Lewis Ward has set his sights on dislodging David Cornell as Town’s number one between the posts after revelling in the buzz of making his professional debut in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup tie with Wycombe Wanderers.
The 21-year-old, on loan from Reading, had never previously played a professional game following stints at several non-league clubs, including Aldershot Town last season, ahead of Cobblers’ trip to Adams Park.
After playing 45 minutes in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week, Ward was handed a chance to stake his claim for the number one jersey against Wycombe and he did little to harm his long-term prospects between the sticks with a steady, if unspectacular, performance.
The 6ft 4in stopper produced three smart stops but was unable to keep a clean sheet as Randell Williams’ powerful second-half header left him emphatically beaten on a night when Northampton went out of the competition.
“It was my professional debut and I really enjoyed it,” Ward said.
“I’ve had to wait a while and a slight injury set me back a little bit but that’s all fine and now I’m looking to push on.
I’ve had to be patient but I’ve finally stepped into the league. Northampton are a big club and for me it’s a great place to be and a great stepping stone so hopefully I enjoy my time here and get some good games.
“I came in as competition for David and he’s been excellent in training and the first two games so it’s going to be tough to win that shirt.
“But it’s there and I’ve obviously got to produce my best when I play and in training and hopefully I did enough on Tuesday to show the manager what I’m capable of.”
It’s been a slow journey to the professional game for Ward. Having graduated through the youth ranks at Reading, he plied his trade in non-league for Sutton United, Margate and Hungerford ahead of an impressive spell at Aldershot where his excellent performances helped them reach the National League play-offs.
Now at a league club, the youngster is keen to make a name for himself.
“I’ve bided my time in the lower leagues,” added Ward, who also has a degree in sports journalism from the University of Staffordshire. “I’ve played in the Conference South and Conference Prem and gradually worked my way up.
“I’ve had to be patient but I’ve finally stepped into the league. Northampton are a big club and for me it’s a great place to be and a great stepping stone so hopefully I enjoy my time here and get some good games.
“It’s been good so far. I’ve only played a little bit with the boys in training and the friendly last week, which didn’t go to plan for me, but it’s been really good and really positive.
“Over time we’ll build a better relationship but you can see we’re solid through the core of the team and that’s really promising going forward.
“I’m really happy to be here. Coming into a new dressing room is not new for me but I wish it could have happened sooner so I could get to know the boys quicker.
“Coming in a few days before the start of the season wasn’t ideal but I’ve been here for a couple of weeks now so it’s all really good and really positive.”
A finger injury in a behind-closed-doors friendly with Watford threatened to derail Ward’s Cobblers career before he had even made an appearance, but not as bad as first feared, it didn’t stop him from being handed his full debut at Adams Park.
And with the EFL Cup tie heading to penalties, he had the perfect chance to make himself a hero.
“I had a decent record on penalties until then! Unfortunately it didn’t go our way and I couldn’t quite be the hero, but we move on and go again on Saturday,” said Ward after Town were beaten 7-6 on spot-kicks.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t save at least one. I got hands to one but couldn’t tip it around the post.
“I thought we were comfortable throughout the game. If we created more in the final third then we could have gone on to win but it was just unfortunate to go out the way we did.”