Boss Curle left to rue missed chance of a play-off challenge

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Keith Curle has admitted the ‘biggest disappointment’ of his time at the Cobblers so far was the 3-1 defeat at Cheltenham in March.

Town travelled to Whaddon Road on the back of an eight-match unbeaten run that had offered hope the team could make a serious tilt at the play-offs over the final weeks of the campaign.

We went there on the back of a run of five wins and undefeated in eight and we were going in the right direction, and then the two defeats, to Cheltenham and Port Vale, were big disappointments

Cobblers boss Keith Curle

But the Cobblers were well beaten by the Robins, with Curle handing teenager Ryan Hughes his first team debut in central defence.

The youngster endured a testing time, giving away a first-half penalty, but the rest of the team were also well off the pace in the defeat, and when Town then lost at home to 10-man Port Vale a week later, all hopes of promotion were ended.

And Curle admits they were two results that hurt, especially as the top seven was at that time within touching distance.

“The remit when I came here was to make sure we stay in this division, and we have done that,” said the Town boss.

“We flirted with the play-offs, and I think that is probably my biggest disappointment, when you look back at the Cheltenham game.

“That was a big disappointment because I thought the manner in which we lost that game was poor, because potentially we were fighting to get the club into the play-offs.

“We went there on the back of a run of five wins and undefeated in eight and we were going in the right direction, and then the two defeats, to Cheltenham and Port Vale, were big disappointments.”

When Curle joined the club at the beginning of October, the Cobblers were looking over their shoulders at relegation.

The manager is satisfied with the job he and his staff have overseen, and is happy with the squad’s efforts overall.

But he feels the disappointing results and performances over the closing weeks of the campaign means there is a lot of work to do.

Asked how he feels his time at the club has gone, Curle said: “I think it has shown there is a lot of improvement needed.

“There has been a good response from the players, because what I inherited when I came into the club was a group of players lacking in confidence.

“They needed direction, they needed focus, and they needed to get points on the board.

“I am an optimistic person, I like winning games, I like being difficult to beat, I like stopping the opposition from playing, and I like identifying weaknesses in the opposition that we can exploit and get points.

“Ultimately, I have been brought into the football club to gain more points.

“The starting point next year is that there are things we need to improve on, scoring more goals, conceding fewer goals, keeping more clean sheets and winning more games.

“If we do that then we will be operating in the right end of the division.”