Northampton Town manager Stuart Gray is warning his players to stay focused on the business of collecting League 1 points rather than letting their minds drift to the glamour occasion of a second successive Carling Cup tie against Premiership opposition.
A tremendous Cup win at Bolton Wanderers has earned the Cobblers a crack at Sunderland, who Gray's team will take on at the Black Cats' Stadium of Light in Round Three of the competition on September 23rd.
There is understandable excitement in the Sixfields dressing room as well as among fans, but Gray says: "The nitty gritty stuff is the League. It's nice to think we've got a big Cup game coming up, but we've got to be focusing first on the League.
"We play Peterborough and Huddersfield before Sunderland and we need to be picking up more points in threes. At this moment in time we seem to play well one week then indifferently the next.
"We had a fantastic win at Bolton and we were on a high, but football's got a great habit of bringing you back down to earth and on the back of that very good result we let ourselves down (four days later in League 1) at Tranmere.
"The effort and commitment shown at Bolton took a lot out of the players physically and mentally, then the draw (for the next round) was at 12.30pm before the Tranmere game and we found out we were playing Sunderland.
"So it was a case of trying to get the boys focused (for the Tranmere game), and we went a goal up - but then we had a mad 10-minute spell where we conceded three goals and picked up three injuries."
Gray's men ended up losing that game 4-1 and they then went down 1-0 to Brighton in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. They will thus go into next Saturday's local derby against Peterborough having not won a League game since the opening day of the season.
Despite having a worrying injury list that will restrict his team selection, however, Gray has no doubts that the Cobblers can overcome the Posh as they look to take their Carling Cup form into League 1 action.
Gray will have seen Peterborough's attacking potency but also their defensive frailties in their exciting 5-4 win against Bristol Rovers last Saturday, when Northampton's scheduled meeting with Stockport was postponed due to international calls.
"We had a derby game against MK Dons recently," notes Gray, "but the Peterborough one, people tell me, is the big local derby. Well, we're at home and we're confident we can beat them here." Now that's a Posh challenge!
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