Cobblers’ shortcomings laid bare by candid Curle

Keith Curle was not happy with elements of his side's performance on Saturday. Picture: Sharon Lucey
Keith Curle was not happy with elements of his side's performance on Saturday. Picture: Sharon Lucey

Cobblers boss Keith Curle made no attempt to hide his dissatisfaction with his side’s abject second-half performance against Grimsby Town on Saturday, particularly frustrated with their ‘very poor decision-making’ and ‘below-par tactical awareness’.

Town started well against the lowly, inconsistent Mariners and appeared in no trouble whatsoever when leading 1-0 through Andy Williams’ fourth-minute goal, but Charles Vernam then struck against the run of play and everything changed.

Our distances were wrong, our engagement of players in the middle of the park was wrong and then, in our defending, we need to make better contact with the first ball in and it’s the same with the second goal

Suddenly, from being the dominant force, Northampton were unable to rediscover the initiative and had to rely on Kevin van Veen’s superb free-kick to eventually re-take the lead late on, but even then they could not hold on, denied three points by Harry Cardwell’s close-range finish.

Curle has not had the need to criticise his players on too many occasions since taking charge at the start of October, but he made no attempt to dress up the performance during his post-match interview on Saturday when highlighting several shortcomings.

“Some of our decision-making was very poor and the players know that,” he said. “When you look at it, some of the options they pick and the technique they pick are wrong.

“Some of the movement was good, some of the time it was slightly off but these are things we will work on and will continue to work on.

“When we had opportunities to get the ball down and play, our decision-making and technical and tactical awareness was below-par. We allowed them to grow into the game and then we didn’t do the simple things with the quality that was needed and some of our passes and our options that we picked, there’s room for improvement.

“The players were disappointed at the end and that’s the best thing because they know they haven’t performed. I don’t need to tell them too much but it’s the simple things and showing respect for the simple things that will gain us points keep us all on the same journey.”

What will particularly concern Curle is the re-emergence of Town’s defensive frailties. Having conceded five goals in his first nine games, the Cobblers shipped three at Lincoln, two at Exeter and then another two on Saturday.

“It was a cross from the right and we didn’t deal with the first ball in,” said Curle on Grimsby’s first goal. “He takes a touch and puts the ball in and people can say that’s down to formation because we didn’t have a full-back playing as we went with three at the back.

“But, before that, there were decisions that could have been made better. We’re playing three in midfield and the ball can’t get squirmed out from their left hand side and get played into the midfield where the lad can pick a pass and split our back three, which gets them into a wide area with no pressure on the ball.

“Our distances were wrong, our engagement of players in the middle of the park was wrong and then, in our defending, we need to make better contact with the first ball in and it’s the same with the second goal.”