Cobblers defender Dave Buchanan has hailed the recent performances of goalkeeper Adam Smith.
The former Leicester City shot-stopper was named in the EFL team of the year in 2015/16, after he played a pivotal role in the Cobblers claiming the Sky Bet League Two title.
Things haven’t gone quite as smoothly for Smith at times this season, and he had to overcome a sticky mid-season patch that saw him dropped from the first team by then manager Rob Page following a couple of costly moments of indecision.
David Cornell stepped in to replace Smith for a five-match spell in November and December, but he regained his place for the Boxing Day clash at Oxford United - and hasn’t looked back since.
Smith, who is out of contract in the summer. has matched and at times excelled his form from last season in recent weeks and months, and Buchanan has been impressed.
“In the last couple of weeks, Smudger has been different class,” said the Town left-back.
“He has pulled off some fantastic saves, I can remember one at AFC Wimbledon in the second half, and it was the same again at Bolton and against Oxford on Saturday, when for me he was probably man of the match.
“That is because of the importance of the saves at the right times, and not only that, his distribution at times was really good again.”
Buchanan is a big fan of Smith, but he says the competition of having former Wales Under-21 goalkeeper Cornell breathing down his neck is a plus for the 24-year-old.
“Smudge is a first-class keeper and the good thing is, and I think more so this season, he has somebody in Dai Cornell who is equally as good and pushing him every day in training,” said the left-back.
“Smudger knows he has to keep playing at that level to keep his shirt, because we have two keepers at the club who are equally as good as each other, and that is what we need, we need that competition for places all over the pitch.
“But credit to Smudge, over the past month I think he has been excellent.
“He is still young, and the good thing about Smudge is he has that level head on his shoulders where he doesn’t really let things affect him too much either way, whether he is playing well or whether he makes a mistake that costs us points, and I think as a goalkeeper that is going to happen.
“It’s the same as a defender, we are going to make mistakes, or get caught on the ball, or score an own goal, or do something that costs your team.
“As a defender you get punished for it, whereas at the other end it’s not as much, and if a striker misses a one-on-one it doesn’t get remembered as much as a defender playing a pass-back and a striker running on to it and scoring a goal.”
Buchanan also feels that the team’s improved form since the arrival of Justin Edinburgh has helped Smith, and allowed the player’s self-belief to return.
“Defensively we have been a lot better, and we look more solid as a team from front to back and all over the pitch,” said the former Preston North End man.
“Because of that, it has probably given Smudge more confidence as well.”