GARY Rowett reckons League Two is a less physical division this season after the promotion of four of the bigger sides.
The Brewers boss thinks the football has become more technical with less emphasis on the ugly side of the game.
The four teams promoted to League One last season – Gillingham, Port Vale, Rotherham and Bradford – were all powerful sides who utilised long ball tactics.
And in their absence Rowett thinks there has been a shift.
“It’s a less physical league this season,” said the Albion boss. “It’s more technical.
“It might have come through from under-21 football, where it’s a more technical game (and where a lot of players in League Two come from).
“Last year we had Gillingham, Port Vale, Bradford and Rotherham, who were all very physical sides.
“It was a real test facing any of the physical teams.”
Northampton, struggling at the foot of the League Two table, lost striker Adebayo Akinfenwa to Gillingham in the summer.
He was a battering ram in their bid to reach League One last season, but in his absence Sixfields is not the intimidating prospect it was.
“If you were going to play Northampton away, you knew what you were going to get – a very tough afternoon of physical football,” said Rowett.
“It’s been a lot different this season and it keeps you on your toes.”
Albion host Fleetwood Town today, kick-off 3pm, looking for another home win to keep them in the top three.
Shane Cansdell-Sherriff (cheekbone) and Michael Symes (knee) are the only injury absentees.
There are doubts over Adam McGurk (illness), Chris Hussey and Adam Buxton (knocks) but Rowett is hopeful the trio will be fit.
For Fleetwood, midfield creator Jeff Hughes is missing after breaking his leg against Hartlepool last week.
Antoni Sarcevic should have recovered from a knock in time to play against the Brewers in an advanced midfield role.