Six matches have come and gone since the appointment of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and the Cobblers have certainly improved in many aspects of their game, despite sitting in the relegation zone.
It was an almost perfect start for Hasselbaink and his Northampton side after two successive victories over Doncaster Rovers and Portsmouth. These results came after a change in both formation and personnel, with players like George Smith and Regan Poole getting a chance in the starting XI. More recently, players such as Raheem Hanley and Dean Bowditch have also been involved, Hanley especially seemed as though he had no role in the side after originally not even getting a squad number.
It wasn’t all magical though, as the Cobblers would go on to pick up only two points from their next four matches. Now, this may seem disappointing, but the team are playing like a side who want to win, which is important. The main example of this was the game against Bradford City on Saturday. Northampton seemed like the better side throughout the 90+ minutes but just fell short after a free kick which was given incorrectly. Being able to dominate the game against a Bradford side who are always knocking on the door of promotion is impressive. Of course, there are a few issues with the side, but they will be addressed.
Here is Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s reaction to the 0-0 draw against Milton Keynes Dons:
After last night’s positive yet slightly disappointing draw to MK Dons, I feel that Hasselbaink will need to start thinking about our main issue. Now I think that most fans are in agreement when stating that scoring goals are our main issue at the moment. Our choice of strikers has been limited in the past few days, with Leon Lobjoit and Joe Iaciofano being loaned out to Corby Town and Chesham United respectively. This may become a small problem in the future, with our most experienced options, Alex Revell and Marc Richards, both being fairly injury prone. Injuries aren’t the first problem with these two attackers though.
Revell has gained the respect of many fans this season with his endless work rate and commitment. Unfortunately, he has only found the back of the net once this season, which is a shadow of his incredible start to last season, scoring in almost every game in the first few months. With Richards, the problem potentially lies in his age. Unlike Revell, Richards struggles to chase players and hasn’t got that same threat which Revell possesses. The same issue crops up with the club captain when it comes to goals, with Richards only scoring once this season. Both of these goals came under Justin Edinburgh, which means that only one striker has scored under Hasselbaink. That would be Chris Long.
Long is on loan at Northampton from Premier League side Burnley. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster start to the season for Long. Originally, seen as our main striker for the season, Long failed to find the back of the net and was moved to the right wing. Here, he was much more successful, scoring twice in Northampton 3-1 win over Portsmouth. Since then, Long has suffered a hamstring injury and missed the MK Dons match.
His replacements have included Raheem Hanley, who was quite impressive last night. His other replacement has been Daniel Powell. Powell, in my opinion, has been the most disappointing player this season. Despite assisting a goal against Southend, the former MK Dons player hasn’t really shown his full potential in the claret shirt. Powell struggles to keep himself on the wing and often leaves space for the opposing fullback to make an attacking run. Powell also seems to lose control when he is in a one-on-one situation. Players like Sam Hoskins and Raheem Hanley challenge the player and attempt to take the ball past them, while Powell just stands still and often loses the ball. Northampton do lack out-and-out wingers and this may have to be addressed in January.
One option could be David Ajiboye. He is an 18-year-old Nigerian winger who has apparently been scouted by the club at his Premier League 2 matches. Ajiboye is also being looked at by Blackburn Rovers and Shrewsbury Town. The Cobblers have always been successful when having star players out wide. Players like Ricky Holmes, Nicky Adams and Michael Jacobs have all become club heroes due to their work on the wing. Using full backs and strikers out wide isn’t the end of the world, but it’s certainly not perfect.
Overall, I feel like the work of Hasselbaink has been successful and will continue to be successful in the future. Let’s hope we can remove ourselves from the relegation zone and not have to look back, and instead look towards a place in the top twelve.