What must Northampton do to make League Two's play offs?

          FAN FARE | Cobblers are finding consistency

          2019/11/08 16:10
          By Aiden Boyer - Playmaker Club Specialist

          The League Two season is well underway now and Northampton Town are pushing their way back up the table and looking to try and reach the play offs. Our Playmaker club specialist Aiden Boyer (@aboyer_18) investigates what is shaping up to be an interesting season for the Cobblers.

          It’s been an improved month or so for Keith Curle’s Northampton Town who have pushed themselves towards a play-off place in League Two. Despite some spells of inconsistency, the Cobblers find themselves in ninth place, two points off the play-offs and four games unbeaten. With momentum building, Northampton will be hoping to push on into the top seven and really establish their credentials as a genuine threat in the league. But how can they do this?


          Well to start, the Cobblers need to learn how to hold out when leading in the second half.

          Since late September, Curle’s side have blown a 2-0 lead on three occasions, including their latest league match against Oldham, drawing 2-2 every time.

          Now you can look at this as an optimist and say “at least they didn’t lose” but it is simply not good enough when it has happened three times in eight matches. While the Oldham draw seemed to be down to unfortunate events, the other two draws against Crawley and Morecambe were examples of Northampton thinking the match was already finished. Let’s take a look at how Curle sets up his side when leading 2-0.

          The 2-0 complex

          The ideology when leading seems to be dropping back so much that the opposition simply can’t make their way into the box. Unfortunately, the opposite happens. The midfield and defence sit so far back and invite so much pressure on that the opposition simply glide past Cobblers players and are able to create too many chances, leading to goals.

          Once it becomes 2-1, the Cobblers panic. Curle sees it as a good idea to defend for your life and the players follow suit. It becomes rinse and repeat and before you know it, the score is 2-2 and it is too late. Mistakes like these really need to be cut out if the Cobblers want to consistently get three points on the board.

          Plan A-dams

          The other main issue is a lack of options when it comes to tactics. While Northampton can play exciting and entertaining football every now and then, you can very quickly spot repetition in the way the team play. A prime example of this is Nicky Adams.

          A summer signing, and a former league winner with the club, Adams was brought in to be the main creative outlet for the side. This, in principle, seemed like a fantastic idea. An impressive amount of assists in recent seasons and a previous history at the club for creating great chances, expectations were high and understandably so.

          Unfortunately, the opposition find this out almost instantly. Particularly when Harry Smith or Vadaine Oliver start up front, the plan seems to be to give Adams the ball, and hope he can cross it onto the head of the tall striker. This rarely ends up happening, as Adams is handed the ball too often, and opposing players can track him down before he has a chance to find a teammate.

          The talent is certainly still there and it isn’t necessarily a problem with the club captain himself, it’s more to do with the obvious game plan which fails more often than not. With this in mind, I think giving the opportunity to as many players as possible to have the ball and let them create chances will equal a higher percentage of unpredictability and would hopefully throw the opposing players off rather than making it so obvious what is going on.

          ©Getty /

          Fresh hope

          In terms of what Cobblers are doing well, the progression of the youth academy and bringing players through to the first team has helped massively.

          Of course Shaun McWilliams is a great figurehead of this, having made over 100 appearances for the club now, but Scott Pollock shows how good of a job the club is doing when it comes to bringing young players through and giving them a proper chance.

          Pollock was first given a chance in the first team last season when it became more apparent that the Cobblers had nothing to play for in terms of league position. The midfielder took his chance perfectly, getting himself a handful of assists and impressing both the club fanbase and football fans all over the world, as he is of Hashtag United fame.

          He was then given a chance this season to stake his claim in the first team on a regular basis, and he has been a real asset to the side since. Picking up a goal against Carlisle and being selected in the starting XI on a weekly basis now, Pollock shows the coaching staff that giving youth a chance can pay off, and seeing what the likes of Jay Williams and Camron McWilliams can do already, the youth of Northampton could prove very important as the season rolls on.

          Familiarity breeds success

          Another factor for the improvement of Northampton in recent weeks has been consistency when it comes to team selection. Since taking over as Cobblers manager last season, Keith Curle had become famous for tinkering the team selection on a weekly basis regardless of form or league position, something that had annoyed the fans greatly for a while. This changed a few months back when, after starting to pick up some good results, Curle decided to stick with the same side when possible for a fair few matches, to the delight of the Cobblers fans.

          Not taking into account injuries and suspensions, this consistency when it comes to team selection has lead to consistency in results, and with the side unbeaten in four league matches, it proves that consistency is key and we have seen that for a little while now.

          This may be the most important factor if the Cobblers want to stay at the prettier end of the league table and really push on to the top, where they really expected to be before the season started.

          Many thanks to Aiden for the article - give him a follow on Twitter!


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