While the likes of John-Joe O’Toole and Hiram Boateng take much of the acclaim for Northampton’s recent resurgence, Neal Eardley is quietly making the right-back spot his home.
Aware he must impress and make the most of his opportunity with others injured, it’ll take something special to budge Eardley from his place in the Cobblers starting XI if recent performances are anything to go by.
Steady in possession, a threat going forward and dependable in defence, the 28-year-old was arguably man of the match in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Swindon Town.
Indeed, it was Eardley’s cross that forced Lloyd Jones to prod the ball into his own net and get the Cobblers up and running just after the hour-mark.
Former Cobblers loan man Luke Norris responded with a flying header for Swindon, but O’Toole’s late goal ensured Town took the spoils as they overcame an early penalty miss for a third straight home win.
“I thought it was important we got another result after the weekend,” said Eardley afterwards.
“The gaffer touched on it about that being the first time we’ve had back-to-back wins since October, so it’s important we keep that home form going.
“Sometimes it’s difficult if you miss a penalty early on in games, but I thought we were still miles the better team and we got the result in the end.”
Like several of his team-mates, Eardley was quick to praise new boss Justin Edinburgh for both his and the team’s recent revival, with three wins in four taking them eight points clear of the bottom four in Sky Bet League One.
“I think our shape at the minute is really good and I think we look solid,” added the former Oldham, Blackpool and Birmingham defender.
“At times maybe we could tighten it up a little bit but in general, since the gaffer’s come in, he’s implemented his ideas very well and we’ve listened to what he’s had to say.
“Training has really helped. It just goes to show the work we are putting in on the training pitch.
“We’re trying to take that into games as much as possible and we’re doing that well at the minute.
“That’s three consecutive home wins and since he’s come in we definitely look a stronger unit which is important because you need that to build from. and if we continue that I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Tuesday’s win was made all the more important given Northampton’s next two fixtures which take them to promotion-chasing duo Southend United and Fleetwood Town.
On the trip to Roots Hall this weekend, Eardley added: “It’s a difficult place to go.
“It’s important now to recover well after having a Tuesday night game and we look forward to Saturday and hopefully put in a good performance.”