Justin Edinburgh is challenging his Cobblers players to bounce back from the ‘huge disappointment’ of the 3-0 defeat at Bury and finish the season with a bang against Gillingham this Sunday (ko midday).
Town’s Sky Bet League One safety has been secured with a game to spare, but the boss says there is ‘no bigger incentive’ needed than to end the campaign with a victory at Sixfields, and says the players ‘owe it’ to the supporters to do just that.
I have been so pleased with the group in their approach since I arrived and the remit was accomplished, but on Saturday I think we came off the standards we have set over the short period of time we have been hereCobblers boss Justin Edinburgh
Edinburgh will of course need no extra motivation to try and engineer a win over the club that sacked him as their manager at the turn of the year, and it could still be that that Kent side arrive needing something to ensure they avoid relegation.
That will depend on whether or not Port Vale can win their game in hand on Tuesday night at Walsall, but even if the Gills are safe and the game is effectively a dead rubber with both clubs safe, Edinburgh is demanding a response from his team.
“It was a huge disappointment,” said the Cobblers boss, looking back to the weekend loss at Gigg Lane.
“I have been so pleased with the group in their approach since I arrived and the remit was accomplished, but on Saturday I think we came off the standards we have set over the short period of time we have been here.
“It wasn’t a performance we can be proud of, but in football you always get another opportunity to put things right.
“We have been followed by a great number of supporters, and we owe it to them to perform, as much as we do ourselves.
“We have one more game at home, and there can be no bigger incentive than wanting to finish the season on a high at home, and in winning ways.”
Cobblers are set to be strengthened by the return of midfielder John-Joe O’Toole and left-back Dave Buchanan, with the pair missing out at Bury due to suspension.
With other players injured, and goalkeeper Adam Smith dropped, it led to an unusual looking Town team that lined up against the Shakers, with Brendan Moloney in midfield and Aaron Phillips at left-back, and Edinburgh admitted the team was ‘unbalanced’.
He says that was down to a due to ‘a variety of reasons’ and he once again pointed to the fact the Cobblers squad is currently nowhere near as strong as he would like it to be.
“I looked at the team and it was unbalanced in a lot of ways, and not just in terms of people playing out of position,” said Edinburgh, who as well as having O’Toole and Buchanan suspended was also without the services of Michael Smith, Luke Williams, Gregg Wylde and Gaby Zakuani.
“There were people playing that have been out for a long period of time. Brendan Moloney came back in and got a couple of man-of-the-match awards, but on Saturday he looked like he was a player that was just coming back into the fold.
“I have Marc Richards and Matty Taylor who are pushing 34 and 35 and have played probably every minute of every game that I have been here, and they are the players I would like to be able to rest, but we haven’t been able to do that
“We have young boys in the team, so it has been difficult.
“We did miss John-Joe and Buchs as they are good players who have been a big influence on the group since I have been here.
“They were big misses, but that is still no excuse, the team still should have and could have performed a lot better than they did.”
One of the players that Edinburgh felt performed well before going off injured with a calf muscle strain was right-back Neal Eardley, and the Cobblers boss admitted the former Blackpool and Birmingham City man is unlikley to recover in time for the visit of the Gills.