Aside from recording a third straight victory for only the second time this season, Northampton’s 2-1 win over Exeter City on Saturday was notable for another reason: Keith Curle finally naming an unchanged team.
Curle’s tendency to rotate and tinker has been a regular talking point ever since he was appointed back in October, with the former Carlisle manager constantly fiddling with personnel and formations from game to game.
But after winning impressively at Crewe the previous weekend, Curle stuck with the same 11 players for Saturday’s visit of the Grecians, the first time he’s done so during his five and a half months in charge.
And his decision paid off as Town racked up a third successive victory thanks to goals either side of half-time from Aaron Pierre and Andy Williams, though Curle has already suggested he’s thinking about changes for Tuesday’s clash with Newport County.
“I’ve got good knowledge and good understanding of what the players can offer me,” he said. “I’ve had a look at everybody in different positions.
“The only change on Saturday was Daniel Powell and Sam Hoskins playing on opposite flanks, but i’ll watch the game back, watch the opposition for Tuesday and if I think I can gain an advantage by changing the personnel, I’m brave enough to change it.”
I’ll watch the game back, watch the opposition for Tuesday and if I think I can gain an advantage by changing the personnel, I’m brave enough to change it.
Powell in particular was picked out for praise by Curle having been involved in both goals on Saturday, just as he was at Gresty Road the previous weekend.
His persistence won the corner which led to Pierre’s opener before his low fizzed cross gave Williams a simple tap-in just shy of the hour-mark, securing victory despite Aaron Martin pulling one back for Exeter.
Curle added: “I can still remember the Colchester game when he missed an open goal and he was being told by some supporters exactly what they thought!
“But credit to the lad. He understood the frustration and understood the hard work that needed to be done while he was out of the team and he’s accepted that challenge as well, knowing he’ll get another opportunity.
“When he’s got that opportunity. you’ve got to say he’s doing very well and he’s been a threat. If you look at the first goal, it came from his desire to win the ball back, force a mistake and then we get a corner and score from it.
“There’s a good mentality about the group and there’s an understanding that, if you’re not playing, there are still challenges to be had and we set challenges to the players.
“The players that came on, Joe Powell and Timi Elsnik, are frustrated because they’ve come on loan and they’re not playing, but their mentality and their character in and around the building is a credit to the changing room and it shows there’s an unity, which is very important.”