Cobblers striker Kevin van Veen had only a ‘50-50’ chance of being fit for Saturday’s trip to Exeter City, manager Keith Curle has revealed, after the Dutchman picked up an injury in training last week.
The 27-year-old, top scorer with seven goals to his name this season, has played an influential role in Town’s upturn of late, so much so Curle felt compelled to take him down to Devon and play him from the off at St James Park despite concerns over his fitness.
The Dutchman had one excellent opportunity during the 71 minutes he was on the pitch, his diving header from Sam Hoskins’ cross directed straight at home goalkeeper Christy Pym, but otherwise he cut a largely subdued figure alongside Daniel Powell in attack.
That was in contrast to Exeter striker Jayden Stockley, who gave Town’s defence a tough afternoon throughout and scored the home side’s second goal just shy of half-time to restore their lead.
“The difference in the first-half was their centre-forward,” said Curle. “I thought he retained possession well and brought people play and he was a focal point for their attack.
“We lacked that and that might have been because Kevin was carrying an injury. He was probably 50-50 but because of his level of commitment and he knows that we need him, he played. He was a yard down on what was needed.”
We left it as late as possible to make a decision and ultimately you have to listen to the player, but he said he was able to perform and could perform so it was good to get him out on the pitch.
Expanding further on the injury, Curle added: “He took a knock on Tuesday and then got out on the grass on Thursday before we travelled.
“We left it as late as possible to make a decision and ultimately you have to listen to the player, but he said he was able to perform and could perform so it was good to get him out on the pitch.
“That shows a character that wants to play and wants to be involved and he gave us everything he had on Saturday, but he was a yard off what he needs to be and he accepts that.”
On the plus side, Curle now has more defensive options to choose from after centre-half Ash Taylor and right-back Shay Facey returned from mid-term injuries when coming on at half-time of Saturday’s 2-2 draw.
The Town chief added: “There are players coming back into the fold and that’s important. It’s nice to be able to look at the bench and know you’ve got options, whether that’s defence, midfield or attack.
“We’ve got good players coming back to fitness so we’ll be even more competitive within the starting XI.”