When it came to picking out individual players for praise after his side’s excellent 3-0 victory over Carlisle United on Saturday, Cobblers boss Keith Curle was not short of options – but there was one obvious standout.
Jack Bridge has had his opportunities limited ever since signing for Northampton from Southend United a little over 12 months ago. He barely featured at all last season and had only made eight starts this term prior to Saturday’s clash against the in-form Cumbrians.
Almost all of those previous appearances have come in wide areas – mostly at wing-back under Curle – so it was a surprise to see him line-up in the number 10 role, behind a front two of Sam Hoskins and Andy Williams, when Saturday’s game kicked-off.
It was the position Matt Crooks would likely have played had he not made the switch to Rotherham United the previous afternoon. Bridge, though, produced a display that suggests he’s capable of filling the void.
Full of energy, classy touches and smart movement, the 23-year-old caused mayhem for Carlisle’s defence as he roamed across the front line. Scoring two, setting up another and creating a series of chances for team-mates, it was a contender for one of the best individual performances from any Northampton player this season.
“I think it’s his best position,” said Curle when asked about the decision to play Bridge in the number 10 role. “When I first came in I identified players in their minds where they think their best position is and where they see themselves playing.
“It’s then a case of finding out what they bring to that role and to that position. Jack said he came to the club as a number 10 and he sees himself playing in that role or in an advanced midfield position and this is what I can do.
“He can also play either side and he can play as a number 10 behind one striker and he can also play in wide areas.”
Bridge lashed home his first on Saturday via a deflection three minutes after the resumption, his second showed good composure and pinpoint accuracy to pick out the bottom corner under pressure and the third, whilst not his goal this time, illustrated terrific vision and technique to send Junior Morias racing through on goal.
“That’s what Jack is all about,” added Curle. “He’s got quality and he’s got ability. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities and game-time and even when he has played, it hasn’t been in his favoured position.
That’s what Jack is all about. He’s got quality and he’s got ability. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities and game-time and even when he has played, it hasn’t been in his favoured position.
“But to get game-time he’s had to find slots and put in performances. That performance on Saturday will give him confidence and belief in what he’s trying to do.”
Bridge was far from the only impressive performer on Saturday though, with debutant George Cox, signed on loan from Brighton earlier in the week, among those to catch the eye at left wing-back.
Curle added: “The focus now is about the performances of the players that went out onto the pitch and this is the time to talk about a new player coming in and the integration that’s had within the changing room.
“That’s vitally important and he’s had a good welcome, but there’s more to come from George.”