POMPEY will have to overcome their toughest assignment of the season tonight.
Ricky Holmes is convinced Northampton will be League Two promotion contenders this season.
And the current Blues player of the year knows that means the Cobblers will present a tough test of his side’s credentials.
Andy Awford’s men overcame League One outfit Peterborough in the Capital One Cup last week, who narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship last season.
Holmes has no doubt Chris Wilder’s side will present a tougher test, however.
Northampton have picked up four points from their first two games, as well as knocking Wolves out of the Capital One Cup at Molineux.
The Pompey midfielder believes that tells his team everything about the challlenge they will face.
‘They have an experienced manager who knows the team and knows the league,’ said Holmes. ‘He gets everything he can out of his players.
‘That game will be our toughest test yet.
‘It will be a tougher game than when we played Peterborough.
‘The Capital One Cup and the league are totally different.
‘They’ll come here and be a very strong side to face.’
Northampton survived in League Two on the final day of last season thanks to a strong end to the campaign.
They have strengthened over the summer after Wilder’s arrival in January.
A familiar face will be in their ranks in Dan Alfei, who spent a period on loan at Fratton Park last season.
Holmes also pinpointed striker Marc Richards, who arrived from Chesterfield after they won the League Two title, as a man Pompey will have to watch closely.
He said: ‘We know a few of their players.
‘There are a few players who have been knocking around this league for a while.
‘Dan Alfei, who was with us last season, is there.
‘He has played in this league before.
‘Richards from Chesterfield is a good player and will be a threat.
‘Kaid Mohamed has been around the league and knows what it is all about.
‘They’ve got quite a few decent players.
‘They know what it takes in this league, and, come the end of the season, they will be there or thereabouts.’
Saturday’s win over Cambridge continued an encouraging start to the season for Awford’s side.
They will be taking on a manager tonight, though, with an outstanding record on the road.
Wilder has lost only one away game since April 2013 in his time in charge at Oxford and now Northampton.
But Holmes is confident Pompey can make Fratton Park a testing place to come for sides, which it wasn’t last season.
‘We need a fortress. If you win your home games you will do well,’ added Holmes. ‘We will pick points up away from home. Exeter was a point gained.
‘If you can win your home games and draw away you will have a good season.
‘That is two points a game and if you convert that to a season you have success.
‘We’ve got that so far, and hopefully we can keep that going.’