NEAL TROTMAN can’t wait to get to grips with his old teammates tonight.
Town’s on-loan Preston North End centre-back spent the first half of this season at Southampton.
But the boot will be firmly on the other foot when he makes his latest appearance at St Mary’s Stadium.
The 22-year-old Mancunian admits he didn’t make the most solid of starts in blue and white stripes.
But he’s certainly warming to the task, and is out for a fifth clean sheet in his ninth outing for the club.
Trotman played 19 times for the Saints, scoring twice, and said: “They’re a good passing side who will test us.
“Were it not for having those 10 points deducted (after last season’s financial problems), they’d be right up there.
“And they will still fancy their chances of a play-off spot, because they’re going well and there are enough games left.”
Like sixth-placed Town, Alan Pardew’s Saints, who are 11th, have yet to suffer a League I defeat in 2010.
And Trotman added: “There is a lot riding on tonight’s game, and we have to be totally focused.
“If we can maintain our concentration and our shape, there’s no reason why we can’t get the result we want.”
Town will be chasing a fourth successive away win, having seen off Carlisle United, Hartlepool United and Tranmere Rovers.
And Trotman, who started his career at Oldham Athletic, believes they should have taken the spoils at home to Leeds United.
Reflecting on Saturday’s 2-2 derby draw, he added: “I thought we were pretty unlucky not to win it.
“We could easily have been more than the one goal ahead at half-time, and our keeper didn’t have that much to do.
“They had one good spell in the game and managed to score twice, but other than that, we played really well.”
Having tussled with Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio, Trotman faces fresh dangermen tonight.
Saints have the likes of former Bristol Rovers man Rickie Lambert (25 goals for the club) and Lee Barnard, a recent signing from Southend United, in their ranks.
Having chalked up 19 goals for Southend this season, ex-Tottenham Hotspur player Barnard has already bagged four in eight games for Saints.
Throw in club academy product Adam Lallana, who has scored 15 times, and Trotman and Co will have plenty to keep them occupied.
“I thought we dealt well with Leeds,” he continued.
“It was disappointing to concede from a corner, but overall, I think we defended well as a team.
“I think Becchio and Beckford would admit they had a tough time, and the aim is to ensure Southampton’s players are saying the same thing.”
Having enjoyed the atmosphere on Saturday, Trotman is looking forward to another big occasion tonight.
“The Leeds game was great, and I really enjoyed the challenge,” he said.
“And it should be good again tonight, because it’s a good stadium and they always get a decent crowd.
“From a personal point of view, I’m just looking to help us kick on and keep our good run going.
“I had a bit of a rocky start because I wasn’t 100% match fit.
“But I’m getting into the swing of things, and starting to build a rapport with our fans, which is pleasing.”
Town will remain on the South coast until Friday, when they transfer to Kent for Saturday’s game at Gillingham.
Trotman believes that can only help the team’s preparations, adding: “It’s a mini training camp, it’s great for bonding and will help us concentrate on the task ahead.”
Experienced Bedfordshire referee Pat Miller, in his seventh season on the list, will be in the middle tonight.
It’s his first Town appointment since the 1-1 Galpharm draw with Stockport County on the first day of last season.