Cobblers boss Dean Austin is well aware that his side have plenty of work to do at both ends of the pitch following their sticky start to the campaign, admitting they must develop a ‘stronger backbone’ in defence and also be more ‘ruthless’ in the opposing penalty box.
Town have conceded 13 goals so far this season and are yet to stop the opposition from scoring in any of their 10 games in all competitions, keeping just two clean sheets throughout the entirety of 2018.
Town have conceded 13 goals so far this season and they are yet to stop the opposition from scoring in any of their 10 games in all competitions, keeping just two clean sheets throughout the entirety of 2018.
The latest error-strewn display came in defeat to Cheltenham Town on Saturday – but it’s also at the other end of the pitch where the Cobblers are struggling after they spurned several clear scoring chances before Will Boyle took advantage of poor defending to prod the Robins ahead.
Having played well for 35 minutes, Town’s display then significantly dropped off once behind and despite Kevin van Veen’s penalty restoring parity on the hour-mark, they fell to another disappointing home defeat.
“We’ve got to have a stronger backbone when we’re defending and we’ve got to be more ruthless in the offensive box and hopefully get the run of the ball,” admitted Austin.
“What we really need to do is get our noses in front, especially when we’re at home and especially when other teams come and play with 11 men behind the ball.
“You can’t tell me there was much wrong in the first 35 minutes other than the goal. But that’s the key thing – we have to score the first goal.
“If we score the first goal at home, it becomes a different game. We carved them open a few times but we haven’t got the goals to show for it and that’s football.
“Between the two penalty boxes, we were superb for 35 minutes. But that’s not where the game is won - the game is won in the two boxes. You’ve got to put the ball on one net and keep it out of the other. Ultimately that’s why we’re losing games.”
Austin also believes his side may have been affected by some shouts from the stands during Saturday’s defeat, adding: “We didn’t play well second-half but I felt we got affected by conceding the goal and then we got affected by the supporters who wanted us to smash the ball forward as quickly as possible.
“I think that’s seeped into the game. As I said to the boys, OK, if you feel you’ve lost a bit of confidence and you are going to go longer and get it forward, it’s no good the midfielders trying to get on the ball. You’ve got to get off the second ball, so were affected.
“They’re human beings at the end of the day. How do you correct it? Only we can correct it but it’s very, very hard if you have a hangover from last season or you’re not in a habit of winning games.
“It’s very hard and the players are only humans, like supporters. Having been a player myself, I feel their pain.”