ADNAN AHMED and John McAliskey will be handed what could be a last chance to earn new Town deals tonight.
With Gary Taylor-Fletcher added to Andy Ritchie's absentees list after suffering a training-ground groin strain, the duo are both set to start the final away game of the club's League I campaign at Northampton (7.45).
Already making enquiries about potential close-season targets, Ritchie could confirm his plans regarding out-of-contract players as early as next week.
That means time is of the essence for the likes of midfielder Ahmed (pictured), who has made only four starts so far this season, and striker McAliskey (two starts).
Ritchie has added second-year Academy frontman Lucas Akins to his travelling squad, but says he will field as experienced a side as possible as he aims to build on last week's 4-2 home win over Millwall, Town's first under his command.
"I really want to finish the season with three straight wins," said the manager, who is also missing midfielders Michael Collins (one-match ban), Matt Young (groin) and Danny Schofield (ankle) as well as striker Andy Booth (groin) for his third match in charge.
"It was good to get my first win last week. I'd have been happy with a scrappy 1-0, so to get it playing well and scoring four for the first time this season was very pleasing.
"I want more of the same, and while we are a little bit stretched, there's no reason why we shouldn't get another win down there tonight."
Town are 16th in the table, a place and two points below Northampton, and neither side can be relegated or reach the play-offs.
But Ritchie insists there is plenty at stake against a side managed by former Southampton boss Stuart Gray, who took over from ex-England coach John Gorman in December.
The Cobblers couldn't buy a home win earlier in the campaign, but go into tonight's match seeking a fifth in six attempts.
"They've pulled away from the relegation zone and hit some decent form, so they'll give us a test," said Ritchie.
"People might say it's a dead rubber, but there's a lot to play for as far as I'm concerned.
"I'm very keen to put down a marker for next season, and this is a further chance for the likes of Adnan and John to show me just what they're capable of.
"I'm mindful that the out-of-contact players get as much chance as possible to prove themselves, but it's obvious that time is running out and decisions have to be made."
Northampton expect a crowd of more than 6,500 for a match which will mark the farewell of experienced midfielder Ian Taylor.
The 38-year-old was influential in the Cobblers' promotion from League II under Colin Calderwood last season, but has been a peripheral figure this term.
But Gray has confirmed the former Port Vale, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Derby man will make his 420th league start.
Gray has doubts over wing-backs Jason Crowe and Andy Holt.
Crowe missed the 1-0 home win over Chesterfield last Saturday with a hamstring injury and Holt sustained a dead leg in that game.
If they fail to make it, youth-team captain Danny May will again deputise for Crowe, with Australian Pedj Bojic likely to occupy the vacancy on the left for his first start since New Year's Day.
Joe Burnell (ankle), Sean Dyche (groin) and Brett Johnson (hamstring) are all definitely out but on-loan Reading player Simon Cox will continue in attack.
Town were 1-0 winners on their last visit to Sixfields in April 2004.
There will be a pre-match minute's applause in memory of former Everton, Arsenal, Southampton and England star Alan Ball, who died aged 61 on Wednesday.