The Cobblers were hardly at their fluent best during Saturday’s goalless draw with Notts County but if they are to master the art of grinding out points when not playing well this season, as manager Dean Austin wishes, it at least gave them something to build on.
Previous good performances have gone unrewarded as dominant showings against Lincoln City, Cambridge United and Tranmere Rovers earlier in the campaign yielded just two points between them.
Another point gained, or rather two lost, at home to basement boys, winless Notts County on Saturday hardly satisfied the need of frustrated supporters at the PTS Academy Stadium but a first clean sheet of the season may give Austin and his players the chance to reset and start all over again.
At nine games and just one victory in, they need to start playing catch-up sooner rather than later.
“What we looked at in the week was trying to focus on one thing at a time and the first thing we want to correct is to keep more clean sheets,” said the Town boss.
“I’m going to have to go away and look at the positives of that because we have kept a clean sheet, and I believe that, with the players we have, we’ve got enough to score plenty of goals.
“Unfortunately, we can’t seem to be able to buy a goal and then when we do get one we give a silly one away so it’s particularly frustrating but I’m proud of the players on Saturday in terms of how they went about it.”
The performance level was a notable drop off from previous home games but given the situation of both clubs and the restlessness among supporters, Saturday’s clash against the desperately out-of-form Magpies was always unlikely to be a classic.
That proved to be the case as Matt Crooks, Leon Barnett and Kevin van Veen missed chances for the Cobblers while David Cornell was at his flying best to deny Kane Hemmings in County’s most threatening moment.
Austin praised his side’s attitude afterwards, adding: “As a group of players, as I’ve said many times before, the way we work and how we go about it on a Monday to Friday, they are different class.
Sometimes we’ll play well and sometimes we won’t but we have to learn to be resilient and hang in games so when we don’t play well, we win those games.
“They’re very, very good and they listen to the instructions and the things we’re trying to do and we’re working hard on many aspects of our game, one of them being the retention of the ball because I feel we have players who can help us keep the ball.
“As I’ve said after other games, we haven’t done enough to keep the ball out of our net and not had enough quality to put the ball in their net, but I’ll take the positive of the clean sheet because, on the whole, I thought we defended pretty decent.
“There were still a couple of moments where they had opportunities which I don’t think they should be having but I can’t fault them at all for how they go about their work every week, they work their socks off.
“Sometimes we’ll play well and sometimes we won’t but we have to learn to be resilient and hang in games so when we don’t play well, we win those games.
“It’ll almost be a bonus for us that when we don’t play well but win a game because that’ll help our confidence grow a bit and I think we will do that.”