Manager Keith Curle has praised the ‘adaptability’ of midfielder Shaun McWilliams and says he is encouraging his Cobblers players to not be afraid of asking questions.
McWilliams has mostly been utilised in central midfield since emerging through Northampton’s youth ranks two years ago but he impressed at right-back during the 5-0 win over Macclesfield last week and then started in the same position for Saturday’s visit of Oldham Athletic.
But a half-time reshuffle, owing to Sam Foley’s red card, saw him return to his more natural midfield position while Hakeem Odoffin came on at full-back, and once again the 20-year-old was among Town’s standout performers.
“He’s adaptable and he’s got good dynamics,” said Curle. “He’s learning the game and has a mentality where he’s accepted challenges in terms of playing at right-back and then moving into midfield.
“He’s got quality on the ball and it’s a learning curve for the lad, wherever he plays. He might find himself playing in a back three but I’m not scared to do it - it’s an opportunity for the lad to develop and that’s what we’re about.
“There’s a changing room in there that’s willing to take on information and ask questions. That’s one thing myself and the coaching staff promote - if you’re not sure, ask us and we’ll give an honest answer and an educational answer in terms of what we think the expectations are. We won’t ask a player to do something that we don’t think he’d able to do.”
Another player to earn praise for his performance on Saturday was striker Kevin van Veen, who set up John-Joe O’Toole’s 36th minute opener and then scored his sixth of the season when converting from the spot in first-half stoppage-time.
Curle has previously referred to the Dutch striker as a ‘complex character’ but though he did so again after Saturday’s game, the Town boss does not mean it as a criticism.
He explained: “It’s not meant as a derogatory remark because Kevin knows he’s a complex character. People who know me will say I’m a complex character and can be slightly different and Kevin’s different.
“Sometimes he needs a different approach but there’s respect between player and manager which makes it enjoyable. Kevin will sometimes show his disappointment and I’ve not got a problem with that but I also know there’s a very, very good player in there.
That’s one thing myself and the coaching staff promote – if you’re not sure, ask us and we’ll give an honest answer and an educational answer in terms of what we think the expectations are.
“There’s an acceptance within the group that we’ve got a complex character in the changing room but one that has got ability. Sometimes he strays and goes off the straight line but that’s the job of the changing room to identify it and put him back on the right track.”