Tom Reed runs the rule over the Cobblers as Rochdale delivers a sobering lesson…
On the face of it, Sixfields regulars have never had it so good in terms of the talent at Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s disposal. The football hipsters amongst the shoe army will be in geek heaven with Town fielding Portuguese winger Hildeberto Pereira and Dutch striker Kevin Van Veen.
Yet, Rochdale showed that fancy play is no match for organisation and will to win when turning over Cobblers at Sixfields. Northampton fans say their side is too good to go down but Town will have to show true grit to escape the relegation zone with the business end of the season looming.
It’s all very well having the likes of the technically gifted Matt Crooks, Shay Facey and Matt Grimes to call upon but unless Town are first to the ball and able to switch the play to dangerous areas then they will struggle to beat sides set out to frustrate the claret and whites.
Ex-Chelsea striker Hasselbaink is still learning the ropes as a manager and will find the likes of Rochdale, managed by the ultra savvy Keith Hill, as difficult propositions in being set up to pounce on any Northampton mistakes.
Rochdale set out to frustrate Cobblers talisman John-Joe O’Toole which meant Town were toothless in midfield. Hasselbaink may think about bringing King Heath lad Shaun McWilliams back into the fold with the young Cobbler known for his bite and energy in central areas.
Cobblers may also have to start throwing caution to the wind and stop setting up their tactical shape with regards the opposition. Instead it might pay off lining up for all-out attack and freeing the likes of Pereira to do what he does best which is taking the play to Town’s foes.
In the modern game the idea of ‘playing for the shirt’ is an alien notion to professional players expected to perform to decent standards week in week out regardless. So Hasselbaink faces a tough task in geeing up his charges to fly into a series of personal battles during each match.
Yet, Rochdale showed it is possible by being bang up for it versus Cobblers and proving a point to Town’s ‘name’ players.
Northampton have several winnable matches in February and March before the big local derby showdown at local rivals Peterborough United in early March. Now that is a game Town will have to go toe-to-toe in with revenge on the menu after Posh’s 4-1 humiliation of Cobblers at the start of the season.
Hopefully safety from relegation will be secured by then and Town can start planning for next season as a team that mixes talent with tenacity.