Clean sheet thrills Edinburgh as Cobblers boss targets final flourish
Northampton's points tally may have ticked past 50 for the season but Justin Edinburgh does not intend to celebrate their probable survival just yet, with the Cobblers boss challenging his players to finish the campaign with a flourish.
A half century of points is commonly viewed as the stage when safety is all but guaranteed, a belief that is reinforced by recent history.
Only twice in the past 10 years has 50 points not been enough to beat the drop in Sky Bet League One, and on both of those occasions it was only goal difference which proved the difference between survival and relegation.
The continued good form of the teams below Northampton, however, suggests they cannot rest easy just yet and might need one more win from their final six games to end all thoughts of relegation.
Bury and Oldham are two of those sides who have been in excellent form of late, whilst Port Vale’s two games in hand and Swindon’s victory over Millwall at the weekend further complicates the situation.
For Edinburgh, though, it’s about more than just preserving their League One status for another season.
“It’s (50 points) not enough at this present time, whether it will be I think we might need another couple,” he said following Saturday’s stalemate with Oxford United.
“Games are running out but for me that’s not the focus.
“The focus is continuing the momentum and making sure we finish strongly and that when our fans come to Sixfields we put on a real good performance.
“I think they’ll go away (on Saturday) thinking we’ve given everything again and they’re proud of their team.”
In the 13 games the Cobblers have played since Edinburgh arrived, Northampton have won six, drawn two and lost five. The 20 points collected in that time, the most recent of which came in Saturday’s draw against Oxford, have seen fears of relegation replaced by hopes of a top-half finish.
“I believe we’re going in the right direction,” added Edinburgh. “Where we’ve come from since coming in, we had lost nine of the previous 11 games before taking over, and that’s not easy to turn around.
“It’s testament to the group and the work they’re putting in on the training ground. They’re reproducing that on Saturday and I’m really pleased and now we’re moving in the right direction for sure.”
The goalless draw with Oxford is unlikely to feature prominently on any highlights shows but it did underline the improvement made by Northampton in these past few weeks and months, even if it did also show the work they still have to do.
Another resilient showing defensively earned them just a fourth clean sheet since September, with three of those coming during Edinburgh’s short tenure.
“We’re certainly more resolute and more manful in defending our box and we’re much more competitive and we have pride in keeping clean sheets,” he continued.
“That’s pleasing for me because there haven’t been enough but the back five were worthy of a clean sheet on Saturday.
“Overall I’m pleased with the progress this group of players are making.”