‘Every shirt up for grabs’, says Bowditch as Cobblers head to Mansfield

Dean Austin
Dean Austin

Dean Bowditch says ‘every shirt is up for grabs’ as boss Dean Austin strives to get the Cobblers’ season up and running.

Town travel to Mansfield Town on Saturday (ko 3pm) aiming to claim only their second win of what has been a disappointing season to date.

We need to improve everywhere. We had a great clean sheet last weekend, but we have to improve everywhere, that is the truth. If we are going to go and start beating teams convincingly, then we need to take what I see in training day, day out, and take that into games

Dean Bowditch

Bowditch will be hoping he will be involved at Field Mill, having been recalled to the starting line-up for last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Notts County at the PTS Academy Stadium.

That was only the attacking midfielder’s second start of the campaign, the other being in the 1-0 defeat at Morecambe in mid-August, and the former Milton Keynes Dons man had a decent game.

Whether he has done enough to keep his place waits to be seen, but Bowditch knows that nobody can be guaranteed a start while the team is struggling for results.

“Every shirt is up for grabs at the moment, because when a team isn’t doing so well then the manager is always looking for the right formula,” said Bowditch, who has only made five league starts for the Cobblers since signing for the club in the summer of 2017.

“So every shirt is up for grabs, and what we do have in this squad is competition.

“That means if you don’t have the best game, you know your mate is chomping at the bit to get your shirt, so it is about raising those levels.

“I want to play as many games as possible, and the only way you do that is by working hard and making sure you put on a performance on a Saturday.”

The whole team will have to put on a performance if the Cobblers are going to get anything from the trip to a Mansfield side that has lost just once in the league this season.

Town are without a win in their past four league games, but they did at least claim their first clean sheet of the season last weekend.

The Cobblers looked a lot more solid than in previous games, although they didn’t create as many chances as they have been doing, and Bowditch knows he and his team-mates have to be better this weekend.

“We need to improve everywhere. We had a great clean sheet last weekend, but we have to improve everywhere, that is the truth,” said Bowditch.

“If we are going to go and start beating teams convincingly, then we need to take what I see in training day in, day out, and take that into games.”

Bowditch spoke earlier this week of the team having ‘a mental block’ and perhaps letting on-field setbacks affect them too deeply, so he says that has to stop.

“We also need to not get so downhearted if something doesn’t quite go our way,” said the 32-year-old.

“We have to keep going, keep plugging away and keep that positivity, because if you start going the other way, you are never going to get better.”

With the team struggling so far, you might expect spirit around the training pitches at Moulton College to be a little subdued, but Bowditch insists that is not the case.

“People would be surprised,” he said.

“It is difficult going in sometimes when you have had a disappointing performance, because nobody wants to lose or draw football games.

“So you are going into training and you want to go in with a positive mindset, and it is difficult to keep doing that time after time when you haven’t been on such a good run.

“But it is the best place in the world when you are winning, and if we can just get those one or two wins the place will erupt, because at the moment the place still is a positive environment.

“As soon as you go the other way, there is only one way it is going to go and it is going to get worse, so we are trying to put the things in place to make it as positive as possible.”

The Cobblers are fifth bottom in league two, but will close to within a point of 16th-placed Mansfield with a win on Saturday, although the Stags have played a game fewer than Town.

And Bowditch says it is crucial that he and his team-mates look up, rather than down.

“It is easy to look at the table and start thinking ‘who can we catch?’, but I think that is how we have to be, and how everybody has to be around the club,” he said.

“We have to look at who we can start catching because we know individually we are good enough, but we need to get over this mental block and start putting some wins together.

“You can see already some of the quality we have in the team, and we should be fine.”