A much-changed Cobblers line-up will take to the field for Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy game against Southampton U21s at Sixfields after manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink confirmed his intention to rest a number of first-team regulars.
Northampton require only a draw to reach the knock-out stages of the competition after taking four points from their first two group stage matches but with a busy run of games to come – six in 18 days – Hasselbaink’s priority remains the league and he therefore plans to use tomorrow’s clash as an opportunity to freshen up his side.
There are several players in need of a rest, such as Ash Taylor, David Buchanan and Aaron Pierre, while the likes of Dean Bowditch, George Smith, Sam Foley, Billy Waters and Alex Revell will all be chomping at the bit to start having barely featured of late.
Thanks to their pristine record from the penalty spot, the Cobblers are in the unique situation of sitting on four points from two draws in the competition so far, meaning another draw would take them through against Southampton U21s, who can also qualify on Tuesday, as can fellow South Group H sides Peterborough and Cambridge.
“Yes, I will make more changes,” confirmed Hasselbaink. “I have to because I want to give another group a chance.
“The players have been absolutely magnificent in training and they deserve to play, so we will look at it and at who and what the strongest squad will be and what the strongest team will be and make sure we are competitive on Tuesday.
“I’m a big believer in it being a squad game and it’s about everyone.
“Your first 11 are not going to play every game so we need to get everybody fit and give players as many games as possible.”
Matt Crooks, Leon Barnett and Aaron Phillips are inching closer to full fitness but remain sidelined for now, while Regan Poole is away on international duty and Sam Hoskins and John-Joe O’Toole are doubts having picked up knocks against Scunthorpe United on Saturday.
The fitness of Brendan Moloney also remains a concern with the right-back failing to make Northampton’s last three matchday squads but the impact of his absence has been lessened by the performances of his deputy Shaun McWilliams.
We need to work with him a little bit more in terms of retaining the ball but the amount of work and the amount of effort he puts in is very important for us.Hasselbaink on Regan Poole’s midfield role
The teenager has shone in recent weeks while fellow teenager Poole, initially signed on loan from Manchester United as a defender, is also adjusting impressively to an unfamiliar position having become a regular in midfield.
“McWilliams is giving us something different,” said Hasselbaink. “He’s mobile, he’s agile but I didn’t think Saturday was his best game.
“He played a lot better against Gillingham and also against Blackpool but that is normal because he’s a young boy and he’s playing in a different position.
“It’s not going to be until the fifth or sixth match when you see if he is able to handle it, but I’m extremely happy with him because he absorbs a lot of information and he wants to take in that information.
“Regan Poole gives us that little bit of urgency when we don’t have the ball - he closes down, he wins the ball.
“Yes, we need to work with him a little bit more in terms of retaining the ball but the amount of work and the amount of effort he puts in is very important.”