A few weeks ago, a home game against Northampton would have been a banker.

The Cobblers lost 4-1 at Plymouth a fortnight ago and a week before that were thumped 7-2 at home by Shrewsbury.

But those reverses saw Gary Johnson sacked as manager and Aidy Boothroyd installed as the new boss.

And after a 1-1 draw at home to Crewe last week, facing Northampton now is a very different proposition.

However, Oxford United’s gritty display at Morecambe last week ended their run of five straight defeats, and will have given everyone a big lift ahead of a rare home match – only the second league game in front of their home fans since October 29.

“With the new manager coming in, it’s certainly a sterner test than maybe it would have been,” boss Chris Wilder said.

“They have got some good players there and one thing the manager will have done is get out on the training ground and organise themselves and make them hard to beat.

“It was what we did last week at Morecambe, because of late we have conceded some goals we felt we shouldn’t have.

“We had gone from a team that had been very tight at the back to one that couldn’t keep a clean sheet and I am sure that’s what Aidy and Andy King will be doing at Northampton.

“There will be an opportunity for players to impress the new manager and I am sure they will all want to prove themselves.”

Wilder said that the determination of his side at Morecambe showed people that they were on the right track again.

“We’ve been hurting over the past month and it’s been a difficult time,” he admitted.

“The biggest thing is that we have got good players at the football club, and they are honest.

“We worked hard during the two-week break and it’s a starting place for us.

“Now we must use all the good things that happened at Morecambe.

“It will have given the players a great deal of confidence and a big boost the way they went about things.”

Wilder this week signed Australian striker Matthew Fletcher, while Jon-Paul Pittman is back at United after his loan at Crawley expired.

One player who has left the club, however, is striker Jonathan Franks.

The youngster has returned to Middlesbrough after failing to impress during his second loan spell.

Franks dislocated a shoulder in his first game at United – a behind-closed-doors friendly against Bristol City – and after returning to Oxford once fit again, did not do enough.

“Jonathan has gone back to Middlesbrough,” Wilder confirmed.

“He got injured, came back and has not played many games and has had a struggle.

“He’s not really done as well as we would have liked or as well as he would have liked.

“I have told him that with Alfie (Potter) coming back and Robbie Hall in the building he has slipped down the pecking order, whereas before he was much higher.”