Cobblers duo praised by boss Hasselbaink after starring in Walsall win

SMILES ALL ROUND: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and John-Joe O'Toole embrace after Saturday's 2-1 win over Walsall. Pictures: Sharon Lucey
SMILES ALL ROUND: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and John-Joe O'Toole embrace after Saturday's 2-1 win over Walsall. Pictures: Sharon Lucey

John-Joe O’Toole and Chris Long were both singled out by manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for their part in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Walsall.

With Long playing up front and O’Toole stationed slightly deeper, the duo combined effectively as the Cobblers produced a much-improved performance to deservedly earn their first win in any competition for over a month.

Long was the scorer of both goals, first heading home the loose ball after O’Toole’s header had been well saved by Walsall goalkeeper Mark Gillespie before fizzing a low shot into the bottom corner on the stroke of half-time.

It was the perfect response to Erhun Oztumer’s early opener and Northampton held onto their slender advantage until the final whistle to secure a first come-from-behind victory in 92 games and 20 months.

Long’s first-half double took his tally to five, making him the club’s top scorer this season, and with better service and more support from his team-mates, further goals are certain to come.

“He’s got that in him and I’m pleased for Chris because he’s been working very hard to get on the score sheet and to feel the net,” said Hasselbaink afterwards.

“I know myself that it’s very important for strikers that, when they do a lot of work for the team, they get rewarded and on Saturday he got rewarded and he deserved it.”

O’Toole’s importance to Northampton has been well-documented of late and it was no better illustrated than on Saturday when his aggressive, no-nonsense style contributed to an improved team performance.

The midfielder has been plagued by groin and ankle injuries so far this term but his manager will be hopeful he can stay fit in Town’s fight for survival at the bottom of Sky Bet League One.

“At times he played a little bit too high but he was a focal point for us and he was somebody that we could play off,” added Hasselbaink.

“That gave them a lot of work to do and that was nice to see. I took a big risk, first to play him but also to keep him on for the whole 95 minutes.

“The risk paid off and hopefully he will be all right for the week ahead. It was a big risk but as a team we needed him because his presence is very important.”

Following Saturday’s win over Walsall, Hasselbaink was quick to praise the Sixfields crowd for their part in lifting his players and he’s hopeful they can continue that support in future games.

“I think the players have that in them and they need to be stimulated,” he explained. “That’s not only by me but also by the crowd. They need to be stimulated and they will do it, it’s the mindset and the psychological part of it.

“That’s where the crowd can play a big part. They played that part really well on Saturday and I must say thank you very much for that.”

Hasselbaink also confirmed that goalkeeper Matt Ingram has suffered a setback in his recovery from a shoulder injury. There will be an update after Tuesday’s press conference.