Boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink insists the nine changes he made to the Cobblers team for Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy clash was no excuse for the team’s poor performance in the opening 75 minutes of the clash with Southampton Under-21s.
Central defender Ash Taylor was the only outfield player to keep his place following Saturday’s FA Cup draw with Scunthorpe United, with Hasselbaink taking the chance to rotate and give his squad players their chance to lay down a marker.
It looked like that decision was going to backfire as the Saints youngsters dominated the game to race into a 3-0 lead, with the Cobblers struggling to piece together any sort of fluent football.
But the introduction of substitutes Matt Grimes, Lewis McGugan and Chris Long transformed Town’s fortunes, as they produced an excellent fightback to draw 3-3 and secure the club’s passage into the knockout stages of the competition.
There was no disguising Hasselbaink’s frustration with his team’s performance, with the manager regularly berating and pleading with players from the sidelines.
And although he was happy his team did turn the match around, he feels the showing wasn’t acceptable for the bulk of the match, going against the club’s ‘concept’ of how they want to play, and that the changes are no excuse for that.
“You are still looking at things, as a coach, as a concept, and the concept was not right,” said Hasselbaink.
“You are looking at yourself, and say look, where have you gone wrong, and where have we gone wrong?
“I do understand the performance can be affected because it’s nine changes, but the concept and the way we play has to stay the same, and that wasn’t right.”
And he then explained exactly where he feels his team went wrong.
“I think we were all frustrated, the players, everybody, with the first 75 minutes or so,” said Hasselbaink.
“We were way too open, Southampton were much better, and what we did was make the pitch too big.
“It was very difficult, and very easy for them to pick us off and counter-attack us.
“If we are taking the ball off the goalkeeper, then everybody needs to be on the same page and we have to pass the ball, and not play a long ball game.
“But we got the ball off the goalkeeper, played it long, and then they won the second balls and their first ball was straight away forward, and then it is one-v-one without protection, and that’s not how we play.
“It was a positive result in the end, but I was not happy with the performance.”
The Cobblers are back in Sky bet League One action on Saturday when they travel to Oxford United.
They will be without midfielder Regan Poole, who is on international duty with Wales Under-21s, as well as striker Alex Revell who has a groin injury.
Attacker Sam Hoskins is ‘touch and go’ after picking up a strain last weekend, while John-Joe O’Toole should be available after he left the field against Scunthorpe with an ankle knock.
Matt Crooks and Brendan Moloney are available for selection after recovering from knee injuries, while this weekend is still too soon for right-back Aaron Phillips and Leon Barnett, who are close to making returns from thigh and Achilles injuries respectively.