, while a defeat will see them fall five points behind the Cod Army, who will also have a game in hand.
So this game may not quite be a must-win for Town, but it is very much a must-not-lose one.
“There is no doubt about it that this is a big game, and it is a big game for both teams,” said Hasselbaink.
“It is not going to decide anything either way, but it can point you in the right direction or make things a little bit harder.”
The Cobblers head to the north west coast defending an unbeaten away record in 2018.
Compare that to their struggles at home - they have picked up just two out of the past 15 available at Sixfields - and it’s a real head-scratcher.
Hasselbaink admits he is still striving for the answer to that conundrum, but one thing he wants to ensure is the Cobblers maintain their form on the road.
“Yes we do want to pick up points away from home as it is important, and it is important that you are solid and strong,” said the Town manager.
“In that aspect we have been very stubborn away from home, and that is good and we want that to continue until the end of the season, and into the next one.
“But I can’t put my finger on it yet what the difference is (between home and away performances), and I don’t want to concentrate on it too much.
“I just want the away performances to keep going in the right way, and to work harder to get the home form better and more consistent in terms of picking up points at home.”
Meanwhile, teenage Cobblers striker Joe Iaciofano has joined county neighbours Brackley Town on loan until the end of the season.
The 19-year-old has spent much of the season at Chesham United, where he scored an impressive 17 goals in 22 appearances in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division.
He now steps up a level to play in the Vanarama National League North, and will help the Saints, who are managed by former Cobblers striker Kevin Wilkin, in their bid to win promotion to the National League.