Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Bath preview

MATCH-WINNER - Jamie Elliott scored a crucial late try against Bath last season (Picture: Linda Dawson)

MATCH-WINNER - Jamie Elliott scored a crucial late try against Bath last season (Picture: Linda Dawson)

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The period between Christmas and New Year can often be something of a damp squib, but Saturday’s game at Franklin’s Gardens should be anything but.

A meeting of the sides currently sitting second and third in the Premiership standings should serve up a festive cracker.

For Saints it’s a great chance to end 2013 with a bang. A chance to bat off Bath, whose breath can be felt on the collective neck of Northampton.

The men from the Recreation Ground have so often flattered to deceive, bringing in big-name players but failing in big games. Not this season.

They’ve beaten Leicester and Harlequins at home and are far from the flaky outfit on their travels we have grown used to.

The west country side have won 11 successive games in all competitions and have lost just twice all season.

Bath, it seems, are here to stay in 2014, so if Saints want to further enhance their top-two claims, a win on Saturday is a must.

As Stephen Myler pointed out earlier this week, this spell is crucial to the course of the season.

Beat Bath on Saturday and Harlequins at home the following Friday, and a wave if optimism will sweep the Gardens at the start of the new year.

Lose, and those two teams will be right up there with their sights sharpened on second spot.

Saints should be confident as they come into the game on the back of successes against Leinster and Wasps.

Those games required iron will and ice cold composure, two qualities that will also be needed to beat Bath.

Saints have won the past four meetings between the teams, but there was less than a score separating them in the past two.

Back in February, a Jamie Elliott try eight minutes from time gave Jim Mallinder’s men a 25-23 victory at the Gardens.

And you can’t help feeling it will be similarly nerve-racking on Saturday afternoon